I had coffee last week with my dear friends M— and S— (they can identify themselves in the comments if they wish) and we talked about the importance of role models early in our careers. The three of us enjoy some success in our working lives and it’s interesting to consider what contributed to our journeys.
For me, when I got out of the Air Force, I landed a job at a small avionics company and it was owned by a strong-willed man named Lee Pratt. Lee was a nice person, wicked-smart and very warm-hearted, but he was unbending when it came to doing the right thing. There was simply no question about it, whatever the cost, things were going to be done his way with impeccable honor and high ethics.
When your working personality is formed and set, a mentor or leader like this is irreplaceable. What could possibly substitute for this type of role model? What would happen in troubling situations without examples to look back on, examples that provide practical, real-world guidance? It would be very difficult to invent a code of ethics and the will to stubbornly cling to an immovable sense of right and wrong.
With the bustle of our daily work, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. The work we do is important. If you test something, it should be done thoroughly. If you are designing a circuit, it should be done rigorously. If you are writing code, it should be done responsibly—elegantly and efficiently.
In many ways, we worship the wrong people. Sports stars? Phooey. Rappers? Blah. Politicians? OMG. Look around. What is integral to the fabric of our modern world? It’s technology, of course, and we’re at the very beginning of biotech and robotics revolutions. Our gadgets, widgets, toys, communication equipment, computers, conveyances, appliances and lighting are all the fruits of engineering and design intellect and labor. The way we implement and execute will be more important, not less.
How do you know what to fight for and what to let go? Are these decisions influenced by honorable people who helped you in your formative years?
What are your thoughts? Set me straight in the comment section.
This blog is dedicated to Lee M. Pratt, 1918-2014, founder of Pacific Electro Dynamics, RIP.