Friday, December 16, 2011

Measuring A Technician By His Mug.

It is no surprising revelation that among the pop-culture image of technicians and electricians they are often depicted with coffee cup in hand. Now, I can speak from experience that this is no myth nor is it just a trendy thing for said groups to do. Actually, more often than not you generally see such skilled laborers drinking coffee and/or smoking too.

When I went to college I entered into a program(as I may of mention before) that wasn't new or ground-breaking. What it was, though, was a tried and true method of teaching someone key skills. I wanted to know how to fix computers when I started my education, but more than that I just wanted to know how they worked. Did I start with a basic introduction to computers course? No. I sat alongside other students as we learned the basic, ground-floor fundamentals of electrical and electronic circuits.

I spent 2 and a half years taking more than the maximum amount of hours normally limited by the school studying everything I could. When I wasn't in class I was doing homework, working for the school or working another job at night before driving 30-45 minutes home to crash. All this while married with a kid and another on the way. Like many of my fellow classmates I drank coffee all day. I wasn't a smoker, and never have been but many of my peers never missed a chance to add nicotine to their caffeine fueled metabolisms.

But do you know something? Our teachers always had a bigger coffee cup. And the best ones, the most senior instructors with the most experience under their belts; they had the biggest of all. The head of my entire program managed to keep no less than 2 coffee pots on in his office at all times and an assortment of mugs trailing him from office to class rooms like breadcrumbs. All while keeping a cigar stub in hand or mouth always.

After I graduated, I would always note wherever I worked the unspoken scale of people's coffee cups. You can laugh all you want, but the truth of the matter is a simple one. Technical minded workers are statistically proven to work long hours in all number of different environments. They're performance depends on the sharpness of their mind and ability to focus. Troubleshooting for long periods, not to mention a boss pressuring you to get a key piece of equipment back online also means that sometimes they're late for lunches or breaks. That, or they have to be skipped all together.  The end result is a steady coffee drinking habit.

How can I justify the claim that skill correlates with the size of a coffee cup you ask? That is the easiest one of all. You see the younger less experienced technician is often the least senior. Because of this they are often given menial tasks or sent on errands. Couple that with their inexperience and they don't know all the little tricks to expedite their work. Which means they have less and less time to drink their coffee. The older and better technician however has considerable knowledge and skill to allow them to diagnose exactly what is the problem, and then get it fixed as quickly as possible.

Oh, and don't forget; the more vital the technician's skill - the less likely the boss is going to trouble them over a simple matter. Not when a lower ranking one can handle it. You want to keep the big mug happy and supplied with his coffee. Cause you never know when you need him working those long hours in the middle of the night keeping that key equipment going when nobody else can.

So, remember; respect the guy with the bigger mug. Chances are, not only has he earned it, but you will probably need his advice sometime. Perhaps then you can someday be holding a bigger mug yourself.

Which reminds me, I could use a warm up...