Monday, February 17, 2014

Watershed Moments - Work

We spend a great deal of time at our work over the course of our lives. While work should not defined who we are, work is the biggest tool we have to generate income and contribute to the world around us.

My first job in high school was working in the electrical shop of a manufacturer of livestock confinements buildings.  I still had all my chores to do at home, but I was able to make some more money during the summer of my senior year. After hours from the electrical job, I also detasseled corn that summer.

The next summer I worked at a business that rebuilt engines for farm and heavy equipment. The business owner was expanding and built a new parts warehouse. I helped him completely revamp his inventory system. He also liked to build tractor pulling tractors and I got to help redesign some of the critical systems on the tractors. I did the math for remachining pistons, cylinders and drive trains on his pulling tractors. Fun!

The next summer I worked for a company that made control valves and regulators. I went through their shop floor training program and did machining the whole summer. I was the only person to ever ace their shop floor pre-test, thanks to the training I got home on the farm from my dad. I could work a micrometer and caliper with the best of them. Shop floor math was my specialty, remember the work in the machine shop on the tractor pulling tractor the previous summer, that was very good training.

When I got back to school that fall it turns out they needed a student machinist to help build lab samples and research equipment for graduate students and faculty. I told them about my experience machining over the summer and they hired me on the spot. I wasn't really looking for a job, but this one was too fun to pass up and it paid pretty good. They started me at $6 an hour and by the time I was a senior I was making $9, this was 30 years ago so this was pretty good money. I was pretty good at this stuff and was all caught up on the lab samples after three weeks on the job. My boss figured that would have been a whole semesters worth of work so he was pretty happy. He then let me work on the fun stuff for the research projects.

I got a job at Saginaw Steering Gear the summer of my senior year. Remember the J-Car, one of the first front wheel drive cars. I worked as part of the team that was improving the performance of the front wheel drive assembly line that summer.

That brings us to graduation and my first real job.

We will explore that watershed moment in our next post.

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