My Career Part 2
Career; of Motorcycles and Trucks
This blog continues from my last post describing the first part of my career. We continue with the tire pressure monitoring system. In those days, and for many years before that, my preferred form of transport was motorcycle. I had an accident a few years before taking this job that broke some bones in my wrist (not my first nor last set of broken bones), in fact I got the bike fixed and was riding it through the winter with my right hand in a cast, and with multiple socks on to keep my hand warm. I should mention that my preferred transportation was motorcycle, at least in part, because it was my only source of transportation. Eventually, my fourth job before my professional career started, the manager of the U-Haul at which I worked during my undergraduate education came across a wonderful, and old, Toyota station wagon complete with the fake wood siding, which had slowed up my motorcycling. By the time I had broken my wrist in that motorcycle wreck, I had already had a couple of other accidents and thought perhaps it was time to stop riding motorcycles. There is an old saying about motorcyclist, there are two kinds, those that have fallen or wrecked, and those that will fall and wreck. I mention this, because by the time I was working at this tire pressure monitoring company I had been off a motorcycle for probably 8 years. Beside working on truck systems, they also wanted to develop a system that would work on motorcycles, at least a very good, durable prototype to explore the concept. This meant that I was once again going back into motorcycle shops, and those of you that are motorcycle enthusiasts, probably know there is a unique smell associated with these places, a combination of gas, oil, leather and who knows what that is magic. It suffices to say that I ended up getting a motorcycle before many months passed. My time working on motorcycle system development produced an interesting systems for a US based motorcycle manufacturer, and we did some test runs in Talladega , that was great fun and wonderful opportunities for learning.
Working on a system for a class 8 vehicle would lead me to the pacific northwest. I had gone out to Washington state with an radio frequency engineer to take measurements of signal strength around the cab, as we were working on tire pressure monitoring system to be available for the Mid-America Truck Show or MATS. Mount Vernon was a beautiful place, and that is where I would eventually meet gentleman named Rick B, or as we call him Sasquatch because he is a very big man, I am about 6-foot 1 inch tall, and he dwarfs me. Anyway, as I am working outside moving the antenna array around the vehicle, large snow flakes falling on my, and the sound of an eagle screeching, I could not help but be entranced. We worked on the system for some time, some portions of the system in Mount Vernon Washington, some in Monroe North Carolina, and some in Antrim Northern Ireland. Eventually we brought the parts together in Louisville Kentucky for the show a day or so before the show to test the system out and work out any bugs, so that the show would go off without a hitch. The show was successful. I had asked Rick, if there is ever an opening at the Technical Center in Mount Vernon, please let me know. I would really love to work at such a cool place and learn. After some time, a position came available and I applied. The interview process was very long. But I got the job. When it was time to negotiate the salary, I said, I want to be here, I will take the job if my salary was the comparable to m east coast salary – adjusted for the cost of living and after 6 months, we can talk about the salary. I wanted to be there, and the money was not the driving mechanism, and it would not be the driving mechanism if I were to find myself back there. The accepted this idea, and in 3 weeks, I went to find a place to live with my then girlfriend and now wife, went back to North Carolina, planned a wedding, got married, and flew out to Mount Vernon to start our new married life, new geography, and new job. While working for this company I obtained one of my master’s degrees and ceded 3 United States patents as we multiplexed the truck. This was another develop right up to the last minute for the demonstration. I remember writing code, just hours before the event when things started working, the last moments fixing code, compiling running the specific test on the correction and the other features close to that I had just fixed, then put it on the vehicle.
We eventually moved back to the east when my son was born, thinking it is good for a young one to be somewhere close to the family. This is where I received my other master’s working for another OEM Truck company. I ceded 4 US patents at this company, as well as being part of the team that received a couple of technical awards.
Is there a point to this post? Not really. Only that where I have gone in terms of my “career” is more due to curiosity than some monetary driven or long-term career viability, or objective. Perhaps this is more a commentary on how things can grow from humble beginnings with curiosity and persistence. Along the way I have learned more of what is required to deliver a product to market, it is not just the product or service idea, it is the engineering (design and manufacturing), it is the competency of the project management and it is the marketing and sales. It is the quality of these organizational parts and of the product or service that matter.
Unintended Consequences – Career
The unintended consequences of my two master level degrees turned into a renewed verve for writing see the table below (well that and some observations about how the product development and project management work was getting done). Both of my master level degrees were through City University of Seattle, and both were writing intensive which at the time seemed daunting. Besides the collateral effect from the degrees, I had worked for years with a tier one supplier to the heavy truck industry, and Kim P. I had also a number of difficult experiences with tier 1 project managers when it came to what was often needed to develop embedded products for an industry like heavy trucks. It bothered me so much that I started writing a book on this using a ubiquitous document writing program but it kept crashing. I knew Kim P. had written a book and asked for his input on how to proceed, not just on the technical part (what tool – LaTex by the way), but also what publisher and how to approach. The result was the first book Project Management of Complex and Embedded Systems. So, the first book was out of a desire to have the project management of the tier one suppliers to the OEM at which I worked, to have better understanding of how and why things are done in developing embedded products. Kim and I went on to write many more books an magazine articles (some at the organizations below).
On this journey, I have seen beautiful soft rain on black faced sheep in Ireland, giants causeway, and dramatic cliffs with castles perched on the edge. I have been caught in a gully washer of a thunderstorm that knocked out the power over dinner in Guadalajara. I have consumed great beer in the Black Forest of Germany and seen old Roman ruins. I have had RÄKSMÖRGÅS, and felt the sting of Bäska Droppar and Aquavit in Sweden and visited castles there as well. I have also fallen, slipping on a sheet of ice as I walked across the street to work one of the first winters there, and it was witnessed by the only person (Carl M.) I knew in the whole of Sweden at the time. I have witnessed the seemingly forever extended tulip fields of the Skagit Valley as well as have eaten some very tasty BBQ salmon. On a ferry to the San Juan islands I saw an eagle snatch a salmon from the sea. I have camped near and hiked in the Ho Rain Forest (very wet camping indeed) as well visited Deception Pass and so many other wonderful places. There is so much more but this is not a tourist magazine. I have truly been lucky and fortunate.
It is as much about the journey, the experiences, and the learning, as it is about any specific objective. I have followed, for better or worse, where my curiosity and opportunity have lead me.