Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Putting Paper in the Plotter

For those who know me, you’ll know I spend some of my time each week working for a formula one racing team.

My role is to manage all things relating to the CAD (Computer Aided Design) software that the engineers use to design and develop the racing car.

As an ex-design engineer myself, having worked on projects such as the Eurofighter wheels and brakes, or the Porsche Cayenne’s Four Wheel Drive gearbox, I have a good appreciation for what the designers do on a day to day basis, and dare I say, am quite well qualified to do their job myself.

My job role is quite varied and can range from presenting new process ideas to senior management, managing software upgrades which could potentially see the whole engineering effort grinding to a halt if done badly, down to fetching rolls of paper from the stores.

Who said Formula One was all fast cars and celebrities?

It was during one of my more menial tasks of re-loading paper into the large plotter that I stopped and had a moment of self pity.

“What on earth”, I asked myself, “has my life come to?”

A 1st class honours degree, and a fully chartered engineer, now stood forcing paper into a plotter that has decided it’s going to spit it straight back out at me with every attempt I make.
“Where did I go so wrong?”
“Is this what my life has come to?”

You know, all those massive, self pitying questions we ask ourselves when we have a moment of weakness.

I then recalled something that I heard on a talk by Nick Vujicic. This is a gentleman who was born with no arms or legs and now travels the world as a motivational speaker. Truly inspiring.
He said on one of his talks how, as a young boy growing up, he prayed and prayed for a miracle. He prayed that his miracle would be to somehow get arms and legs and if not that, then at least meet someone else who could tell him it was going to be ok. Someone who was in the same situation as him, who knew how he felt and could show him the way. This miracle never came.

Then, many years later, he met a girl with a similar condition, who had obviously made similar prayers for miracles. He realised that his purpose was to be someone-else’s miracle. He could be the person to show this girl the way.

Now, I have digressed ever-so slightly, as I often do, but my depressing task of putting paper into a plotter, thinking “is this what my life has come down to”, suddenly became more purposeful.

No, I have not lost the plot. (pardon the pun). I’m not writing this thinking I am suddenly the miracle that all of the designers have been waiting for. But what is important to remember is that, without me fulfilling this small task, the Engineer’s designs and ideas would not actually make it onto paper. The result would be that they couldn’t approve these designs and consequently, the company wouldn’t be able to purchase or manufacture the parts.
In addition, the quality departments would then have no parts to inspect and even if they did, would have no drawings to measure and check the parts against.
The result would be no racing car built this week and two empty spaces on the grid at the next race.

A little dramatic perhaps, as it doesn’t quite work as simply as this in these 3D – digital days, but you get my point.

My small job was to help serve others. This little task allowed others to continue to perform far more important tasks that ultimately had massive impact and effects on the company and team.

Sometimes we have to look a little wider than what we are doing to see how it can affect and help others. That makes the actual task at hand a little more worthwhile and gives us more purpose.

We may want to achieve great things, but we may also be able to do that by helping others to achieve great things.

This is why I teach.

Stay Safe & Have Fun

Al x

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