There's nothing quite like a new perspective. The May issue of Embedded Systems Design magazine is full of articles about “thinking different,” right-brained reasoning and getting different perspectives on old engineering problems. Even though engineering is usually characterized as methodical, procedural and a bit unoriginal, it's good to think outside the proverbial box from time to time.
The best way to do that is to actually get outside your box. In other words, pack up and move. Live and work abroad. It'll probably be good for your career, and I can just about guarantee it'll be good for you. Find out about your employer's other offices and ask for a transfer. That's it: 15 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 resident–can change your whole perspective on work, life, economics and politics. Other countries' ways are not necessarily better ways. 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 work week. Everyone bolted for the parking lot at 3 p.m. on Fridays, yet we were the most productive office in the entire 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.
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. Not everyone grows up with dewy-eyed dreams of moving to this country. They're quite happy where they are, thanks, and often with good reason.
On the professional front, you're likely to find that your “foreign” perspective is useful. We've all had the experience of being stumped for the answer to some problem and an outsider, or someone with only the barest understanding of the issue, pops up with an original solution. By shifting your geographical and mental position, you can become that person. And when you move back home, you'll again be instilled with a new perspective. You win both ways.
Jim Turley (jturley @cmp.com) is editor of Embedded Systems Design, an EE Times sister publication.