I woke up this morning feeling rotten. I can’t really afford a day off–too many deliverables and too little time–but I gave in. “You’re not in your twenties any more,” my wife remarked. “You need to take a day off sometimes.”
This past weekend, I had worked 29 hours doing equipment testing. The nature of this testing is that it has to be done on nights and weekends, or in the very worst case, Sunday morning before daybreak. And the tests must be successful: if something doesn’t work, the failure must be run down and fixed before our allotted time runs out. If we fail, the consequences are dire. The crew joked about our failure being reported on WINS (the local news radio station) on Monday morning. But it isn’t a joke: it could really happen. And public notoriety would be the least of our problems.
“Good luck,” my wife told me as I headed out this past weekend. But my mother always said that luck is the residual of effort. And the time I spent fussing over drawings and chasing bugs paid off: the work took a little longer than planned, but was finished in good time; everything worked in the end; nobody got hurt. There was no report on WINS.
We got it done this time, but as I look around, I wonder.
As the designated engineer, I run the tests, assisted by the test leads, who are out in the field at the equipment. All the people I know who are qualified as test leads are older than I am: most are in their sixties.
There used to be up-and-comers: younger colleagues, hot shots, anxious to learn the business. (Indeed, I used to be one.) But they are fewer and farther between. In fact, I can think of a couple of genuine hot shots.
Most of the people I know in this business have been around for years. Too many of them are still doing the same things they did twenty years ago, because nobody has risen through the ranks.
We got it done this time, and we’ll get it done the next time, and the next time after that. But five or ten years hence?