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Fast-Tracking Your Career : Soft Skills for Engineering and IT Professionals



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Wiley-IEEE Press
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Questions About This Book?

What version or edition is this?
This is the 1st edition with a publication date of 7/29/2013.
What is included with this book?
  • The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any CDs, lab manuals, study guides, etc.


This book covers 11 core skills, including more than 40 guidelines for how to master those skills. The skills which are covered include: communication skills, people skills, presentation skills, time management skills, among many others. Specific examples about current situations are discussed, such the Facebook phenomenon and the subprime mortgage crisis.

Author Biography

Dr. WUSHOW "BILL" CHOU was Deputy Assistant Secretary and the founding CIO of the U.S. Treasury where he oversaw fourteen bureau CIOs and an annual budget of two billion dollars. He was also the founding Vice President of Telecommunications for Network Analysis Corporation; founding Director of Computer Studies at North Carolina State University; founding editor in chief of one journal and one magazine; and consultant to more than thirty organizations (both government and private sector). He is a Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University and Chair of the Advisory Board of IT Professional magazine. Dr. Chou is a Fellow of the IEEE.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 5

Dedication 5


Author Bio 11

Preface 12

Introduction and Summary 14

Engineers are potentiallybetter positionedas executives 14

Categorization of smart soft skills 16

Rules for mastering smart soft skills 18

Relationships among the soft skills 19

Interdependence 19

Parts Making up the Whole 20

Table 0.1 Categorization of Soft Skill Functions 21

Table 0.2 Rules for Mastering Soft Skills 22

Figure 0.1 Interdependence among Soft Skills 23

Figure 0.2 Parts Making up the Whole 24

Part 1 Communications 25

Chapter 1 Communications Smart 26

Rule 1: Being always ready for elevator pitches/speeches 28

Example: A good “elevator pitch” led to a promising career 29

Example: Well-prepared “elevator pitches” led to passing a Ph.D. exam with ease and a prompt promotion 29

Example: Enormous embarrassment for having not prepared an “elevator speech” 30

Example: Using a three-point response to make up for an unprepared “elevator pitch” 31

Rule 2: Mastering a presentation by mastering the onset 32

Example: Conference speeches 32

Example: Newspaper article 33

Example: Emails 33

Rule 3: Using three diagrams to simplify complexity 34

Example: Three diagrams to explain the subprime mortgage financial crisis 34

Example: Three diagrams impress a job interviewer 35

Example: Three diagrams make a successful presentation to Congress 36

Rule 4: Sizing up and resonating with the audience 38

Example: A tale of two gurus—one resonated with his audience, one did not 39

Example: A tale of two CIOs—one resonated with senior executives, one did not 40

Example: A tale of two cultures—one responded to a humorous analogy, one did not 40

