On Facing Big Tasks

Even though I’m currently a design engineer at Daimler, I don’t do much designing yet. This is the result of a handful of things: namely I don’t understand the parts or system I work on well enough. My team isn’t responsible for a long and unmanageable list of parts. It’s kind of weird to be part of a team that’s on top of its shit. Weird and refreshing.

So what do I do at work? I get this question a lot. To be fair, I’d get it even if I were actually designing parts because none of my friends are engineers. Also, because I bet you even a lot of engineers don’t really know what other engineers necessarily do.

I’m responsible for root causing issues and bringing them to closure. Meaning, I figure out what went wrong and try to convince people higher up than me that the issue either isn’t really affecting our customer base or that we actually have the issue under control. In the future, I imagine I might also be involved in the solution of some actual issues, but for now, these are the issues we face.

At first, I was really kind of intimidated by my task. I had no idea how to even start. My manager, who really is very supportive, basically walked me through my first issue closure presentation. Now that I’m more aware and confident, I do most of my own work and just kind of check with him. But there are days that the tasks ahead of me still seem daunting. There’s a lot of data I can use to bring issues to a closure. And each one of those data sources, has a billion parts to it. So how do I face these daunting tasks? Easy. I break them down into stupid easy tasks.

And when I say stupid easy, I mean stupid easy. I have an Excel file called Task Breakdown. Every assignment I have has its own tab. When I find that I’m stuck on something, I go back to the tab to see what steps I have left to do. If I’m still stuck that means I might need to break it down some more, brainstorm ideas, or ask for help.

Sometimes when I do this, I wonder if I’m just adding work for myself for no reason, but the reality of the situation is, those 10 minutes I spend mean that I actually get work done the rest of the time instead of just sitting there wondering what to do next.

So yeah, that’s just a strategy that works for me. But if you find yourself frustrated, getting stuck on something at work, try this out. If anything, it’ll at least get your creative juices flowing!

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