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0471655767_[ePdfSearch.com] - CHAPTER 7 STUFF YOU DON'T...

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CHAPTER 7 STUFF YOU DON'T LEARN IN ENGINEERING SCHOOL What you don't know will hurt you and hold you back. —Consulting engineer at Cooper Union seminar I CLEARLY REMEMBER the date when Stuff you Don't Learn in Engineering School was, shall we say, "born." I remember this clearly because I was about to confront something in my career after 20 years of stressing over it. It was the morning of Thursday, Octo- ber 20, 1992, around 9 AM, on the 61st floor of One World Trade Center, in New York City. I was sitting with about 20 other col- leagues from The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and we were going to take a two-day course in "Negotiating Skills." Why was I taking a "negotiating" course? After all, I was a sea- soned manager in my forties, with over 20 years' experience, and yet I felt that I finally needed to learn this skill since I was about to negotiate with several bus and limousine companies to start ground transportation services to our regional airports. You see, I had never learned how to negotiate. To be honest, I had a "thing" about it, and was scared of negotiating: I thought it was too hard, it always involved conflict, and you either won or you lost. As a result of these perceptions, I had avoided negotiating like the plague during my career. So now it was time to give in and final- ly learn how to do this terrible thing. People were introducing themselves—who they were, what they did, why they were there, the usual. Then the instructor—a lawyer, whose name I've forgotten—started off the course. "Wel- come," he said, "glad you're here," . . . then, "Why do you think they hired a lawyer to teach you how to negotiate?" My ears perked up. "We're the world's worst negotiators." Stuff You Don't Learn in Engineering School. By Carl Selinger. ISBN 0-471-65576-7 © 2004 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. 1
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2 CHAPTER 1 STUFF YOU DON'T LEARN IN ENGINEERING SCHOOL Inside my head I was suddenly tuning him out, thinking, "this guy's a jerk." He continued: "Everyone thinks lawyers know how to negotiate. What we do is get together for lunch, and I say 'We need to settle this for $40,000,' and the other lawyer says, 'No, I'll only go for $30,000,' and, guess what? We 'split the difference,' settle for $35,000, and bill the client for our services." Just that quickly, I had it with Mr. Negotiating Attorney! I didn't need to hear this bull for two whole days. I was going to call my secretary at the first break so she could come and retrieve me for an "important meeting." The lawyer continued: "That's what most people think negoti- ating is. You say a number, I say a number, and we 'split the differ- ence.' Well, I'm here to tell you that you already know how to nego- tiate." What was he saying? "You negotiate every day. You've negotiated since you were a kid, asking to stay up later, wanting to borrow the family car. You negotiated all the time in college, begging the professor for more time to do the assignment. And you negotiate every day at work, asking for extensions for due dates, discussing changes in tasks you're supposed to do, selecting places to go for lunch, etc.,
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