Example: A tale of two readers resonating differently with the same book 41

Rule 5: Being careful of careless comments 43

Example: Insensitive comments blunted career advancement 43

Example: A careless remark resulted in a lasting negative impact 44

Rule 6: Using plain language 46

Example: Communicating with management 46

Example: Turning plain English to an advantage 47

Rule 7: Using jokes and self-deprecating humor 49

Example: Backfire caused by stereotyping others 50

Example: Using self-deprecation to liven up presentations 50

Example: Taking cues from our political leaders 51

Example: A survey on sense of humor 51

Part 2 Dealing with People 53

Chapter 2 People Smart 54

Rule 1: Getting accepted by accepting others first 56

Example: Words and lingo 57

Example: Dress codes 57

Example: Military vs. civilian culture 58

Example: The art of a smile 59

Rule 2: Winning by understanding both ourselves and our counterparts 60

Example: Website considerations 60

Example: Turf tussle considerations 62

Example: Outwitting a strong hand 62

Rule 3: Being aggressive by being nonaggressive 63

Example: The last pay raise 65

Example: A tale of two new hires: one outwardly aggressive, one not 65

Example: Nonaggressiveness facilitates a career 66

Rule 4: Gaining by giving 67

Example: Being magnanimous 69

Example: Being kind 69

Example: Being materially generous 70

Example: Being helpful 70

Example: Being grateful 71

Rule 5: Successful networking by networking less 72

Example: Participating in cross-department studies and committees 73

Example: Giving speeches 73

Example: Publishing papers 74

Example: Attending conferences 74

Example: Delivering elevator pitches 75

Example: Enhancing rapport by being considerate 75

Example: Counterproductive networking 76

Example: Importance of virtual networking I 77

Example: Importance of virtual networking II 78

Rule 6: Being heard by listening 80

Example: Made a poor impression to a new boss 81

Example: The difference between “I heard you” and “I agree with you” 81

Example: Gave an impropriate response 81

Example: Lost a consulting contract 82

Chapter 3 Marketing Smart 84

Rule 1: Sizing up and resonating with our “customers” 87

Example: Resonating with division heads to move “hobby shops” under CIO’s control 88

Example: Resonating with the boss 89

Rule 2: Putting a positive spin on our “product” 91

Example: A positive spin in marketing a software system 91

Rule 3: Making a convincing presentation with awell-crafted presentation 93

Example: A simple crafted presentation leading to a contract 93

Rule 4: Inciting enthusiasm with enthusiasm 94

A marketing role model: Steve Jobs (and his embodiment, Apple) 96

Resonance 96

Positive spin 97

Crafted presentation 97

Enthusiasm 98

Part 3 Dealing with Self 99

Chapter 4 Work Smart 100

Rule 1: Achieving outstanding results by not seeking perfection 102

Figure 4.1 Good vs. Perfect 103

Example: Perfect beginnings,mediocre endings 104

Example: Lost opportunities while trying to be perfect 104

Rule 2: Avoiding blunders of overconfidence 106

Example: Hindering career advancement 106

Example: Project overrun 107

Example: Losing a presidency 107

Example: Losing an investment opportunity 107

Example: Losing the opportunity to be a valedictorian 108

Rule 3: Focusing on self-examination, not on blaming others, when things gone awry 109

Example: Workplace culture 109

Example: Chronic complainers 110

Chapter 5 Time Smart 111

Rule 1: Investing time with the same zeal as venture capitalists investing money 113

