Tuesday, December 3, 2013

THIRTY FOUR YEARS GO FAST

On December 3, 1979 I walked into the offices of Dit-MCO International to begin my first day at a new job.  Now today I look back over thirty four years sitting in this chair as I watched technology change at an ever faster pace and working hard to help keep the company up with the pace that technology has set.

I have been extremely fortunate in my professional career.  It really began when I was approximately ten years old on a Saturday morning.  My dad was doing some outside work at Rycom Instruments that morning and I had gone in to help in what little way I could.  I decided to take a tour of the old dance hall and stumbled into a room with big tables, high sitting chairs and blue prints taped or tacked to the walls.  It was the drafting department and it took me around two minutes to decide that I had found my place in the world.  This was what I wanted to do for a living.  I didn't know how I would but on that day in the darkened room my mind was made up.

It was a few short years later, when I was fifteen, that I was hired at Rycom as a janitor of sorts.  My job was to come in during the summer and empty all the trash cans in the building, clean the restrooms and then do some floor work, either sweeping or buffing until it was time to head home with dad.  I replaced light tubes and such and just generally worked all summer at minimum wage.

When I turned sixteen and had been given a drivers license from the State of Missouri, I began to work after school doing the same thing but making much less money.  As I would do my trash pickup rounds, I always made it a point to take extra time in the drafting department and make friends with the people who worked there.  It was a small department staffed by only three or four people but I began to work my way into making them realize that this room was where I really wanted to work.

It was the fall of my junior year in High School that the offer that would create my career was given to me.  Loretta. the head of the drafting department, offered me to work in the drafting department after school each day when my trash pick up duties were finished.  It didn't leave me much time to do much drawing everyday but it was the start of a great learning process that is still going on even now.  When I finished my first professional drawing, well I can not describe the pride I felt.  I made a copy of it and took it home and put it in a scrapbook.  Today it is in that scrapbook as a reminder of my beginning as an artist.

Artist.  I had always been interested in art and craved the talent to be able to draw.  The talent was not there though, so drafting became my art outlet.  With drafting I had tools to help me make straight lines and proper angles and when I finished a work of this "art" you could actually tell what it was.  I had found my niche.

During my time at Rycom I graduated high school, took myself a wife, bought a house and began my adult life with a career I was happy with and did not want to leave.  As I continued to work there on a full time basis my skill set started to widen.  Not only were my drawings becoming more professional looking, I was starting to design small printed circuit boards by hand taping them onto mylar.  I was learning to use the huge camera and darkroom to make the final artworks of my attempts.  I was settling into a job and career until one day a friend of mine came to me at church one Sunday and asked if I was interested in a job.

Alice Shepard and her husband Noel were two of my best mentors as I fought my way through my teenage years.  Alice worked as a purchasing agent and the engineering department where she worked were looking to hire a draftsman or two.  I decided it wouldn't hurt to ask and so I went to an interview at Labconco that Alice had set up for me.  During the interview I asked for a modest amount of money but still a big raise from what Rycom was paying me.  They hired me almost on the spot.  A few days later I told Loretta I was moving on.  She cried and vowed to try to get Rycom to match the salary that Labconco was offering.  She couldn't accomplish it until my last day at Rycom, which was too late.  I was leaving the nest in a sort of way.  Leaving my dad, Loretta, and the Rycom family behind as I truly set out in the world on my own.  It was November of 1978 when I began the grueling work schedule that Labconco expected of us.

I stayed at Labconco for thirteen months.  There was a company that was growing like wild fire over by my grandparent's house and they were stealing people from Labconco right and left.  As soon as one person would leave, in a few weeks someone would get a call from that person asking them to switch jobs.  It was just a matter of time before the call came for me.  I was asked to come work for Dit-MCO and was told how good of a company it was, how it was growing, how things were more laid back and how the pay was a lot better.

When I went to Dit-MCO in mid November of 1979, I was expecting a real interview.  It didn't happen.  They had decided to hire me before I got there.  They were in desperate need for mechanical draftsmen and engineers.  They were taking whatever came through the door, and that week it was me.

And so on December 3, 1979 I began a job that back then, I wouldn't dream of still being at thirty four years later.  But here I sit.  My time at Dit-MCO has been good.  They are a good company that has always tried to do what was best for their workforce.  Their philosophy is to keep as many people as you can for as long as you can so that time isn't wasted on training new hires over and over again.  They have done a good job of it.  Even though the economy has effected the company pretty harshly at times, they still try to do what they can to keep people here.  There have been times of layoffs, massive layoffs at one point in time but only when they had to.

Today the company is growing again.  I am no longer a draftsman but a design engineer.  Over the years i have had to trade in my drafting board for a computer.  I no longer draw by hand and the new "art" that I created is all digital.  I design the printed circuit boards on the computer as well as doing 3-D modeling.  It is a whole new type of work that I had not forseen back in 1979.

There have been adventures working here.  There has been a lot of horseplay working here and there have been a lot of pressure working here.  It is rare these days to find a company that actually strives to take care of their employees.  That is one thing that the company does do.. It takes care of us as best as it can.  It gets us the best benefits package they can.  They paid my way through college.  I have always had a good insurance plan.

Thirty four years ago, I had figured maybe five to ten years sitting in this chair.  I have seen a lot of people come and go.  I have seen old friends retire.  I have seen friends die from cancer and other sicknesses.  I have seen a father turn the company over to his eldest son who carried on his dad's desire to take care of the people.

Not many people can say they work at a company like mine is.  Not many people can say that they enjoy working for the company that they do.  I may not get as much pay as I could somewhere else, but to me, not waking up in the morning dreading the coming day as another day at the office is worth a lot of money.  I wake up and am anxious to get here.  There is something about a company like Dit-MCO that a lot of other companies could learn from.  Keep your people.  Keep them satisfied.  Make their time at the office rewarding instead of monotonous.

As for me, I have been extremely lucky and looked over.  I have never really been on an interview for a job.  My resume is extremely small.  But I continue to learn something new each day I come to this place.  Somehow I landed here.  Divine intervention?  Pure luck?  Destiny?  I don't know.  What I do know is that it doesn't feel like I have been here for thirty four years.  It has been an experience that allows time to fly by and for thirty four years to creep up on you without you realizing it.  I am here for the duration of my career I think and I am good with that.  Looking back over thrity four years that feels like five, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I am still an artist.  I still work my brain everyday.  I still feel good with what I accomplish while I am here.

Visit ditmco.com for a look at what the company does and more information.  You may find it interesting.

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