Finding a niche

Doing research yesterday for a business venture, I stumbled upon an idea that may have some merit as an opportunity.

Taking out all the politics of immigration, in California as elsewhere, there are many people who seek employment with rudimentary skills in English if any at all. And some find opportunities to get skilled training for in-demand jobs. Assuming that people are legal residents when seeking job training or employment, what avenues are there for people, entry-level, working people to become functional in the so-called ‘native tongue’?

I witnessed people struggling with written English. While I know that many high school graduates in the United States, even college-bound Seniors, struggle with grammar and vocabulary, it is even more dire for the adult-learner who is foreign-born.

And thus, there is a demand for Teachers of English as a Second Language. And particularly teaching for jobs with a technical jargon that is difficult to grasp. The next step is to determine the investment necessary to find others with the necessary skill, certification, or degree. And then to do a costs-benefits analysis for your enterprise.

Conveying a simple message

In the manufacturing business as in the military, communication, particularly between two speakers of the same language, is not simple nor should anyone assume what you say will be understood by the recipient of your message.

This is painfully obvious when dealing through email.

An email sent to a group of people, including two managers, a technical peer, a manufacturing engineer, a logistician, and a quality assurance engineer, was received very differently. At least two managers told me my report was, in a word, unintelligible. My basic mistake? Adding too much detail, and confusing the recipients. I tried to answer / direct my answer to 3 separate audiences in one email.

To correct this, a man I respect offered this simple formula. In the email, subject line:” <project> <problem> will require < new part/ software/ repair/ test”. In the email body: “Approval request to issue a replacement <widget part number> for <internal customer/ test/ troubleshooting>”. (Period)

In a new paragraph, “DETAILS:”

And keep it specific to that ONE issue. And brevity is key.

After I cooled off, the situation reminds me of the time, long ago, when my Division Lieutenant asked me for a status on some equipment on his problem report. When he stopped me ( I was really a greenhorn then), he asked me to state my response in ten seconds or less:

” System requires a new <part>. $10,000 with exchange. Will arrive next Tuesday.”

no fear

Every motivational program I have heard or subscribed to since my mid-Thirties, has quite sensibly detailed a method to improve finances, marriage, or speaking in public. Several were focused on succeeding in leadership and/or business. Some gave ideas on raising confident and capable children, and others focused on achieving a healthy work/life balance. Most of these were in relation to a Spiritual foundation. While everyone I know who engage in these self-improvement workshops, get something from them, those who diligently apply themselves and are undeterred by resistance, seem to thrive. But am I alone in being stuck in old routines, jobs, or commutes, because of “fear of change”?

Thirteen years ago, I began working at a company located almost forty miles (one-way) from my home. For a few years there was the prospect that a subsidiary a few miles from home would have a position I could transfer into. The subsidiary was closed. Moving was not an option; not just the expense of a new home, but my teens and spouse had strong ties to the local area. As I got older, I made excuses that I would not find stable work somewhere reasonably closer. The issue is that I did not apply consistently or obsess about finding a different job. This goes against my experience, spiritual training, even rational common sense. Do I hate change?

Do others have this dilemma? Do many live with constant economic instability and change, because they prefer the “life” in “work-life balance”? In my mid-Twenties, in between periods that I eventually made a Navy career, I enjoyed not being serious about work. I had heard stories of people who were so driven to always be at work, they became ill or suffered cardiac arrest when they no longer had the constant adrenaline jolts of the job (stress). But I recall being so fearful of “starting over” that I remained stuck for years in something I probably was less suited for than the horses I cared for when a high school student, or the university where I participated in work-study. When the one co-worker told me she was leaving after a year because of her commute (twenty miles), I empathized.

Perhaps metathesiophobia is a covered condition in the employer’s health plan? However, to relieve this condition I might have to make a change in my work-life balance. And I fear hate the idea.

Don’t participate in bullshit – be pure in your heart — joypassiondesire

Whenever you hear someone complain – don’t join them in their negative rampage. Complaining doesn’t make anything better – you are better off being quiet than joining them in their complaining. Even if it is socially accepted and expected of you to join in when someone complains, it is never of value. You always have […]

Don’t participate in bullshit – be pure in your heart — joypassiondesire

Carrying water

def. Carry water for (someone) 1. To serve, assist, or perform menial or difficult tasks for some person, group, or organization.

