Man in suit tries to decide which path to follow

Book review: ‘Find Your Path’ by Daniel Goodman

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Unconventional life lessons from some of the world’s leading scientists and engineers.

A recurring theme for engineering managers is that of wondering where the next generation of engineers and technologists will come from. While we’re bombarded with cautionary tales of skills shortages and glass ceilings in abundance, what we always seem to be critically short of is solutions to these issues related to the future of engineering.

We complain that there’s not enough careers advice for those in secondary and tertiary education available from those with the professional and life experience to know what they’re talking about. Often, we express these complaints in terms of the absence of a career path.

Finding that path has occupied the mind of Daniel Goodman, who clearly feels that the best way to gain careers insight is to sit at the feet of those that have gone before us, carving out influential roles in the public, private and academic sectors. Put in its most fundamental terms, what he’s learned as director of advanced technology at a Massachusetts-based semiconductor equipment manufacturer (as well as a director of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation) is that the best way to emulate others is the good old-fashioned ‘monkey see, monkey do’ approach.

In ‘Find Your Path: Unconventional Lessons from 36 Leading Scientists and Engineers’ (The MIT Press, £15.99, ISBN 9780262537544), Goodman connects with 36 influential scientists and engineers and gets them to communicate their perspectives on how to forge ahead in a world where, by definition, its challenges lie in the future, waiting for emerging creative technological, scientific and managerial brilliance to solve them.

Their collective responses accumulate to create a broad brush-stroke picture in the minds of those needing advice and, perhaps even more importantly, the minds of those who wish to give guidance. In ‘Find Your Path’ we have personal accounts of how to overcome discrimination, how to find inspiration, how to align your values with organisational cultures and even how to cope with success. Each story contributes to the idea that while the road ahead may seem daunting, there is no single true path, but many paths. By listening to the words of others, we find that opportunities for success come in many guises.

What’s so impressive about 'Find Your Path' is the seniority of the contributors Goodman has tracked down to tell their tales of inspiration. He even managed to talk to two Nobel Prize winners. We have contributions from his three main groups of entrepreneurs, academics and public servants. These are people that have achieved something memorable in their careers by adapting, mentoring, improving and excelling in the face of disappointment, bias and unfairness.

It’s the simplicity of the concept and the richness of the monologues that make Find Your Path such an inspiring read. Don’t be put off by the title – this isn’t one of those trivial airport self-help manuals. It’s an important work of required reading for anyone starting on a career at the cutting edge of technology.

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