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December 07, 2011



Gerry: Probably lost his job due to embarrassing the Engineering Dept.

BTDT. Never got a tee shirt, my mug and the certificate were stolen, and they showed me to the door. Discovered they tried to patent it, and when I asked about some compensation for my ideas, they responded "what ideas?". (My job title did not put me in a category of engineering/design/invention that would give them automatic ownership. I was a production tech that ended up working with a Manufacturing Engineer I was friends with. When I had an idea on problems he was working on, he would let me run with it.)

He and I, along with the EE in that dept kicked ass, and made the R+D Eng Dept look worthless. We got tossed, they all stayed.

The company got sold to a competitor a few years later, and a look at their product line afterwards showed they bought it to get that process I developed, that made my buddy's design survive the rigors of life in hospital use.


That is why my first week at work as a young, right out of college, newly minted engineer, my mentor took me down to the shop, introduced me to the foreman, several senior machinists, and some technicians. He told them - teach him how to be a useful engineer. Then he looked at me and told me "learn everything you can from these guys. No matter what you may think right now, you are better educated than they are, but they are smarter and more experienced than you are. So stay here, keep your mouth shut and pay attention."

I thought he was nuts, and hated my first week at work. But...

I spent two weeks being called names, picked on and teased by these guys. By the end of the first week I was eating lunch and playing dominoes with them. I joined their softball team. I learned to listen to them, seek out their advice, and eventually think like them. They eventually got used to me wandering into the shop, flopping down on a stool and saying "OK, I need someone to tell me how stupid this idea is."

I have been working as an engineer now for almost 30 years. I have spent most of my career being congratulated by my bosses for my simple, innovative solutions to problems. One boss told me once that I don't approach problems like a typical engineer. I told him - "I had good teachers, and I don't mean the ones in college."


The lower down the chain the problem is solved the more effective is the solution. Always true.
Old repair engineer Fred

Gerry N,

I'd be willing to bet that the poor fool who came up with the $20 solution to the $8 Million problem waited a good long time for his next merit raise or promotion. What makes me think that? Been there, done that. Got the tee shirt, coffee cup and certificate of participation.


One could say that this is the difference in mindset between Engineers and Technicians (especially Repair Technicians).

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