Out of Order: Of Pointy-Haired Bosses
This story, submitted by RF Cafe visitor Jerry L., of Cincinnati, OH, reminds me of a certain manager in a popular engineering comic strip. Do you have a good work-related anecdote to share? Please email it to me for consideration. Thanks.
Jerry Writes: I worked in the defense electronics industry for my entire career and it is hard to think of a project in more than four decades that was not made infinitely more difficult due to the 'helpful' input of project managers. One experience in particular comes to mind as a perfect topic for your Out of Order feature.
In the mid 1970s I was a "fresh-out," as new engineering college graduates were called at the time. Newly minted as a Masters degreed electrical engineer, my aspirations were high and I was ready to set the mobile radio system world on fire. A synergistic combination of my own zeal and aptitude (I earned my Ham license at age 16) with that of a seasoned engineer mentor, I reasoned, would launch me on a path to success. After all, the grueling series of interviews I was put through by those who would likely be my project teammates gave me a good taste of what to expect after graduation in the spring. I was asked questions on filter responses, amplifier stability, and Smith Charts. Sweat flowed like a river, but I passed muster or the job offer would not have been made.
Day one consisted mostly of human resources in-processing, filling out paperwork to get my DoD security background check started, and meeting managers and co-workers. I was taken to my combination office space/lab area. Things were looking good. There were no computers sitting on desks in those days, but there was a drafting table conveniently situated for drawing schematics and mechanical assemblies (which would later be put in final official form by approved draftsmen). Day two arrived and I found myself sitting at my desk all day reading through policy manuals and 'familiarizing' myself with the way the company did things. So, too, went day three, and day four, and day five. After finally inquiring as to why I had been seemingly relegated to permanent desk duty, I was informed confidentially by the guy who was supposed to have to be my mentor that the program manager's son, also a fresh-out, had been hired that same week with no interviewing process that anyone knew of. Without notice, explanation, or apology, Sonny was given my promised position and I was now hanging in the lurch while Dad tried to find some other program manager to pawn me off on. Unbeknownst to me, a layoff had occurred a couple weeks prior to my arrival and all the engineering staff was trimmed to the bone, with no budget to take on new team members. What a crappy introduction that experience was to the world of engineering.
Fortunately, I lived in the area and did not have to sign an agreement to stay for any period of time (no relocation expenses to pay back), so I immediately began searching for a new job. Wanting to stick with the defense systems field, the other companies in the area that did similar work were tapped, and I soon found a new position where I was taken 'under the wing' of a truly great engineer. Over the next couple years many guys from the other company appeared at my new company, and all had awful stories to tell about their experiences there. My story has a happy ending because I remained at that new company for 25 years before moving on only because I wanted to try out a new aspect of radio engineering that was not a option there. Things could have turned out a lot worse. I suspect a lot of people could tell similar stories based on the tales I've heard over the years.
Posted January 21, 2014
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