One More Week of Daily Writing and Ideas

‘Challenge Must Go On’

After the first three weeks of publishing a new blogpost every day, this is what I’ve learned.

First of all, the daily grind of writing daily gets easier, but unlikely to become second nature. This is so far falling within expectations. The grind comes from fearing the writing process and the inherent writing block. As stated in the very first blogpost, the motive for starting this challenge was to learn to overcome this writer block. At this stage, I confirm that writing these blogposts is getting easier in comparison to the very first few ones. Ideas are flowing faster and in greater number. Sentences are forming in my head with less friction.

Furthermore and similarly to any skills, this is unlikely to become pain-free and the dread to write will not disappear, however smaller it becomes. This is both anticipated and in a sense welcomed. Part of what makes experiences enjoyable lies in the efforts that one pays to ripe the rewards. Like in a rollercoaster or climbing a mountain, the joy at the end is fueled by the fear or the sweat (or both ;p) in performing any of these activities.

Another side-effect consists in a lowering of my fear to share out more openly my thoughts and its positive impact on my stress level. A facet of my burn out stems from the harsh job environment of academia where written work (e.g. papers, proposals, reports, lecture notes, tutorials) are heavily criticized through their related review process. This had a massive negative impact on my mental state, already weakened by numerous bad personal and professional events. Some took place over a defined periods of time in the past and scared me till now to the point of more easily triggering burns out now. This is a point the work my therapist and I have been focusing on for the last year and we’ve made good progress on. I appreciate that very few of you are reading these blogposts as of now but releasing them combined with sharing them openly on this blog has tremendously eased the weight on my mind about my ability to write and share ideas. So thank you, the internet.

I thus shall continue to this writing challenge for all this above virtues and more.

‘Blog Will Rock You’

When scared about losing ideas to others, then one good advice surprisingly consists in sharing these ideas, as many more will start flowing; this writing challenge is no exception.

The more blogposts I write, the more ideas are coming to my head; at first during the writing sessions, then little by little throughout the day (please let me sleep at night). The first type of ideas consists of themes to write about in future posts. The second consists of future projects for this blog and general website. The third type is about the methods of sharing these ideas. The first two are self-explanatory and you will most likely see these ideas concretised in near-future blogposts or webpages.

The third type is however more subtle to describe. As much as I stated above that sharing these blogposts in the open on the internet has almost a therapeutic positive impact on my mental health, I also acknowledge that this blog is pretty hard to find and most likely (as confirmed by the website’s statistics) these posts are hardly read. This is the point I’m slowly warming up to improve by gathering the courage to share or advertise these posts more widely, especially on social media (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn). The objective is to gather more views and learn more and faster through exchanging comments with other readers. This can read at first as a contradiction to the point stated at the beginning of this post about how reviews badly impacted me. Rather than that, my view is rather that my mental health has been slowly regenerating through this writing challenge and is now ready to rise to the bigger challenge again.

There are also many other projects about creating a podcast about power electronics knowledge, a YouTube channel about modelling and control, a GitHub repository about open-source projects… You will hear more when these ideas will have more matured.

So, watch that space for more (grand and wider) announcements!

Closing Words

How has your reading experience on this daily blog been so far? Do you have any features or topics you would like me to cover?

For some reasons, the songs of the late Freddie Mercury resonated in my head while writing this blogpost. Did you catch their influence on the section names? ;p

Thank you for reading. See you tomorrow.


Marking in Progress

This is going to be a short post as it’s already late and tomorrow will be a long day as well.

This Part of the Education Cycle

Marking constitutes an inherent part of any teaching job, as much as exams are an inherent part of any students’ journey.

Exams are dreaded by students for the stress during the examination and the release (and consequences) of the resulting marks. Teachers also have to put a lot of efforts (aka time) into writing exam questions. Once the examination completed, the teachers will also spend a significant amount of time marking all these exam transcripts.

All in all, we all have to commit to exam and marking.

A Love Hate Relationship

I’m sure this is a feeling shared by many colleagues, but I’ve have a love-hate relationships with exams.

