Friday, April 29, 2005

A Career Milestone

I had an experience yesterday which was sort of new for me. I broke for lunch with the purchasing guy and realized that I had left part of my lunch in my office. On my way back to my office, I was flagged down by the new engineer as I passed his office. He's a young guy, a year or so out of school. He knows the latest computer programs, but has had only a little real-world experience using them. He came to us after being laid off by a competing lighting manufacturer. As I screeched to a stop in the hall, he asked me "are you good with geometry?" I was hesitant, since I generally rely heavily on the CAD systems to solve my geometry problems, working in 3D when necessary. I replied with some quasi-witty remark like "it depends on what you're going to ask me." At this point he described what he was doing and it turned out to be something relatively simple which I had struggled with at first, but now do on a regular basis. I first tried to explain it using his calculator (a 6"x7"x1" TI calculator with a screen that displays 5 or 6 lines of text, and more than likely, graphics and an alphanumeric keyboard with roughly 150 tiny keys) I was unable to do simple math on it, so I ran and grabbed my trusty HP 41CX. I did a few quick calculations to refresh my own memory, checked them then explained to him what I had done. It took a few tries explaining it to him for his brain to get traction on it, but soon he had the gist. The funny thing was that der UberKalkulator seemed to complicate things for him too and he was able to understand only when he tried it on a more normal one. Suddenly, I went from being the greenie and struggling to learn the ropes to being the experienced veteran explaining the way things work. What's more, I was suddenly the old guy who does better without the techno gadgets explaining the old way to the techno-savvy kid. It's weird. I don't suppose it will be the last time.


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