Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What To Do?

The year was 1983. I was working at PMEL, pronounced "'P' mel." The acronym stands for Precision Measurement Electronics Laboratory, a metrology laboratory and no, metrology is not misspelled.

At the lab I was the in house instructor for digital electronics and microprocessor controlled test equipment plus the basics of assembly language programming. We were leaving the era of tubes and discrete electronic components and moving headlong into test equipment loaded with solid state digital electronics and integrated circuits.

I was asked if I wanted the job because while serving in the Air Force I had been an instructor and a StanEval team member on ARIA aircraft for the antenna tracking system. But I really did not know digital electronics except for a correspondence course I had taken from the Cleveland Institute of Electronics (CIE). Thus, many a night was spent working on digital circuits until I fell asleep with my face in a maze of jumper wires connecting various integrated circuits. But it got me off the lab bench for a few hours three times a week and looked good for my annual review. Plus promotions were coming up.

About those promotions, there were three openings. I was the number one candidate with one other lab technician close by and then three or four right behind us. When the names came out, my name was not on the list. It was Friday. Boy oh boy, I am glad it was Friday. I was so angry, I was kicking doors all day Saturday, scaring my bride of 12 years and our two children.

Finally, I calmed down and then Sharon and I talked and talked. We may as well have been praying. The question came down to, "Will you quit the extra curricular work (teaching) and back off on how hard you work?" I had been asked the same question by a half dozen coworkers who wanted me to 'punish' management because I had not been promoted.

What to do? A decision from the recesses of my soul came out. I would not quit teaching and I would not quit performing on the job. That would be a lose/lose proposition with long range negative consequences. Instead I would work harder on the regular part of my job and also on the instruction portion. Part of me wanted to embarrass them by my positive performance after not being promoted. The decision had been made, I would not back off, I would perform.

Monday, I was back at work and instructing digital electronics. Many of my coworkers shook their heads in bewilderment. A few came by and shook my hand admiring the choice I had made.

Then nothing for about six weeks until my direct boss, the one who chose not to promote me offered me an opportunity to attend a ten week course on calibrating microwave test equipment. He had been instructed by his management to offer me the class. To his astonishment (I can still recall the surprise on his face) when I immediately accepted the offer. I was an honor graduate of the class.

Months later, I had decided to quit playing and studying so much chess. I was looking for a way to better invest my time for myself and my family ... there was no money in chess for a player like me who could (maybe, probably) become a National Master. In my casting about I found an Engineering Science University Program at our local community college. A college algebra class was available, but would require an extra 30 minutes for lunch to make it happen.

I asked my boss (yeah, that one) if I could have an extra 30 minutes three days a week for the quarter. His answer was not unexpected, "No." However, when he told me to go ask the front office (his management) to see what they would say, that was unexpected. He surely didn't think anything would come of it.

Thinking the worst that could happen is another "No" I went to the front office. What a surprise, they said yes. Plus they added, "You have done everything we asked you to do, even when you didn't get the promotion, we will be glad to help out with this." When I told my boss, he could not get to the front office fast enough. He did not believe it. He returned shaking his head and muttering to himself. Then he said, "Well, I guess you get to go."

Got the shock of my life when the first class was on imaginary numbers. I almost quit until I recalled the same thing in my CIE course with a different application. Stuck it out and made an "A" and then took another class and then another ... Before I knew it, I had an Associate's Degree in Engineering Science.

Two years later I had an Electrical Systems Engineering Bachelor of Science degree with a second major in applied mathematics. Then the job opportunities came. I maintained the same work habits, doing my job and then some. The job opportunities continued.

The only thing wrong with my diploma was that it had only one name on it - mine. But it was just as much my bride's ... I could not, would not, have completed the engineering program at Wright State University without her. The story behind that is whole other blog entry.

But back to what to do when you get passed over for a promotion and it is given to someone less deserving? My answer should be obvious by now - "Continue doing the best you can and then do some more." My sig line on my emails from work all end with "... and then some," meaning do what you are supposed to do and then some.

Leave the rest up to God. Honor Him with your work.

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