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Old 21st December 2012, 04:52 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by SY View Post
Just goes to show, you never know what odd hobby might open doors.
Oddly enough mine is just a money pit. A huge gaping hole that acts a lot like a vacuum.

Actually, the practical side of things is very important to me. Being a roofing inspector, I guess you have to say that's management but without my previous experience in construction and my general 'let's take it apart' attitude, I would be as bad as some of these kids I see trying to do a job they aren't really suited for. Being able to call on your knowledge saves time in the field. Time saved, is money.
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Old 21st December 2012, 06:08 PM   #22
DUG is offline DUG  Canada
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Does practical ability limit your career?

My practical ability is my career.

To me the question just does not make sense.

But if you assume that everyone should have a career that proceeds through management levels then I guess the Peter Principle would take effect eventually. Then, when you have reached your level of incompetence, you could say that your ability has limited your career.

Maybe I'm there already, who knows.
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Old 21st December 2012, 07:25 PM   #23
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A combination of a degree and practical ability is what got me my job, and what has kept me employed. My degree is in Food Science, and I spent several years making small money at a local faminly owned company. I did the QC lab work, made a lot of the product, drove a forklift, packed product, you name it. When the owner's health failed, so did the company.

The combination of a lucky pointer in the right direction, an appropriate education and practical plant experience got me a job with a Fortune 100 food company. I spent a year as an operator paying more dues, then got a spot as a supervisor. A few years of that, and a lot of time learning the machines and electrical systems well enough to direct the maintenance staff landed me a spot as a maintenance planner. There, the mechanical skills I had picked up from HS shop classes, and playing with cars and bicycles, and electrical skills from HS electronics class and playing with audio were vital. I don't turn wrenches myself too often (union plant), but I know enough to work well with those that do. I often say that my hobbies taught me what I needed to know to do my job!

Some years in maintenance keeping the plant running and implementing machine design improvements of my own devising finally got me a spot as the plant reliability engineer. Now I get to work on improvements and machine monitoring full time. I wouldn't be doing what I do had I not had the opportunity to take drafting, woodworking, metal shop, auto shop and electronics in school. Who knows, maybe I'd be fabulously wealthy instead, but I like what I do.

Bill
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Old 22nd December 2012, 01:03 AM   #24
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Does practical ability limit your career?
Having too much practical ability should never be a limiting factor, since you can always play stupid. Lack of the other necessary skils in your chosen endeavor can not always be covered up with practical ability and experience.

A good boss (manager...whatever) should be able to recognize the talents of his people and use people where they provide the most benefit to the team.

Good bosses are not always easy to find.

A resourceful employee will figure out (or just ask) what the boss needs and provide it. Those needs WILL change with time, sometimes abruptly. Be prepared.

I was convinced by a manager that I had worked for previously to leave a regular engineering job in the main plant and join an off campus "skunkworks" team to work on a contract project. 7 people were hand picked and hired for this team, a building was rented, and a bunch of money was spent setting this up, and then the contract failed. Seeing the grim possibilities here, I went straight to the top boss, and asked what his hot buttons were.

There were several things I could do nothing about, but there was a profitable product that was experiencing a high field failure rate due to lightning strikes. I agreed to look into it.

The product was a radio controlled lighting and irrigation controller for golf courses. I visited a couple of installations where units had failed to see why. The controller was often mounted out of the way with buried cables running long distances to valves, sensors, and a power source. Often the cables ran off in different directions. When lightning strikes even a mile away a large voltage gradient can appear across the ground. Run two wires off in different directions and connect them to a circuit board, lightning strikes, boom, board fried! How to fix it???

First problem, how to duplicate the failure in the lab....Think about that for a minute, how do I make lightning in the lab.....and controllable lightning at that. This was about 1990, Google wasn't even a dream yet, so I start talking to friends, and the answer was demonstrated to me. Lightning in a box, with a power knob right on the front. It goes from 50 Joules to 400 Joules. What is it???? It is a defibrillator for shocking heart attack victims back to life....or blowing stuff up!

It seems that our little controller could be destroyed with a 50 Joule zap between any two outputs, or inputs. After I was done, a single 400 Joule zap wouldn't harm it. Field returns went to near zero, and I still work there.

As with any endeavor like this you (and the team) should learn from the experience. We learned that:

1) 400 Joules applied to the battery contacts of an old Pageboy 2 will turn a 4 layer PC board into 2 two layer boards.

2) Those little plastic box encapsulated mylar capacitors sound a lot like gun shots when they explode.

3) Discharging 400 Joules into a large coil of wire will erase all the floppy disks in the desk under the coil.

There were several other revelations, but the most important lesson:

NEVER connect the defib up to a banana and push the fire button unless you like cleaning banana goo off the walls, floor, and ceiling!

Do they teach this stuff in school.....yeah right!
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