Things I Wish I Learned in Engineering School

Rick Cattell

I’m working on a book about pitfalls that engineers should be aware of in their careers, e.g. to avoid spending years working on projects that don’t succeed as products. The book is divided into four chapters:

  1. Successful Organizations
  2. Technical Innovation
  3. Successful Products
  4. Career Advice
Each of these chapters includes 20 "rules" to follow, along with arguments for the rules, and supporting examples of success and failure in the computer industry.

Most of the material is derived from colleagues’ comments on what they learned the hard way in Silicon Valley, and from my own experience at Xerox, Sun Microsystems, and start-up companies I have worked with.

I tested the material in several university talks.  The talk covers the most important rules from the four chapters above. Unfortunately Carnegie-Mellon University and University of Illinois no longer have the videos posted, please let me know if anyone has a copy I can post.  An interview on the book can be found on the Oracle (formerly Sun) website, and the slides for my talk can be found here.   Please do not copy or distributed this copyrighted material!  However, feel free to reference this page, I expect the material for the book to remain here indefinitely.

If you are willing to be a serious reviewer of the manuscript of the book, or you have suggestions on things you wish you learned in engineering school, please contact me at: