Friday, January 21, 2011

My Job

Whenever somebody asks me what it is I do for a living, I always hesitate for just a moment. There's not a fast answer like 'I'm a nurse' or 'I'm an accountant,' it's more like 'I'manx-raytechnicianandItestx-rayequipment.' Did you get that? No? Well, don't feel too bad, most of my family members don't really know what it is I do either. I imagine whenever people ask about me (assuming they do...) my parents say something like, "Oh, she does something with x-rays" or "She used to do something with lasers, I'm not really sure what she does now."

Back when I was fresh out of high school, I had no idea what it was I wanted to do. So, I headed over to the community college and spent a year and a half working on an associates degree in "General Studies." I was one semester away from getting my degree when I decided to dump that idea and head over to tech school. Why? I'm not really sure why actually. I'll tell you what happened....

I knew I didn't have much time left to figure out what I wanted to do next so I headed over to the library one day and picked up a book full of career listings. I scanned through the book, flipping pages and reading all the different careers available. Somehow I came upon the "Electrical Engineer" and "Electronics Engineer" listings and thought, Huh... why not? Looks like I could make a decent amount of money doing that.

To tell you the truth I didn't really know what the difference was between the two at the time, but an ill-informed career counselor at the tech school told me the Electrical Engineer was more of a designer/book nerd/work at a desk person, and the Electronics Engineer was more of the hands-on end. Completely wrong, but I figured the hands-on approach sounded better, so I chose to get my degree in Electronics Engineering.

I'd originally planned to go through and get my bachelor's degree, but the tech school I went to was really expensive and I didn't think the quality was that great, so I quit after getting my AAS Degree in Electronics and headed out to get a job. Because I only had an associates degree, this put me into the technician category instead of the engineer category. Which, to tell you the honest truth is completely fine with me. I'm not sure if this is true everywhere, but at my current job, the engineers do all the calculations, solve design problems, and do a lot of the thinking work. After they figure out what needs to be done, they tell me, the technician what tests to run, what equipment to use, and what products to build. So I get to do a lot of hands-on work with tools and test equipment.

So what do I currently do? Well, I'm basically an engineering technician for the "Research and Development (R&D)" group at Varian Medical Systems, which designs, tests, and manufactures x-ray tubes. They use these x-ray tubes in all sorts of areas such as CT scanners, airport baggage scanners, mammography, angiography & cardiology, radiographic imaging, etc. My job is to help test the new tubes and help fix problems with tubes they currently produce. I get to build and test x-ray tubes, write up build procedures for the manufacturing areas, order tools and parts, and write up technical reports.

I really think I lucked out as far as choosing a career that suits me well. I had no idea what I was getting into back when I chose my career, but somehow I managed to pick something that allows me to use my strengths and do things that I enjoy. I have a team of intelligent people I get to work with everyday in the engineering group, but I also get to work with all kinds of people all over the plant. I'm constantly doing new things and every day is different. Some days I'm working on spreadsheets or writing reports at my desk and other days I'm covered in dirt and grime with a wrench in my hand. Plus since this field isn't very popular with the women folk, I pretty much work with men all day. For me that's a huge bonus. All the women may hate me for saying this, but I'd much rather work with men. Less drama, more humor. Plus, they'll eat all the treats I bring in without whining about their hips getting huge. Win/win!

I hope this helped to explain what it is I do. Life sure is interesting in how it turns out. Things have a way of working out for the best sometimes, and I'm glad in this case I was able to find something that makes me happy.


heidi said...

This post was so, so interesting! I think this might sound funny, but I'll say it anyway... as I was reading your job post, it felt like you'd written it just for me, because I've always been curious to know more about what you do. And you told me everything I'd wondered about... and more!

But it sounds like since it's an unusual job, there will be other people who feel like I do; that you wrote this just for them, to answer their questions.

AND I don't hate you at all for liking to work with men. I feel like I completely get that. (I'm not sure if I have that same preference--actually, based on the evidence, I seem to prefer working with mySELF first, and children second, and women a distant third. HEY but ya know what? My interactions with the fathers of my students tend to be WONDERFUL and the interactions with moms a bit more complicated. They can be wonderful, too, but--I think men are easier to read. They aren't as avoidant about sharing their "true" feelings and... well, so, I know where I stand with them. They're direct and generally approving. And if they're having a bad day, they just say so. They don't act in a way that makes me wonder if I've done something wrong. Okay... so, I just decided I wish I worked with all men, too. :D Oops... now I'm feeling unbalanced in my assessment. To be fair, I should say, the moms are also often AMAZING and in most cases, although harder to read then their husbands, are... far more likely to be interested in, say, what kind of day I'm having. It's nice when they connect like that. And it's pretty much my favorite thing ever to talk to any parent about their kid, and how awesome their kid is--those are sublime discussions. And I get to be in many of those conversations. I'm danged lucky!)

So... um... I guess I've decided I love everyone. But myself best of all. (:D) But, YES, with men, there seems to be less drama and more humor... and more deeply satisfying, just-sit-back-and-let-me-FEED you interactions!

And I'm glad you've found a situation that suits you... regardless of whether it'd be a good fit for EVERYONE. Doesn't it take all kinds to make a world? People who like to live where there are open spaces; people who love living in cities; introverts; extroverts; manlovers and womenlovers? You know what I mean. I mean at work.

This is the problem with commenting late at night. Get a little drunk on tiredness.

Anyway, THANKS for writing this post! It was awesome!

heidi said...

p.s. I'm thinking that other readers really should chime in on whether they are manlovers or womenlovers where the workplace is concerned. I think my Paulie has more women as actual friends at his work, although his most amusing retellings of workplace conversations generally involve men.

Except... with his ultra-nice, ultra-sweet friend Nadine, who has come to my bday parties and goes to movies and restaurants with Paul and his other workplace women friends... Recently she was talking about how she needed to repot her plant. And Paul was like, you need to reWHAT it? And she said, repot it. And he was like, you need to reWHAT it? And she said, giving in and grinning, I need to reMARIJUANA it.

Paul also laughs if you say it's your moral duty to... well, no one ever gets as far as the verb. Cuz he's too busy guffawing.

So that's what Paul's work is like from my perspective. If anyone is interested. Because there were too few comments and I needed to fill in this sad empty space.


Collette Smith said...

That is a cool and interesting story with a satisfying ending. I love the women=drama, men=humor statement.

Rachel said...

Thanks for the clarification! I feel so enlightened.

And I totally get the working-with-men thing. I don't really have a preference of men or women as co-workers, but I do like the opportunity to work with men because it gives me a chance to build friendships with guys in a non-weird way. It seems like stay-at-home moms mostly just get to have other moms as friends, which is cool, but guys bring a differentiness that I enjoy.