Ten years ago, as a retired Navy Senior Chief, the first thing I had to adapt to was my immediate loss of seniority and status. The tradition and status acquired over twenty-five years meant little to the non- military working public. As in most professions, a job in the commercial technical sector is judged only on your performance. Meeting the required output of widgets particularly at the fiscal end of the Quarter when the resources, software, or parts needed to meet the quota finally become available. Packing up an expensive piece of equipment and hustling it to FEDEX, or renting a delivery truck and driving it a hundred miles to another facility, is somewhat like carrying water for my boss.

Unless you have been working in the manufacturing world for a number of years, as an older technician, it seems that adapting to rapid changes – in technology, in workforce culture, and in tasks each employee is asked to perform, is more difficult. In engineering, procedures often lag product development. Cross-training peers is often as much how much they observe as giving them polished instructions. For some, it is jarring to be hindered by processes or lack of information, or age, or when she has been willing to “come out of retirement”, but is feeling her contribution is wasted.

Additional study, asking specific questions, and bringing one’s strengths to the job is necessary. Willing to do whatever is required, despite not being in a “job description”, helps the overall mission of the company. Working with a curmudgeon is difficult.

I have found that courtesy, whether toward peers, couriers, janitors, IT support, or supply clerks is repaid in kind. With more than a quarter-century of military service, working initially with folks cleaning toilets, and later reporting to Admirals and senior Government executives, character and a dedication to excellence count toward career success.

Playing with fire

harder than it looked on YouTube

The one thing that a Navy career, and a subsequent life in an engineering industry, gave me is an appreciation for tools and their uses.  As a result,  I have been able to learn over years, homeowner maintenance skills that I have put to good use.  Sometimes these skills are out of necessity and other times, as a result of being unwilling to hire a “professional” – who probably could do a particular task more efficiently but at a cost to my pride and wallet.  

I learned that earlier in the year when my air conditioning system shut down unexpectedly.  I inspected what I knew, but then found – when calling a serviceman – a dog-hair and dust-choked filter had caused a pressure switch to trip.  At considerable expense for that lesson,  I then decided I would research all my home systems for maintenance and repair information that I could reasonably do myself.  Fast forward to this past week.   All our large appliances in the kitchen have failed in turn over a few years.  We were hanging on till we became “empty nesters” (the kids were extremely hard on our kitchen).   We purchased new refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher.  But because the last time I had replaced leaking water valves  I wasn’t thinking what working appliances needed  I had no means for the installation crew to hook up  icemaker or the dishwasher.   And the man the company sent to install my new microwave told my wife the unit had greater dimensions than the old one to be removed.

Of course, this was partially correct and partially, B.S.    In the case of the microwave,  the installer was likely tired, irritated or unmotivated to actually “look” at the unit.  When my wife and I went back to the store – talking with the salesman also – the floor display was a HALF-INCH larger in depth and height than the original.  It would have fit without any modifications!  But the installer took the new unit away with him.   I still need to get him back. As for the line to connect the dishwasher,  apparently the issue was a little more complicated.  Because the stock water line was four feet shorter than required (new kitchen have the dishwasher next to the sink and not adjacent like my  1960’s-design) a new hose about ten feet in length is needed.  

I put the new dual-outlet valves on the existing pipes under the sink so I would not totally foul-up Thanksgiving plans my wife had.  The cobbled together work leaked requiring a big roaster pan catch basin, and frequent draining for the past few days.   That is where my love for tools, an engineering sense, and YouTube comes in.   Today while my family was out of the house, I removed a stubborn piece of copper pipe under the sink and then brazed on a new section.   A few technical difficulties resolved by a quick visit to the hardware store – for some advice,  a section of flame-proof cloth for welding;  I also borrowed my son’s fire extinguisher at his insistence – and after a couple tries:  Success.   With full water pressure back on this evening there have been no leaks and no desperate calls for a plumbing contractor on a holiday weekend.

Tools any Bronze-Age craftsman would love

Both dogs, Dexter and Comet – who normally hang around at my elbow ALL the time I am in the kitchen – were NOWHERE to be seen. Maybe they didn’t want to be witnesses to me setting myself on fire?