Dept. of Necessary Recalibration -

Dept. of Necessary Recalibration


“You can't solve problems with the same minds that created them,” Albert Einstein once observed. Last month's issue was full of articles about new perspectives and different approaches to old engineering problems. Even though engineering is often methodical, procedural, and maybe even a bit unoriginal it's still important to tease out new ideas from time to time. Broaden your horizons. Swerve to avoid the pedestrian.

And so, in a tradition extending back to the previous paragraph, I'm encouraging embedded systems developers to literally get a new perspective. Pack up and move out of the country. Live and work abroad. It'll probably be good for your career, and I can just about guarantee it'll do good things for you. Find out about your employer's international offices and ask someone for a transfer. That's it: fifteen minutes with the right manager and you could be packing your bags ready to embark on your biggest adventure yet.

Living abroad–not just vacationing but actually settling down and becoming a legal resident–can change your whole perspective on work, life, economics, and politics. Other countries' ways aren't necessarily better. Nor are they necessarily worse. They're just different. The first time I worked abroad I had gobs of vacation time and a 38-hour workweek. Everyone bolted for the parking lot at 3:00 PM on Fridays, yet we were the most productive engineering group in the whole company. I could never reconcile that discrepancy but I didn't complain about it, either.

When you live and work elsewhere you'll be exposed to different laws, customs, work hours, political views, taxes, school systems, expectations, traffic rules, weather, money, tipping customs, habits, holidays, TV shows, electricity, clothing styles, refrigerators, and shop hours. And you know what? It's all good.

Despite all the differences (and nuisances), living in an unfamiliar country generally works very well. My wife and I could pass for locals until we opened our mouths. But our children, who attended local schools speaking a “foreign” language, were routinely mistaken for native-born kids. You may learn, in a strangely profound way, what it's like to be different: an immigrant, an expatriate. It's good to see firsthand that the world does not revolve around the United States of America–or Canada, or Singapore, or Ireland, or wherever you happen to be reading this.

You'll likely find that your international professional experience is useful even after you return. Shifting your geographical coordinates can recalibrate your intellectual positioning, so your engineering insights may be different both here and there. When you move back home you'll once again have a new perspective. You win both ways.

Jim Turley is the editor in chief of Embedded Systems Design. You can reach him at .

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