Here's a story I've been meaning to tell you, but have never found the right hook. It sticks in my mind as a great example of a subtle quality we seek in engineers but cannot teach.
There was once a general in the army. He oversaw the training grounds where new recruits went through bootcamp.
On these grounds was a long gravel road, roughly circular, where recruits would run miles upon miles to train their stamina. Like you see in the movies with all the yelling and questionable singing.
The general had a habit of using this road for long walks to think. Sometimes for meetings. Nothing says senior leadership like when you start a meeting with "Let's take a walk".
Every few weeks, the general would bring a promising recruit on one of these walks. They'd talk about the recruit's career prospects, their ambitions, how they feel about possible officer training, etc.
But that conversation wasn't the job interview. The rock was.
Before each of these walks, the general would set up a large rock in the middle of the road. Tall enough to trip over, buried enough that you don't see it form afar. Then he'd gently steer the recruit to trip over the rock.
Most recruits tripped, cursed, caught their word – you don't curse in front of a general – then hurried up to catch the general who didn't break stride.
Those recruits failed the interview.
A few, one per year max, tripped, cursed, then stopped. "Hold up general, I gotta move this rock off the road. Someone might get hurt".
I don't know if this is a true story, can't even remember where I heard it. But it's been on my mind ever since.
One day I hope to make it my own.
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