Where is your career headed?

Author Michael Deren
October 01, 2019 - 09:45am

I have known many supervisors, manufacturing engineers, managers and owners who started in a shop environment and came up through the ranks. This shows true dedication to their careers and true devotion to their found callings. Manufacturing is alive and well in America.

After you received a promotion, did you notice that some of your co-workers treated you differently? Yeah, some ribbing is to be expected. But did you start getting the cold shoulder after a while? 

I have watched different individuals over the years as they have advanced at companies. I’ve watched some succeed while others crashed and burned. Why did some succeed and others fail?

I remember when I was promoted to programmer from the shop floor. I was walking on air. I could do no wrong—or so I thought. Most guys in the shop made me feel comfortable in my new position. A couple, however, tried to make my life hell by pointing out my programming shortcomings at every opportunity. Although some of the criticism was justifiable, a couple of people were just envious and wouldn’t do anything to better themselves, let alone help someone else succeed. I took the constructive criticism in stride, which made me a better programmer. 

I knew a manufacturing engineer who was hired at a company I worked for. He dove into his new position with resolve. Unfortunately, within a couple of weeks, he had alienated himself with many of the shop employees and some of the management team. How did he accomplish this amazing feat? He forgot to treat others like he would have wanted to be treated when he was in their shoes. 

Instead, he came on like gangbusters and found that everything they were doing was wrong. They were using the wrong tools and setups and employing poor machining practices. The list went on. He knew better and was going to cure all the shop’s problems overnight.

He didn’t want to listen to suggestions from some of the managers he had to interact with, which posed a problem. Now, he had to backpedal and attempt to repair some of the damage he had done. He finally came to realize that he was doing something wrong. 

Eventually, he started to listen to people and became open to suggestions. As a result, shop workers became more receptive to some of his ideas and developed additional improvements on their own. He finally accepted that major improvements were not going to happen overnight but would take time. Before you knew it, the little improvements that were made wound up producing big improvements overall.

You must remember to treat people as individuals. Respect them for who they are and the knowledge they possess. As we progress through our careers, we should always be willing to listen and learn from others no matter their position. The knowledge they have can be career-related or a life lesson. 

One lesson I have learned is that the people you work with can make your career enjoyable or a living hell.    



Machinist's Corner Columnist

Michael Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be reached via e-mail at mderen1@wi.rr.com.