You are an engineer ....

Attempting today to figure out what can be saved from an external HD needed be cleared to take over some duty as supplementary disk drive space for my computer, I stumbled upon a scan of a letter that I assume has been stolen from my "secure" files in my garage, along with the ones that I know have gone, the very expert burglars who ever seem to be searching for ways to harm me.

This letter was written by my boss at the time of the peak of my career. It is a dim scan and hard to read, and was not very clear as the original. Handwritten, two pages, it was a letter handed to me at the time I (along with a room-full of other engineers) were similarly being processed through in a RIF. I had glanced at it in my daze, read a few words, saw that he was urging me to remain an engineer. Not much else filtered through my dismay at this latest difficulty in my life.

Not long before that, my father had suddenly passed away in distant New Mexico. A few months after that, the always-difficult relationship with my girlfriend had finally broken up (due to the endless pressure from her many significant others which included five mostly-grown kids, a husband who turned out was not divorced from her, and a hustler of strange relationship intensely with her; as soon as I had used much of my savings to rent a 4-bedroom house for she,her kids and I to live in, they immediately and endlessly battered me to leave, despite my desperate last-ditch efforts to have a relationship at long last, I just could not hold it all together with no help. She liked me, however; but none of the others did.) So I was still recovering from shock of my father's passing, my girlfriend and I breaking up, and I was sometimes living in my car and sometimes in a rented room somewhere, when this RIF also happened.

It was not just this bunch of engineers being laid off, a whole industry was collapsing in Silicon Valley at the same time, based on the flexible disk drive technology. It had been taken over by low-cost-manufacturing Asia; and without the manufacturing base to support engineering, engineering went too. The industry had been so prevalent that it was sometimes said that it ought to be called "Ferrite Valley" instead of "Silicon Valley."

A long story from there to the here & now. Suffice it to say that I was a non-degreed electronics engineer, competing with a huge overabundance of degreed electronic engineer for the same few jobs. Even personnel office staff clearly hated anybody who did not have a degree who applying for a position normally reserved for those who had endured the rigors of getting a formal degree, how dare he do such a thing; they would not even let me apply for a technician job.

It has been a bumpy road from here to there. I guess no other path would have gotten me here, exactly here.

Yet having stumbled upon this scan that I had made long ago, suspecting that hardcopies might vanish, a letter that I had thought about several times in recent times, was like finding a treasure. But, I could not read it coherently because of the very distracting dim handwriting. So I decided to transcribe it, so as to be able to read it well. At long last.

And in so doing, I see I missed a real opportunity back then. He might even still be alive now - but I won't go into that, since it involves a hobby of mine, which is resented by much too powerful folks, and I have prattled in this blog about it already a lot.

Anyway, here is the transcription of his note to me, with the Shugart logos and company addresses etc left off. Note at the time, my nickname had been changed to "Jed" as they were my initials - first name and two middle names - in a place full of Jim's and Tim's that all sounded alike.

I am most chagrined and not a little upset that I could not be here to give you this bad news personally, and to support you. However, the balance was between the importance of this trip for Shugart and our immediate and future tasks and the fact that Rudy knows you well and regards you as highly as I do.

Because of this, I know he will in all respects be a surrogate for me.

I think you had some premonition of this event, but you should clearly understand that it is in no way indicative of my feelings toward you or your abilities.

The plain fact is that this reduction has faced assessment on the basis only of any potential duplication of skills and knowledge which are most locally relevant to our tasks.

I am most concerned that this event not stop you from continuing to grow as an engineer. I perceive you as a very sensitive person and that you have been beginning to overcome some of your own self doubts, and to project your inner confidence, and I urge you to continue this trend.

You are an engineer, all you have to do is to continue to demonstrate this! No person, or engineer for that matter, is an island unto themselves.

growth therefore always will depend upon questing for knowledge and understanding, and this comes as much from asking as from reading or doing.

I feel you will do well and paradoxically feel that in some respects this change will be good for you, I just wish I could have continued to guide and lead you.

Even though I do not know where you will end up, I hope it will be in Shugart, please feel free to come and ask me for advise and information, I am more than eager to help you in any way I can.

Yours Sincerely,
Alastair Heaslett "

The last paragraph I do not remember ever having read before. If I had followed that opportunity, my subsequent career and life might well be quite different from the way it is now.

So I now have another one of those "if only ...." things to be on my mind.

Another significant point about all this, is that Alastair was the main reason I was an electronics engineer; he talked me into it. Several years before, it had come time for me to get a raise, and he told me that I was already receiving the highest pay given to a Senior Engineering Technician, and could go no further, in terms of pay.

However, he went on, if I were to take the title of electronics engineer, I could continue to get pay increases.

I told him I did not want to be an engineer, that would require me to be too rigid thinking analytical minded; I preferred to be free to use my full capacity. He told me that I had already been doing the work of an engineer for the past year and a half; I would just continue doing what I had been doing.

So, with some misgivings, I accepted. And thus formally became a design/development electronics engineer. And a year later became a second level one.

And a year after that, the big RIF.

The letter was urging me to continue on with my capacity as a design/development electronics engineer. And the last of the letter, was not even read, where he offered to help me do that.

How different it could have been, had I done that.

In a blog post here a couple of years ago, I mentioned Alastair Heaslett; I then had received a comment from a woman saying that she was his daughter and that he had passed away long ago of cancer, at a fairly young age.

Yet despite my difficulties in my subsequent career in electronics, in which I never again reached the title of engineer, I think that Alastair's belief in me may have propelled me on to do engineering level work as a hobby, both when employed and in retirement. I had mixed it in with my lifelong interest in space, and came up with the "Centristation" and "KESTS to GEO" major concepts as part of that (I was working as a tech in a small car alarm manufacturing company when I did the major creation and development of those space transportation concepts) and even more pertinent, in the design-development-test-usage of the electro-herbalism instruments I currently create as a hobby, that I think can help mankind very much. For my latest instrument's design including schematics, see

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