Raymer's Rules - Cultural Differences

Needless to say, there are many differences from culture to culture, and not all of Raymer's Rules will "translate". For example, the importance of time-based deadlines varies a lot around the world. In some countries it just doesn't matter that much if something is done a little late, as long as it is done eventually. But for young engineers working their way up the ladder, I recommend doing better than those around you - so follow Raymer's Rule #1 no matter where you live - Never Screw Up on the Due date!

Of course, if you are the boss, you can be as late as you want in any country. But it isn't nice.

The importance of proposals is an area where other countries, or other forms of organization in this country, may see a difference. If you work for an organization that does not depend upon winning proposals to bring in money, this Rule is not directly relevant. But, wherever you do work there is a local equivalent - the primary way that the organization brings in the resources to pay its people and to operate itself. This may be in pleasing politicians, or in creating great publicity, or possibly even in doing good technical work. Wherever that resource-capturing activity may be, you be there and be excellent!

In matters related to the workplace treatment of women, there are substantial cultural differences from country to country. This is a complicated, politically-charged issue, and it is difficult for somebody who grew up in one culture to really appreciate how another culture operates. But, no matter what the local culture, I still stand by Raymer's Rule on professional behavior: Do not ever, ever do anything that could be construed as sexual harassment. No off-color jokes, come-ons, or even excessive compliments concerning looks or dress. Also, avoid office romances.

I offer two reasons why young male engineers should follow this, regardless of where they live or what the local culture says is acceptable. First, I think that this attitude has a substantial impact on a country's economic status. Imagine a country where there is a random lottery at birth, and half the men are tattooed with a mark that, for the rest of their lives, would prevent them from getting a good education, finding a good job, starting a company, or getting selected to run an existing company. That would just about kill the economic development of that unfortunate country. What if the next Bill Gates "lost" such a birth lottery? Or the next Wilbur Wright, or Kelly Johnson, or Burt Rutan?

My second reason is personal - along with two sons, I have a wonderful daughter, and I want her to be able to decide her future for herself and to pursue her dreams. If she wants to be a housewife and raise wonderful grandchildren for me, I'll be very happy (but don't start any time soon, please!). If she wants to pursue a career taking advantage of her intelligence and abilities, I don't want the men around her holding back her career and treating her like her only important abilities are those obvious ones related to her gender.

As to what an individual should do if they are in a country where women in the workplace are treated unequally - that is a personal decision. An individual, especially a young one, cannot force those around him to change. But, each individual can decline to actively participate in a bad thing. Surely it is possible to get an education and to get a job or start a business without participating in the subtle but persistent degradation of fellow human beings whose only fault is sharing the gender of our mothers, sisters, and daughters.

So, skip the off-color jokes and get your own coffee!

Sorry for the lecturing tone of the above - it's a difficult topic to discuss unemotionally, which is one reason why it is such a difficult thing to change. While we in the USA have come a long way towards workplace equality, we shouldn't be too smug - it took many decades of struggle by courageous people to get this far, and we still aren't 100% where we should be.


I fully stand by the rest of Raymer's Rules, no matter where you live or who you work for....unless your father owns the company, in which case you can be a total jerk and still get promoted. Lucky you. But, try to do good work and be nice to us little people anyway.

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