Thursday, October 23, 2008

real engineer, sort of

Some days, I actually feel like I know what I'm doing. Not about management (see yesterday's post), but about what we actually do here: oilfield cementing. While my knowledge base represents only a tiny fraction of the possible knowledge that exists, I'm still actually capable of constructive advice. It's exciting!

This is hard to explain, or perhaps it isn't. Knowledge has a way of becoming very niche, very fast and this is a great example of that. I've got a spongy brain, theoretical high energy, and selective enthusiasm and these combine for? I'm not sure, but I can get surprisingly geeked up about cementing. It's what I do right now. Probably not what I'll do my entire professional life, but it is what I do now and it's a pretty challenging gig in a lot of ways, but very satisfying to actually provide a useful service in a fairly fundamental industry.

One of the things I learned a long time ago is that age doesn't necessarily equate to knowledge. It can be ever so niche. The first clear example I have of this is from fifth grade. It was a word problem about how many different outfits can be made if you have a something likes 3 hats, 4 shirts, and 2 pants. I'm not sure why I knew it or when I learned it, but I knew that you just had to multiply 3 times 4 times 2 to get the total number of outfits. I explained this, not sure how successfully, to my teacher at the time who seemed surprised that this would yield the answer. Since then, I've lost all faith in adults. No, not really. But I have known that age does not lead to greater knowledge about all subjects. It does mean greater experience, but it doesn't mean new experiences, new knowledge, new challenges and puzzles to solve.

It's a hard sell to convince people that just because they did something a certain way in the past and it worked, doesn't mean it is a good idea this time around or that it will even work this time. Something I try to tell our guys at work is that no matter how many times they think they've done a particular job, they haven't. Every day is different and every job is different, even if we are approaching it the same basic way. It is my attempt to impress upon them that they must always pay attention to what they are doing and how some seemingly irrelevant details can actually make or break the successful outcome of a job.

Anyway, nothing is ever the same, even when it is the same, because we have never been right here, right now, doing whatever is we're doing before (depending on which cosmological models you believe). Every day is a new problem, even if it is only slightly different than the last one, but it means a chance to learn something new.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

real manager, trying to be

Some days, I really feel like a manager, a title I generally eschew (a great example of a word I would never use at work). I audit things, lots of things: time sheets, job packets, designs, safety, bills, compliance, etc. It's a not insignificant part of my job since I have to be responsible for, not just what people are supposed to know and do, but also what they actually know and do. Thus, I try to spend a large portion of my time each day communicating, making sure everyone, myself included, is on the page that we are supposed to be. And where we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing is usually not quite where people want to be and what they want to be doing. My ability to get others to where I'd like them to be, whether it be by hook, crook, charisma, persuasion, gentle force, not-so-gentle force, anger, or outright lies, is a work in progress. I don't use those last three very often.

Some days, I actually feel like I'm leading the people who work here. Other days, I know I'm not a good enough leader, whether it be a failing in decisiveness, charisma, communication, consistency, respect. Some days, I'm here, but I'm not. I guess I've learned that it's hard to always be 'on' and put on a good face even when you have no desire to talk to someone, deal with some problem, make a decision. Maybe I'm finally a real adult?

If I am, then it has often meant following the rules, even when doing what is 'right' seems like something else.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


It's been a pretty hectic two weeks since I've been back from vacation. Outside the expected avalanche of e-mails at work, it's been a long, steady pull. So much to do, way too much drama.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

back, updates eventually

I'm back in Victoria. Updates eventually. But come on, I leave and the financial markets melt down? I wasn't even able to engage in panic selling like the rest of you.