Twelve years as an engineer is long enough.
For many this is already old news, but I'm compelled to write a little bit about these latest developments. In short, I'm no longer employed by Professional Instruments Company.
I started 12 years ago in April of 1997. It began with answering an ad in the U of M Daily paper looking for a mechanical engineering student or metrology student. For more than a year of mostly janitorial type work in an old warehouse near campus, I worked with one other machinist who taught me the value of hard work and the beginnings of machine programming with G-code. I was still going to school and riding my bike from Roseville and back. When the guy I worked with quit, they closed that building and sold me an old station wagon for $1 so I could drive out to St. Louis Park and keep working for them. This set the stage for a great work relationship centered on a company that looked out for its employees.
Through college, I worked as a machinist and then moved towards more demanding tasks such as precision grinding and assembly. The company specializes in precision manufacturing and creates the world's most accurate air bearings. I developed a unique skill set that no college class could have taught. And the ability to turn raw metal into fantastic shapes was an incredibly rewarding experience.
After college, I was hired on full time and began working in the company's main building as a mechanical engineer. The tasks entailed were about half 3D CAD design work and half assembly and testing of various projects once they were created. I had the opportunity to travel to Europe to fix machines we made and met a lot of great professional contacts in the industry.
Through my years with PICo (as we called it), the company helped me weather quite a few low spots and provided a constant backbone as I survived divorce, started and ran a side business, and juggled mounting credit card debt. I wouldn't have been able to get through all that without the company's support. I'll always be grateful for it.
Lately however, things have slowed down a lot. Obviously the downturn in our economy is affecting everyone -- even a little company out in Hopkins that employs less than a hundred people. It had been a while since any large project had come through the doors requiring any actual design work, and I considered myself lucky to have an employer that would keep me on despite that. However, this was not sustainable and after a look at company finances, they decided to let a good number of us go. Many of those people were there much longer even than I. I'm sure that blow came as quite a shock to many.
But for me, that day was less than a surprise than I might have imagined. I think I was ready for something else a long time ago. Let this serve as the kick in the shorts I needed to move on. And that's what I'll be doing. In the next few weeks, I'll be filing for unemployment, re-organizing my finances, and planning on life's next chapter. One thing's for certain, I won't be a cubicle based engineer anymore -- been there done that and I'm burnt out of it completely. I've the luxury of some time to figure things out and decide on a new path and currently, I'm enjoying my free time to do just that. And Sid sure enjoys that too. :)