Example: The wisdom from the Facebook phenomenon 113

Example: Juggling multiple jobs 114

Example: Developing a software system 115

Example: Running a conference 115

Rule 2: Killing two birds with one stone 117

Example: Oral presentations 117

Example: Written reports 117

Example: Consulting 118

Example: Using form letters 118

Rule 3: Minding ROI (Return on Investment) 120

Example: Letting others do copyediting 120

Example: Getting technical expertise from friends 120

Example: Refraining from attending inconsequential meetings 121

Example: Beware of perfection 121

Rule 4: Making nonproductive time productive 123

Example: Business/social meetings at lunches or conferences 123

Example: Working while commuting 123

Example: Exercising while commuting/working 124

Example: Multitasking at boring meetings 124

Rule 5: Turning spare time into opportunities 126

Example: Establishing ourselves as experts 126

Example: Expanding knowledge base 126

Example: Incubating new ideas and products 127

Example: Focusing on personal enrichment 127

Rule 6: Keeping the mind sharp by taking catnaps 128

Example: FAA decision on air controllers 129

Example: “Catnapping” to CEO 129

Chapter 6 Career Smart 130

Rule 1: Opting to be a big fish in a small pond 132

Example: Undistinguished career in a big pond 133

Example: Shining in a small pond 134

Rule 2: Hopping to a more opportune pond at opportune moments 136

Figure 6.1 Pond “Hopping” 138

Example: From industry to government 139

Example: From government to industry 139

Example: From small company to large company 140

Example: From research lab to research university 140

Example: Strategic multi-pond hopping 141

Rule 3: Never polishing a tennis shoe 145

Example: Manager vs. executive assistant 145

Example: Changing jobs 146

Example: Wishful thinking and nonchalance 146

Rule 4: Making a good lasting impression by making a good first impression 148

Example: First impression, lasting impression 148

Part 4 Dealing with Boss 149

Chapter 7 Job-Interview Smart 150

Rule 1: Being well prepared by collecting relevant information 153

Rule 2: Putting a positive spin on our qualifications 154

Rule 3: Preparing targeted elevator pitches/speeches 155

Rule 4: Sizing up and resonating with the interviewer 156

Rule 5: Winning interviewers’ confidence in us by exhibiting confidence 158

Rule 6: Avoiding gaffes by avoiding overconfidence 159

Stories of failed interviews 160

Example: Lacking preparation 160

Example: Unguarded comments 160

Example: Expressing disagreement with interviewers 161

Example: Unnecessary arrogance - I 161

Example: Unnecessary arrogance - II 163

Example: Unnecessary arrogance - III 163

Example: Showing off 165

Example: Gratuitous comments 165

Example: Broadness vs. depth 166

Example: Salary negotiation 166

A successful interview story 168

Collecting relevant information through “networking” 169

Preparing targeted elevator speeches 169

Positive spin 170

Resonance with a vision 170

Showing confidence 171

Chapter 8 Boss Smart 172

Rule 1: Winning trust by showing loyalty 175

Example: Fired for being disloyal 175

Example: Fired for upholding integrity 176

Example: Derided for lacking both integrity and loyalty 176

Example: Quandary during job interviews 176

Rule 2: Gaining gratitude by sharing credit and taking blame 178

Example: Consequence of sharing vs. not sharing credit 178

Example: Taking the blame 178

Rule 3: Being astute by watching for nuances 180

Example: Consequence of being insensitive to nuances 180

Example: Heeding nuances - I 181

Example: Detecting nuances early to influence the final decision 181

Example: Heeding nuances - II 183

Rule 4: Being proactive and farsighted 184

Example: From first-level manager to third in two years 184

Example: Farsightedness not resonating with the boss 184

Rule 5: Showing enthusiasm for challenging assignments 186

Example: Accepting challenging assignments to get a fast promotion 186

Part 5 Dealing with Staff 188

Chapter 9 Motivating Smart 189

Rule 1: Winning loyalty by being loyal 191

Example: Protecting staff against layoffs 191

Example: Protecting staffagainst false accusation 192

Example: Obtaining special awards for deserving staff 192

Example: Sharing credit 192

Example: Disney-Pixar listing every technical staff in its movies’ credit section 193

Rule 2: Getting credit by not taking credit 194

Example: Getting full credit without claiming it 194

Rule 3: Motivating by complimenting 196

Example: From a so-so worker to a star performer 196

Chapter 10 Delegating Smart 197

Rule 1: Getting more done by doing less 199

Example: Micromanagement hinders career advancement 199

Example: Micromanagement wastes energy on trivial issues 200

Rule 2: Delegating successfully by matching tasks with staff 201

Example: Making nonproductive staff productive 201

Example: Corporate CIO benefits from delegating to division CIOs 202

Example: Negative consequence from delegating responsibility to the wrong person 203

Example: Dividing up responsibilities judiciously 203

Rule 3: Making controversial decisions by not making them 206

Example: Create a committee in an academic environment 206

Example: Create a committee in a government environment 207

Part 6 Being Visionary 208

Chapter 11 Beyond the Box 209

Rule 1: Examining the big picture to identify opportunities 211

Operations 212

Collaboration 212

Changes in Markets and Technology 213

Rule 2: Forming a visionary plan 215

Rule 3: Marketing the vision 216

Successful fast-tracking stories 218

Example: From manger to director to vice president to senior vice president in 8 years 218

Example: From senior technical staff to director to vice president in four years; to full professor in 3 more years 220

Example: From department chair to dean to university chancellor 221

Final Thoughts 224

Appendix Tables for Principles, Strategies, and Rules 231

Table A.0 Principles and Strategies 232

Table A.1 Communications Smart 233

Table A.2 People Smart 235

Table A.3 Marketing Smart 236

Table A.4 Work Smart 237

Table A.5 Time Smart 238

Table A.6 Career Smart 239

Table A.7 Job-Interview Smart 240

Table A.8 Boss Smart 241

Table A.9 Motivating Smart 242

Table A.10 Delegating Smart 243

Table A.11 Beyond the Box 244

Abbreviations 245

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