Valentine’s Day seems like a good time to recognize those folks around us who have had a hand in our success. Certain elements are required in order to be successful in any endeavor. In engineering, a strong foundation in your chosen area is essential. This may be acquired through education and experience. A desire and ability to learn continually (our field changes so rapidly that this is not a luxury but a necessity) is also required. Being able to work well with others is always important, even if the job is mostly solitary. There are still times when you have to interact with internal and external customers. But when I reflect on my own career, I can truly say that my success was in large part due to the folks around me that were willing to invest in me.
It all started with my first job out of school. I worked my way through college, and upon graduation I embarked on my career in electronics. I was hired to work for a major semiconductor company. When I look back at the uncertain young woman I was in 1990, entering a mostly male field and armed with an electronics foundation that was mostly theory but with no real world experience, I can see how those first months were pivotal for me. I was incredibly blessed to have an amazing co-worker named Curtis who took me under his wing. When I look back at how many times I asked him for help in that first year and his always patient and cheerful response that enabled me to complete the task I had been assigned, I can see how I became much more confident in myself and my ability to utilize my electronics knowledge because of his tutelage. His love of Calvin and Hobbes and his willingness to forgive me when I shot him in the eye with a rubber band are fond memories I carry to this day. I was only at that job one year, but it was my important first one out of school and Curtis’ mentoring made a huge difference in shaping my future and helping me to be successful.
My next job was for another semiconductor company, where I would spend the next twelve years. During that time I was surrounded by incredible people who were willing to help a still fairly new employee learn the ropes and make her feel welcome. It was an amazing experience because those folks were truly a family and they welcomed me into the fold without reservation. One engineer in particular, Norris, is one of those few people that are incredibly intuitive in electronics. They don’t have to labor through understanding like I do. Sometimes it takes awhile for the light bulb to turn on over my head – Norris was born with the light already on. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t work hard, he does. In fact, he works harder because he also takes the time to mentor those that he works with. I could bring any electronics problem, large or small, and know that Norris would provide the guidance I needed to work through it. I learned so much from him and the other folks in our test engineering group that were always ready to lend a hand. I also learned to have a great work ethic that has served me well over the years.
Another group of people that are often unheralded are the sales people that I worked with. These could be parts sales, equipment sales, or salespeople that represented several different manufacturers. Typically engineers and salespeople seem to be diametrically opposed in how they think and what their goals are. But the salespeople that were constants for me during my career have been phenomenal in providing support when I needed it. While there are too many to mention, I would like to share with you about one sales rep named Jay. Whenever I needed test equipment for one of my test racks, chances were, Jay was representing that particular manufacturer and I called on him often. He was the kind of guy that would do whatever it took to get you the product you needed on time. He was also a very smart guy and would share his knowledge to help solve problems, even if it wasn’t related to the sale. He was generous with his time and he celebrated with us when we did well and when we weren’t doing so good, he did everything that he could from his end to help things improve. He was supportive in all of my engineering endeavors, even those that didn’t bring him income. When I started teaching software seminars and needed an extra computer for a client to use – he loaned me one of his. When I created a web page for test engineering and the table I was creating was giving me problems, he came over and showed me the html code that would solve the issue. Beyond that, he helped me when my life took an unexpected hard turn. He was there to provide wisdom and tangible assistance during a very difficult time.
I met Jay in the mid-90s and although we both took different career paths since then, we always managed to keep in touch, even if it was just a phone call months or a year or two apart, until recently. The last year and a half my husband and I stayed in much more frequent touch, walking alongside Jay and his lovely wife as he battled with pancreatic cancer. Being able to laugh with him, cry with him, and pray with him, was a privilege of our friendship that started so many years ago, when he was a salesman and I was a test engineer. Jay is with the Lord now and isn’t suffering any more. The last time I saw Jay, I told him that I was really glad that God had brought us together. I would not have traded our friendship for anything. I miss him a lot and in times of trouble I can still hear him say as he frequently did, “It’s gonna be okay.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of work and the responsibilities we have, but ultimately what really matters is the people doing the work. I am grateful for all of the individuals, too numerous to mention, that gave of their time and talent to help me to succeed. The folks at Design News are also in that category, providing many opportunities for me to grow as a writer. You may want to pause and reflect on the people who played a role like that for you, or commit to be that person for someone else. If you would like to honor anyone that played a role in your success, please feel free to share.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Jay. Thanks for being my friend. I miss you.