ESD Between Engineers and Technicians
electronics career began in the USAF as a radar system maintenance specialist
and did not have exposure to engineers except a rare visit by a communications
officer during system certification tests. Following separation (aka
"getting out"), I went to work as an electronics technician for Westinghouse
at the Oceanic Division in Annapolis, Maryland. It was the first time
I worked alongside engineers. My nature is to be subservient and respectful
toward people put in charge of my activities, whether at work or otherwise,
so I was surprised to witness an
that persisted between engineers and technicians. A minority of the
techs seemed to harbor resentment for the engineers and took every opportunity
to highlight their mistakes, no matter how minor. Derisive comments
were usually reserved for the benefit of co-workers, not the engineers
themselves (backbiting). I admired most of the engineers enough that
it motivated me to spend many years taking classes part-time to earn
my own BSEE degree.
On one occasion a production test technician
discovered an incorrect voltage reference level on a comparator circuit
in a very complex mixed signal circuit that was part of a towed sonar
array for the U.S. Navy. He spent a good week telling everyone who would
listen how dumb the engineer was and how smart he was. "Those d**n engineers
have all that schooling and can't even design a simple comparator circuit,
and they get paid many times what I make," to paraphrase from distant
memory. The engineer was actually one of the company's top designers
with many highly successful projects to his credit, and a nice guy as
well. The technician was know to make his own share of mistakes, including
applying incorrect voltage to circuits under test and unnecessarily
failing an entire batch of boards because of it.
On the other
hand, another engineer I worked with there was truly a legend in his
own mind. He was a Ph.D type who was never wrong, even when he was.
The guy designed the transducer elements for sonar arrays. When the
metal plating on a new type ceramic element detatched during a soldering
process, he spent days blaming the incompetent technicians who had all
(including me) been trained and qualified in NASA-quality soldering
techniques. As you might guess, the problem turned out being a faulty
lamination procedure he devised. The guy left our clean room assembly
area in a rage and never returned, even after a redesign corrected the
What brings these situations to mind, you might ask?
Well, being an avid reader of the Sherlock Ohms series published by
Design News, I sometimes detect a hint of the same type of tension between
engineers and technicians. A couple days ago a story titled, "Capacitor
Problem? Replace the Contactor" was posted and then today another
Path Snafus Circuit Board," appeared. The two scenarios exactly
illustrate the rift I have witnessed throughout my electronics career.
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