For the past two nights, I have had the same recurring dream about working as an engineer. I could say that I don’t know why, but I think that I do know why.
I was in a very large city, and I had interviewed and gotten a job with an engineering company, because of my B.S. in mechanical engineering, my work experience, and my age, I am 49 years old.
This engineering company had offices and work space on something like the 18th or 20th floor, the mid-height, of a large modern commercial building downtown.
On my first day of work, the work space of this engineering company was somewhat hectic and chaotic. Everyone was in a hurried, stressed, unfriendly, shitty mood. Someone, I believe that it was a woman project manager, was giving me some work assignment, about a specific task, but with very little details.
In order to be polite, and not rude, I attempted to listen to what this woman project manager was telling me, and to try to begin work from the information that she gave me.
But before I had a chance to consider what I could do based on the information that she had given me, a second person was trying to assign me a second project. I was almost immediately skeptical of this second project, and I don’t know if I will have time to describe it, but I began to wonder if this second project was even a company authorized work project, and not a fool’s errand.
The first assignment that I had been given by the woman project manager, was to devise a way to remotely open a safe. I was given very little details or information about this existing situation and safe. I at first wondered was this woman project manager intentionally being vague, or was there some strategic reason to not provide much details or information, such as a customer’s request to maintain security.
I sat at my desk and tried to think about this problem, and block out all the noise, movement, and chaos of this office space. I began to ask myself, was this a walk-in vault, or was this a wall safe? Did the lock have a mechanical dial, or a keypad? Was the lock mechanism mechanical, magnetic, or electronic? If this was a walk-in vault, and there was a large amount of electronic control on the lock, the manufacturer might already have automation hardware and software for this lock.
As I was thinking about the possibilities in devising a way to remotely unlock a safe or a vault, the individual who had tried to give me my second assignment, stopped by my desk to ask me how this second assignment was coming along. I told him that it wasn’t anywhere yet, I was working on my first assignment at this moment, I would get to his assignment later.
I began to wonder even more if this second assignment was even a company authorized assignment, and not some whim or thing that this individual thought of himself, having no idea the amount of time that this second assignment would take. In any case, I was not going to jump through hoops, or split myself in two, trying to please everyone by either lying about working on their project, or dropping what I was doing to work on their project.
Getting back to my first assignment after the interruption, I visualized a way to remotely turn a mechanical dial, using an electric motor that could run in forward and reverse. The easiest way to control the dial position, was by a camera pointed at the dial and alignment mark. This solution involved both remote control of an electric motor, and remotely viewing video.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, you would try to buy off-the-shelf components that were as complete as possible for what you were trying to do. There are many manufacturers that make a variety of cameras whose video can be viewed via cell phones or laptops. But then, you must consider that you have to be absolutely certain that no one else can view this video of the safe mechanical dial being rotated through its combination sequence.
In order to have a simpler solution, you would actually not even want to have to run a mechanical dial through its combination sequence, you would want to have a way to bypass the combination lock, and just mechanically retract the lock bolts, release a magnetic lock, or deactivate an electrical lock. You would also want to bypass a digital keypad if it had one.
Now that I had an idea of how to accomplish the remote unlocking of a safe or a vault whether it had a mechanical dial, digital keypad, magnetic lock, or electrical lock, I knew that I needed to get more information and specific information on the existing equipment that was in place, in order to come up with a specific solution.
Also, I was aware in my mind, that if this was a modern commercial vault, the vault manufacturer probably already provided equipment and technical assistance for accomplishing this, and they would be the best ones to handle most of this, not me. Would I then have to pretend for some reason that I/we had performed any engineering services?
When I tried to explain as succinctly as possible to the woman project manager, what additional information I needed and why, she expressed irritation and discomfort. I was not approaching her with problems, I was approaching her with solutions, I just needed more information.
I had to try to discern if her irritation and discomfort was because she did not know any additional information herself, or if she didn’t understand what I was telling her. I would have known that she understood what I was telling her, if she acknowledged that yes, we need to know if this is a safe or a vault, if it has a mechanical dial, digital keypad, magnetic lock, or electrical lock. Instead she was just irritated.
I didn’t really want to work at this engineering company any more, both because of this first assignment and the second assignment that I was given. I have seen this before, and I have lived through this before. It is frustrating, upsetting, and tiring, working for people who do not know or understand what you are talking about or trying to explain to them. You come to the conclusion that there is no way that you can win or be happy under these circumstances or working for this company.
The second assignment that I was given, I am embarrassed to say, was that I was shown a 60″ wide x 60″ tall, large plan cabinet with drawers, that required some effort to get the drawers open. The frame was metal, but the drawers were wooden. You could say that this cabinet was old, custom made, or home made. I was asked to come up with a mechanical assist for the drawer opening.
As I mentioned previously up above, I was skeptical that this was a company authorized project, and not some idea that someone got into their head, not understanding the amount of time something like this would take.
When you perform engineering work, the time that you spend working on something is not billed at the engineer’s pay rate, it is billed at the engineer’s pay rate plus all of the associated company overhead costs. The actual billing rate for having an engineer spend time on something could be $50 to $300 per hour.
I could tell right away that the plan drawers in this large cabinet did not open very well once they were loaded, because there were no drawer rollers of any kind. I wondered if there was enough room to install rollers. I wondered if the drawer rests would have to be replaced with roller-rail assemblies.
I remembered owning a very expensive large office cabinet with drawers made by the manufacturer HON. Not only did these drawers have rollers and rails, there was a string and pulley system on it so that no two drawers could be pulled open at the same time. If you pulled one drawer open, another drawer would be pulled closed. This was to prevent a heavy cabinet from tipping over on top of someone. This would also be necessary to have on this old home-made cabinet if you made the drawers easy to open.
For the amount of time that it would take me to re-engineer this old home-made plan cabinet, the amount of money it would cost for my time, the hardware, and the installation, it would be cheaper and better to buy a new plan cabinet. And I wondered, and I doubted, that this was even a company approved assignment, and not something that someone just thought up on a whim.
I woke up from this dream, being nearly as upset as if these things had actually happened. Yes, I would quit working for an engineering company or any company on the first day, and I have done it. I have lived through this and experienced this before.
What I have experienced in Dickinson, more often than not, is not only that people do not know, but they do not know, that they do not know. There is sometimes no likelihood that you can change, fix, or improve anything.
On the second night of this recurring dream, I was able to explain to the engineering company owner as diplomatically as possible that I did not want to do engineering work for his company, however, it was seen that I might want to do maintenance work at a far away rural industrial location. I was very happy and contented performing maintenance work at this far away rural industrial location.
At the maintenance job, I could see something, and do something. There was no wasting time, discussion, debate, mis-information, mis-communication, or dealing with people. However, for some reason, I had to go back to the city and straighten things out with the woman project manager, who was very angry. She did not know why I left, that I had left, or that I had switched to an entirely different job.
She was complaining that my pay rate had to be straightened out, I was hired under the supervisor job classification, which was entirely different from the pay rate for maintenance work. I explained to her why I did not want to work as an engineer with this company, which other people in the work area overheard. She stomped off. After she had left, two other engineers who had overheard what I had explained to her, said yes, we are always having this problem.
This dream to me, was an affirmation and reminder that I do not want to work as an engineer, that I do not want to work in the city, that I do not want to work in close quarters in an office building, and that I do not want to work with women.