About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Volunteer Work

Have you ever accidentally volunteered for something? Or, have you ever NOT volunteered for work that other people *thought* you volunteered for? This seems to happen to me pretty regularly.

A few jobs ago, one of the R&D managers showed up in the door of my office and asked me if I knew anything about vibration testing. "I do." I replied. "I used to do a lot of that sort of testing."

TANGENT: Vibration testing is a lot of fun: you tie a thing down on a table and shake the bejeezus out of it until buttons, resistors, capacitors, and other components start flying off of the item like popcorn kernels popping in the bottom of the pot. Great fun destroying things.

Anyway, I talked to this fellow for an hour or so on how one might subject his particular device to vibration testing, how long it might take, how much it might cost, etc.

Two days later my boss asked me why I volunteered to lead the testing effort for this device. I hadn't, I explained, I only had a conversation about how it might be done.

More recently I was asking about compliance documentation that seems to be missing from a device that my company is contemplating marketing. Today one of our controllers asked me how the compliance program was going. someone said that I was working on getting that project completed.

Nuh-uh. Not my job, man. That's what we have Project Managers for.

I have run afoul, however, of two tenets that permeate the business landscape:

1) You touch it, you fix it;
b) If you ask the question, you often end up dealing with the problem.

Both of these tenets, naturally, create an atmosphere where folks do as little as possible, and don't ask the questions that they know should be asked, people being a bunch of lazy buggers.

You ever volunteer for work by accident?


  1. I volunteer all the time. On purpose! I don't know why I do it. I guess, deep inside, I am still the little girl who wants to please the world.

  2. This sounds awfully familiar! I'm sure people go to work to avoid work.

  3. I'm really careful about stuff like that.

  4. As hard as it is to do, I'm not going to touch the joke lingering around the product in question and where my foul mind went in regards to the "vibration" testing. I volunteer for crap like this all the time, because if I don't, the problem never gets fixed.

  5. I, as I'm sure every I.T. guy does, have this happen ALL. The. Time. "Hey, know anything about XYZ?" "Uh, no, not really, but I'm sure there's tons of information on google."

    Some how, that conversation STILL makes me the go to person. "Hey, Matt knows how to google for the term 'Outlook data file', so ask him all related questions."

    Google works the same for everyone!!

  6. I am not much a volunteery sort of fellow; I think that I like to be self-sufficient, and I assume that others have that same sort of principal, so I let folks do their own stuff and if they ask, I'll gripe, moan, and go help.

    I do admit to calling my favorite IT guy for quick answer instead of doing the initial round of research: I feel like a moment of his time might save me an hour and a half.

    BftS: Just so that you know: you're not the only guy here with a foul mind!@ :)

  7. One time I volunteered to help my boss do some in-house ESD testing. I've regretted it ever since.