Michael Flagg [flagg707]
What is your specialty? What applied knowledge and methods do you use in your work?
Project Management in the nuclear industry. Specifically, I work at the University of Missouri Research Reactor and manage or assist on projects that range from implementation of a cGMP radiochemical as an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient to design, approval and manufacture of radioactive material shipping packages to engineering analysis, criticality studies and general engineering support.
I use applied engineering principles, aided by computer models and research.
Can you provide a link to a site where we can get to know more about you or a project you are working on?
How would you describe your professional strengths and weaknesses?
I enjoy challenging projects that require creative solutions and working with a good team. I can communicate and interact with the many personality types you encounter in both engineering and management. I enjoy communicating to end-users or the client and translating their needs into workable actions and giving feedback to the client from the implementation team.
At times I become impatient with organizations with no clear-cut lines of responsibilities and work best in a high-paced environment. Long, slow, drawn-out projects tend to leave me frustrated and eventually bored. Long projects with discrete milestones and tasks, as well as short "quick fix" type projects play much more to my strengths.
What role does creativity play in your work? Do you have leeway to develop innovative ideas?
Creativity often plays a big role. The engineering and science to accomplish our goals can usually be implemented in many ways. Finding the best balance of creative solutions based on sound engineering principles is an art and I enjoy finding that balance. Depending on the project, I do have leeway to develop innovative ideas, but not all the time, as my industry is highly regulated.
What type of technology do you use to develop your work?
Everything from graph paper and the backs of napkins to sophisticated computer models.
Do you think you are up to date in your sector? How do you keep up to date?
I am up to date in the field of radioisotope production, though there is always something to learn. I am generally up to date in the greater field of nuclear power and the U.S. nuclear engineering complex run by DOE.
Which is more important: meticulousness so as not to make mistakes or imagination to find innovative solutions?
In my field, meticulousness is more important, though the innovative solutions are still usually critical to success. Being very careful in assumptions, calculations and interpretation of data is key to any sort of success in nuclear engineering.
What do you do about that stupid "bug" you’ve been trying to work out for five hours with no progress?
Get up from my desk, walk around and get my mind off of it. Then I'd return and go back to basic principles - what am I trying to solve and where could it be going wrong. I'd change my test cases (if appropriate) and work at it from different data to see what the results look like and drill down on it from a different "angle."
Which do you prefer: to deal with technical problems or problems with clients?
Problems with clients. Most (but not all) problems with clients are related to communication, assumptions and timeline issues. Getting everyone on the same page, finding out where the gaps in communication are and fixing them is most often the best way to ensure a successful project.
Do you need to be in good physical shape to do your work?
Which university subject required the most from you in order to pass?
Ingenuity is lost if it is not cared for. How is ingenuity cultivated
Allow yourself and your people to express their ideas and, more importantly, try them out. When they go wrong (as they often will) focus on the fixing things, not blamestorming.
Will you be one of the first to reserve a seat once space travel comes on the market?
If I have the cash flow, absolutely,
What is your concept of elegance in solutions?
Simple and robust.
Do you have a group of friends or colleagues that you share technological matters with?
What kind of job would you like to get via telephone today?
Project Manager or COO of a start-up in some sort of research or engineering manufacturing field.
Aside from know-how, what qualities should an engineer have in order to be a successful professional?
Cultivate the ability to communicate with all types of personalities. Don't expect others to behave "logically" and understand the role emotion plays in implementing solutions or solving problems with a team. Be diligent in your work, always look to solutions, not dwelling on the negative. Also, dress well, groom yourself well and always be polite to the admin staff.
When evaluating an employee or collaborator, what importance do you give to courses and certifications?
I give very little importance to courses, assuming they have the degree. I give more credence to certifications, but I want to know more about the certification itself as well as the organization issuing it.
Are you are satisfied with your current challenges? Would you like to deal with more difficult problems? If so, what kind?
I'm always up for dealing with more difficult problems. Often, in my field, the problems revolve around solving regulation-induced issues, not the actual science or engineering. I would love to deal with a team of people innovating their way to new products and new solutions.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Either COO of my current organization or heading a start-up I've founded.
What advice do you give those who want to work in your field?
The field of nuclear engineering is not for the lazy or for the whiny. Be ready to work hard and be meticulous, but there are a lot of great people in this field and the work we do is critically important. Learn to deal with all kinds of personalities and keep up with the broader field of nuclear science.
Columbia, MO, USA