Sunday, August 14, 2016

3 things I learned about managing people while teaching English in South Korea.

Long story short, I met a Korean girl and quit my job as an Engineer to move to Korea and teach English in a middle school for 2 years. I’m back in Australia now working as an Engineer and happily married to the girl I moved half way around the world for.

In hindsight, the lessons I learned seem blindingly obvious, but it took my baptism of fire teaching English to middle school students half way around the world to fully grasp their importance. Here are the top three things I learned about leadership and managing people while teaching English in South Korea.

Giving clear instructions sets everyone up for success.
In my first class I recall trying to get all the students to stand in a circle to play a word game. Sounds simple yeah? The ensuing chaos taught me (a) the danger of assuming my class/team know what I mean and (b) the importance of being specific, clear and concise.

Don’t waffle or make assumptions. Break a task down to a level appropriate for your audience and focus on “need-to-know” information. I like to use bullet points or numbers. They help keep instructions or actions concise and easier for the audience to identify and stay focused.

Set clear expectations
When I first started teaching, it is safe to say that some of my students didn’t meet my expectations. Many were late to class, didn’t bring a pen or work book, or would talk amongst themselves during the class. My perception of their attitude made me furious. Were they testing me? Did they despise foreigners? The school was a single multi story building and I could walk from one end to the other in under about 30 seconds. Students had 10 minutes between classes, why were so many late?

I put it down to a cultural thing. I observed that it wasn’t just my classes where students acted like this. It seemed almost universal within the school. Teachers were often late to their classes too, so why would students be on time?

I developed a set of basic rules governing how I expected my students to behave and had them write them in the back of their text book. After policing the rules for a couple of weeks, things improved dramatically. Students were generally on time, listened more attentively and brought a pen to class. I was happier, and that in turn made my students happier, which leads me to my next point.

Positive energy
Another lesson I quickly learned was that for every bit of positive energy I projected, my students would bounce maybe 10% of that back to me, but if I projected even an ounce of negative energy, the entire mood of the classroom would drop like a lead balloon and my job would become 10 times more difficult.

If you are not excited to be there, why would your class/team be? Positive energy can trickle up and sideways, but overwhelming it flows from the top down.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bloom Box - Advances in fuel cell technology

We are living in a really exciting time. Almost every day I see news about a new development in cleaner greener energy. Be it solar panels on the verge of becoming cheaper than coal power thanks to mega solar panel factories in China, advances in fusion research that gives scientists the confidence to predict we will have fusion power in the foreseeable future, or today I spotted this 60 minutes episode about advances in fuel cell technology. 

Fuel cell technology has been around for a long time, but the rare metals used to make it work have put it out of reach for most applications. Bloom Box claim to have developed a fuel cell technology that will be a fraction the price of conventional fuel cells. They are saying their technology is versatile and can run on many different fuels. 

This could prove to be a very good way to turn methane from excrement into electricity. In poorer countries there are organizations teaching people how to built toilets and capture the methane for cooking purposes. One day we may do away with sewage in our homes and instead trap the waste, generate methane from it which we turn into electricity using bloom boxes to power our homes. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

3D Printers go Mainstream

Well, it has finally happened. 3D printers have gone mainstream. Officeworks, a chain of office supplies stores in Australia, is now selling a 3D printer for the very reasonable price of $1499. Makerbot has been selling cheap 3D printers for a while now, but the fact that you can finally walk into a local retail chain and pick one up speaks volumes about the 3D printing explosion just around the corner. 

Check out their sales pitch. 

"Voted MAKE magazines easiest to use and most reliable 3D printer."
"Just plug it in and start"
"has WiFi"
"certified for safe at home use"
Big things are just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yaego - No More Resistor Markings

Some wonderful news from Yaego
Given Yageo has been devoted to being eco-friendly, we decide to eliminate the marking on the R Chip of the sizes of 0603, 0805 and 1206 as soon as possible. There will be a short period of time that both types of the products, with marking and without marking, co exist while we are changing the production lines one by one.....
So... no more resistor values printed on SMD components. For smaller PCB manufacturers who still do a lot of their smaller runs by hand it is going to make life hell, not to mention trying to debug a batch of circuit boards from dodgy Chinese manufacturers. Just to keep things fun, Yaego won't be changing the part number so when you order your parts it will be Russian roulette as to whether the parts have markings or not.

No doubt other manufacturers will follow and jump at the chance to save a fraction of a cent on their manufacturing costs.

Full product change notification here.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Got a new LCR meter in office today. What's going on here Agilent? Why do you have "UNKNOWN" plastered across the top of the inputs on your 4263B LCR Meter? Did you forget to delete the place holder before printing the label? 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Oscilloscope

Got a brand spanking new oscilloscope in the office today. It is by far the best oscilloscope I've ever used. Beautiful big touch screen, 4 inputs, USB port and even network functionality. It's got small desk footprint too which gives you plenty of room to work. It runs a fully blown version of windows XP so you can even connect a keyboard and mouse.