‘Never cut Grass on an Hourly Rate…’.
It all started on a warm Summers morning as a very green 18-year-old lad, my first full-time job, at a small Plumbing and Heating company based in the South of England.
My mother worked there and thought it would be a great place for me to start a career. I had no real want to go back into education and proceed to University, like many of my mates. I was pretty over it.
So off I went on my rather oversized mountain bike, white shirt, baggy Chinos, and a pair of Chelsea boots to start my journey and, cut my path in the dog eat dog world of Construction and Sub Contracting.
For my troubles of turning up to work each day and photocopying/folding drawings, I was paid 1.25GBP an hour [50GBP a week] – I also had 2 other jobs – one on a farm for 1.18GBP an hour helping out in the fields, remember had a great suntan that year. The other job was working in a pub washing up / gardening, where I was paid an astounding 2.20GBP an hour.
One lesson that still to this day sticks out, and maybe has impacted my later work, was that you “never cut grass on an hourly rate…”.
Grass should be cut at a fixed rate as you can cut a whole lot of grass in an hour and is hard work, someone gains a whole lot of value and you gain very little compensation.
After about a year at the Plumbing Company, I was offered a job at a National Building Services Company paying me 3 times more, so off I went – but not before the owner of the Plumbing Company dragged me into his office, and called/shouted at me all the names under the sun preceding with ‘you little …’. Oh well, guess he was upset and had some feelings about loosing me.
I had a great time at the new company, learned so much, and will always remember the ‘Old’ Engineers, probably all of about 35 years old, that I was reporting to for about 4 years. Sometimes coming into the office, had to beat your way through the fag smoke, but at least they opened the window for me… I really loved the place and honestly the best working environment I have ever seen.
They worked for some really interesting clients.
After a bit of time in the office, I was given my first project, where I was fully in charge. It was a small ticket office where we had to install 4 small Air Conditioning Units. I had to survey, price, design, draw, install and manage all the money and buying/negotiating with the contractors and suppliers.
They told me that the only difference between a big job and a small job is the size, all the processes are the same – another great lesson.
I finished that project and not sure I made any money but it was not the objective; it was to do the process and learn on something that won’t bankrupt the company if all went wrong.
After about 5 years I moved on and for the next years worked for companies that really were just normal and never really got the lessons I did with the previous one.
Then some backpacking, back to work to pay for that working for a global construction company building data centers, and continued my journey.
After a bit of time at the construction company, I met another one of those colleagues and people that, in half an hour can change your path. I was so bored of the industry, going to work was autopilot, and was talking with him at lunch one day, he said, ‘you know, your mindset – you should try commissioning, think you would enjoy it.’
I thought about it and decided that I should give it a crack – the worse case is to go back to contracting…
So I managed to find a great company looking for a Commissioning Engineer, but luckily was not concerned about experience, just was warned it would be a steep learning curve, and boy it was.
I look back at that lunch that I had with my Colleague and think, ‘wow, that conversation really changed my life’.
In a very quick time frame that brings us to today.
There is much voodoo surrounding commissioning. People think it’s some form of black art when the truth is that it’s one of the most process-driven, clearly defined disciplines of the construction process/industry. 60% of it should be completed at a push of a button.
Many of us struggle, whether this is down to not understanding, no time to implement things, or just being a little lazy with the expected delivery and output. Commissioning is really quick if we are set up properly.
We all moan about margins and that money is squeezed, or the amount of work we have, but times change, and we as an industry have not embraced technology or standardized methods to complete our tasks.
Many companies, to save will employ graduates / inexperienced Engineers and throw them at a job ‘sink or swim style’. That is a very short-sighted solution as the quality [not the engineer’s fault] will be lower, there will be more problems meaning additional spending and those engineers will be the ones in a few years leading the way, and doing so with a lot of bad habits already ingrained.
So…. we are trying to put together a resource where people can learn the efficient, quick ways of doing things, standard documents, and methods – no degree needed, just some how-to with some experience thrown in. Letting go of all the secrets we have, to do some things at lightning speed to help the industry move forward, progress, and ultimately the younger Engineers who have arrived at a time where they are pretty much on their own to learn or lose.
Its a corner of the internet that hopefully people will find and stumble upon where they will return to time and time again for reference and materials.
If that happens and helps move the path of 1 or 2 Engineers like mine was because of the time given by some, then that is our objective.