Monday, December 3, 2012

HALF A LIFE PLUS FIVE

Thirty three years ago, December 3, 1979, I walked through the doors of Dit-MCO International for the first time.  At the time I had no idea how important this place would become to me.  There are different ways that spending time in this office has influenced my life.  For example, the mere number of years that I have walked through various doors that had Dit-MCO written upon them is a great influence.  I am fifty six years old now yet I was only twenty three when I did my first days work for the company.  I have been extremely lucky and have had a lot of breaks in forming my career but getting called by Dit-MCO was by far the luckiest thing that ever happened in my career.

I had begun my career as a draftsman at Rycom Instruments, a very small company where my dad worked for the majority of his life.  When Loretta pulled me into drafting I was still sixteen about to turn seventeen.  She knew I wanted to draw and after giving me a chance to prove myself, hired me as a full time draftsman.  She saw something in me that not even I saw in myself.  She apparently knew that I had a little talent because she kept giving more complicated things to do while I was there.  Within four years, I was her senior draftsman and had accomplished much more than just drafting.  I had learned how to make artwork for printed circuit boards using black tape and an exacto knife.  She had taught me how to use the huge camera in the darkroom across the hall to make photos of the artwork which would become the masters.  I used that camera for many other things such as making art from album covers and such that I would later frame.  When I turned twenty two I was offered a chance to spread my wings even further.  Alice, one of my mentors at church, told me of an opening in the drafting department where she worked as a purchasing agent.  The name of the place was known world wide as LABCONCO.

LABCONCO was the first time I was paid a salary instead of working hourly.  To a young twenty two year old this sounded great.  No longer would the company be keeping tabs on when I was there or not and pay me accordingly.  I would be paid no matter how many hours I worked.  The catch, I came to find out, was that it not only included that I would be paid if I had to take off for a doctor's appointment or something of that nature, but I would get paid the same amount if it took me more than forty hours to a week to finish a job.  As I came to find out, it was almost impossible to complete a work assignment in forty hours at LABCONCO.  Before long I was working seven days a week putting in sixty or more hours every week.  This wore me down rather quickly and I decided that my time at LABCONCO would be short lived unless they came through with a huge raise.

While I was at LABCONCO, I met several other engineers and draftsmen that were hard workers but felt the same way I did.  Working at LABCONCO was taking just too much of their time.  I wasn't there but a few weeks when I noticed that slowly my peers were quitting their jobs at LABCONCO and going somewhere else.  It took about seven months before I was the senior draftsman at LABCONCO.  The guys were leaving in droves.  It wasn't long before I found out what the great lure was that was pulling everyone from LABCONCO.

I had been working at LABCONCO for thirteen months when my phone rang.  It was one of my previous co-workers asking me if I wanted to change companies and start another job.  I was a little leery of this since I had been at my job just a little over a year, but I agreed to talk about it.  While talking things over I came to know that all of these people I use to work for had left to go to a company called Dit-MCO International.  They were all there and enjoying themselves with challenging work that didn't take every bit of your time.  They were working on machines to test aircraft, and aerospace products.  They had contracts with all the major plane manufacturers as well as the government and NASA.  At LABCONCO all we were doing was designing fume hoods and such for university labs, nothing really exciting, but Dit-MCO was on the cutting edge of technology.  It was an offer to good to pass up.  For one thing, they gave me a pretty hefty raise.  Secondly, I would be working with people I already knew for the most part and there was room for me to advance from drafting on into engineering.  I took the job without giving it much thought.  If anything, I figured, I could get five good years of experience on the cutting edge if I found I were to leave Dit-MCO.

Now I feel like I have bored you enough with all the talk about how things led up to finding myself at Dit-MCO.  I want to talk people here.  The people who have made up Dit-MCO over the last thirty three years of my life.  I have heard lots of companies try to say that their company is like a family.  I don't buy it.  It takes a special administration along with special people under those running the company to make it feel like a family.  Dit-MCO has that.  Dit-MCO is a company that is truly like a family.  Over the years we have shared the joys of life along with the tragedies of life.  We have not only worked together but played together.  There is no politics being played out at the company.  Everyone knows what their role is and they perform their roles immaculately.  We have had babies born and we have had members die.  Still the company carries on through the good and the rough times.

Engineers are a special brand of people.  Not that they are better than other types of workers, it is more in that they are just plain different.  To be an engineer you have to be able to think differently.  You have to be able to take a chance a try things a different way then they have always been done.  This is how you progress.  Along with this independent thinking comes some pretty strange senses of humor.  Engineers probably have more fun than any other occupation.  Practical jokes are a must for an engineering department and the engineers at Dit-MCO are aces at playing practical jokes.  Of course you also have to be able to take a joke played on you if you are to succeed in the engineering field.

During my time at the company, the engineering department has had many off the wall activities.  For example, we bought a putter and a golf hole at a thrift store one year and set up a gold course in the building.  The result was a weekly Golf Tournament that even had a traveling trophy that would sit in the desk of the tourney winner of the week.

Over the years here, I have seen many changes, much as my grandpa saw changes in his work on the railroad.  I remember when I was young, grandpa telling me of how things had changed so very much since he began working on the railroad as a very young man.  I see the same things in my job.  There isn't a drafting table in the whole building anymore.  A pencil is used at most three or four times a day.  Computers have taken over the engineering field.  For the most part I have to say this has been a good thing.  We are more accurate with our designs and our calculations.  We not only draft using a computer, but are able to make three dimensional models of our designs to see how they will look and that they will fit together.

The printed circuit boards that as a youngster I use to make by  using tape on mylar, I now use a computer to create.  It is much fast and much more accurate.  We don't use a camera to make artwork anymore but create computer files that the houses that fabricate our boards use for artwork.

Over the last thirty three years I have seen many people come and go.  More than likely though, if an engineer takes a job at Dit-MCO, he will end up being here for a substantial amount of time.  At thirty three years here, I am not even close to being at the top of the seniority list.  Young engineers have moved in though to replace those who have retired and I find myself being regarded by these youngsters as one of the old men in the department.  I don't mind being seen as that though.  Another thing that engineers like is stability.  We don't like change as far as surroundings go or meeting new people to work with.  We work well together and know what to expect from each other.

No doubt by the time I am through here at Dit-MCO, I will have put in well over forty years.  Never in my wildest thoughts as a young twenty three year old, did I think I would still be siting here working for a company that is good to it's people and encourages them to stay.

Have I been lucky?  EXTREMELY lucky.  I love this company.  How many people can truly say they absolutely love their job?  It makes a difference waking up in the morning thinking "Well, wonder what today will bring" as I get ready to leave for the office without dread or waking up in the morning with the dreadful thought "Oh man, I got to go to work again today."

I like coming to work and have for thirty three years now.


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