I like examining my students to measure (relatively quantitatively) how they have grown as skilled engineers. However, the volume of marking (easily 30min per transcripts and hundreds of them to mark) makes it a very daunting task…

To help me motivate myself to even start each mini marking sessions (it is unrealistic to mark everything at once), I usually keep picturing the curious and engaging students I have so much enjoying sharing knowledge and interacting during the course. Even if the transcripts are anonymous (which is an essential aspect of marking), my mind remains curious about how closer to a full engineer these students have become.

This means that I need to examine them. This means that I need to mark…

Closing Words

How do you tackle marking? Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you for reading. See you tomorrow.

Biography diary

The Yellow Brick Road of a Power Research Engineer (Part 1)

A Personal Journey

For today’s post, I thought that a little bit of background presentation would be welcomed.

One curious question to ask to older people (I’m no longer young, nor old – does that make me you-ld?) is which path they have followed to end up where they are. This question often stems from a desire (or sometimes fear) to find the most efficient paths by looking at successful people (or alternatively avoid those from perceived less-sucessful people) and replicate  (or alternatively avoid) these paths.

There is indeed something too learned from elders but strictly copying someone else’s path is at best misguided and at worse a trap. The explanation basically lies in the fact that a career path is often characterised by its uniqueness and replicating it will most likely miss some elements (due to the passing of time, differing trends, personal contacts). An illustration could be like taking a train to travel fast to a place far away: one could come to the same platform at the same time at which an older mentor used to take, but the timetable has changed since then and one cannot travel to their dreamed place. The lesson here would be that trains are a good way to travel fast and far but not to focus on the one train that this older mentor used to take 20 years ago.

But I’m getting distracted. The point of this blogpost was not to sermon you with a life lesson but to share the story of my own (ongoing) path.

An Objective Set from the Beginning

For all the ups and downs and twists on this road which is life, I profoundly love the domain I’ve ended up focusing my career: Engineering.

Since an early age, the passion for assembling and disassembling things was strong. You could call that the knack if you know the reference 😉 One of the early experiments which made a strong impression in my early memories was a simple electrolysis by short circuiting a battery with electrodes plunged in water. Lego sets obviously played a big part in my playtime back then, and even now I like using my niece and nephews as crime partners to justify playing with Lego bricks again.

So it was clear back then already that I would head to an engineering programme when applying to university.

A First Failure

Amongst the pletora of engineering schools available in France, I ended up registering to UTBM (University Technology Belfort-Montbeliard). Something about being far from Paris, something about their hybrid university-school approach, something about their multi-disciplinary approach… Something, many things prompted me to move 600 km away from home into the unknown.

Living in Belfort had been a tremendous and life changing experience. I’ve met many amazing friends, some of them I’m still in touch with to this day. Living far from home also massively boosted my independence and one of the unanticipated consequences turned out to be my developing passion for home cooking; ranging from baking breads or brioches to making chocolates and experimenting with foreign cuisines, to the delight of my flatmates and friends back then (my wife also greatly benefits from the learning of this period). These friendships also taught me lot about self-image, confidence, extraversion, social culture, sharing, and trust. The student societies I participated in also taught me a lot more on other topics such as work ethic, team working, passion for a shared project, enabling events for others, networking, and more.

University-wise, the picture was however a lot less rosy. The hybrid university-school approach wasn’t working for me. I’m sure this will constitute the subject of a future blogpost but, in a nutshell, I felt behind by Year 2 and faced the disciplinary council for under performance. This led to my dismissal of this university, with a comment from a prominent professor that “I wasn’t cut for higher education”.

A Windy Road Back Up

As I was seeing the end of the road at this first university, I prepared another application for a local, lower-ranked university (you could call them vocational school or polythenics in British culture I think). It was a huge relief when my application had been promptly accepted to the Institute University Technology Belfort-Montbeliard, specialty Genie Electricity and Industrial Informatics (IUT BM GEII).

The much more practical approach to teaching (loads of labs, theory after practice, friendly and supportive teaching staff) resonated with my passion for engineering and something clicked back then. My marks shot up to the top range of the class and I even started working on some home electronics projects.

After the 2-year programme at this institution, my knowledge started accumulating, my confidence mostly restored, my passion for engineering massively inflammed, I was hungry for more.

Closing Words

This covers the first few years of my university journey and there is still quite a lot to cover. Let’s thus split this post into another multi-part post. Hope you’ll enjoy the serie.

Thank you for reading. See you tomorrow.