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I am James Towers and This is How I Work

Today, I am hosting James Towers in the “How I Work” series. James holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Nottingham Trent University which he gained in 1996. Since then he has had a varied career in software and systems modelling and has presented both papers and tutorials at conferences and seminars as well as writing and delivering training courses on the subject. He has provided consultancy, training and mentoring to various organisations working in automotive, consumer electronics, finance, information technology, power electronics, telecommunications, rail, retail and supply chain. He is a Charted Engineer, an OMG® Certified UML professional and member of the IET, INCOSE, IIBA and chair of the INCOSE UK Model-Based Systems Engineering Working Group.

Current Job: Consultant Systems Engineer
Current Location: Brighton, UK
Current mobile device: iPhone & iPad
Current computer: MacBook Pro (Laptop) & iMac (Desktop) – Both machines run virtual machines to allow me to have a ‘virtual’ PC too

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
I’m a consultant and trainer working with companies trying to adopt Model Based Systems Engineering

I am chair of the the Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) Working Group at INCOSE (International Council on Systems Engineering) UK Chapter. We have a number of work-streams which research MBSE related topics. These are usually done as collaborations between multiple companies and/or academia.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
General Office Tools (Word, Excel etc), Email, Skype. We also use Slack which is a messaging tool, Mindjet Mind Manger (for drawing mind-maps), Evernote, Things (Task Management) and specialist MBSE modelling tools such as Sparx EA, PTC Integrity Modeller, No Magic Cameo etc

What does your workspace setup look like?

Based in a home office, but often visit client sites where workshops are usually done in meeting rooms.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Understand your personal rhythms – not everybody works in the same way and the same time. If I’m writing a paper I find I work best late afternoon, early evening. If I’m researching existing material, or planning, mornings are best for me. Also different environments facilitate different activities. If you’re generally based in a quiet environment then it’s good to go somewhere busy with some background noise to get a different perspective (and the reverse).

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?

I’m a great list writer so I always have a list of tasks. For larger endeavours I’ll use a formal project plan. I also use ‘Rich Pictures’ for communication.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
Generally wedded to my phone & computer

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?

Not an academic, but would like to do more formal research at some stage

What do you listen to when you work?
Generally shuffle my playlist.

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?
Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure – Tim Harford
Harold Larwood (Biography) by Duncan Hamilton

Time for reading – very difficult! Holidays and train journeys mainly

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?
Mixed, but would lean towards extrovert. Which is good as I often have facilitate or run training courses.

What’s your sleep routine like?
Pretty good, try for a regular sleep – wakeup cycle

What’s your work routine like?
Not very routine! Lots of travel at the moment. When in the ‘office’ usually 9:00 to 17:00 when submission deadlines approach 9:00 to 19:30!

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Hanlon’s Razor – “”Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”

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