July 26, 2023
An apprentice gets to ask lots of questions. The person responding to those questions determines whether you feel empowered to keep asking. Most of my instructors were encouraging; only a few told me to just follow their orders and get the job done like it had always been done before. Others went beyond encouraging and challenged me to do the reading and the work needed to answer my own questions. They even defended me when some of my solutions were viewed as out of the ordinary. As I closed in on that 6,000-hour goal, the actual drafting department informed the apprentice supervisor that he needed to find somewhere else for me to work; it was just too disruptive to “good order” to have a kid come in who broke so many of the unwritten rules of the department. Draftsmen were to make drawings as directed — not annoy the designers and engineers with suggestions. Development engineering was way behind on a project, so I was assigned a scutt work project over there until a final decision was made. The only open desk was next to a guy who was on his way to setting the male absentee record. His boss would come over looking for him and ask me if I knew what he had been working on. If I did, he leaned on me to complete the work. It was a great break from manually filling out catalog rating pages and eventually I was absorbed into that project, and the next one after that. Before long, I was expected to know how to design gears and gearboxes. The company was paying for evening classes at the local engineering college, which gave me the opportunity to learn even more about gears. Only years later, after I left for other opportunities, did I realize what a strange string of events combined to make my life in gears possible. There was no dedicated course of study to becoming a gear expert. Many of the experts I met along the way came into the trade in unexpected ways. From time to time during 2019, this blog will be given over to some of those people so they can tell their own stories. If you would like to participate, please contact me.