The pot-bound engineer

Wilson’s world

David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk and associate editor of The Engineer

Jack Robinson had made it a point to study some rather complex, technical subjects during his years at university. So it was no surprise that plenty of recruitment agencies had made contact with him before he even graduated, since his talents were much in demand by those in industry.

After rifling though the list of potential employers who had offered him work, the young engineer eventually decided to join a small engineering firm where he believed he could make an immediate contribution, rather than join a larger company where he might just become another number.

Jack’s decision to take up employment with the smaller outfit proved a very rewarding one — initially at least. The design team he joined was tightly knit yet highly talented, and he was thrilled to see the new products he had helped to design enter the marketplace in less than a year.

For the first few years he spent working for the company, Jack thrived on the entrepreneurial spirit that enabled him to take an increasingly important role developing new systems and software.

Eventually, however, he began to feel stifled by the environment. Like a large shrub in a small pot, he was becoming pot bound — there was no further room to grow and develop and his creative leaves were becoming yellowed by the lack of intellectual stimulation and nutrition.

So the now not-so-young engineer decided to uproot himself and take up a new role as the manager of a design group within a larger company that employed many such design teams that were all working on a number of different projects for a variety of different customers.

The new organisation appeared to offer a lot more room for growth than the smaller company. And for his first few years there, Jack watched as the size and the expertise of his own group of designers multiplied, much to the accolade of the folks on the board of the company.

But just as his own design team flourished, so too did the other design departments within the company. And, backed by considerably more financial fertiliser, they grew so quickly and so substantially that eventually their branches cast long shadows over Jack’s team, which began to pale into insignificance by comparison.

What’s more, as the results of the efforts of the larger engineering groups added evermore sizeable slices of revenue to the bottom line of the company, the management realised that Jack’s engineering team was becoming less financially important.

As a result, his entire design group was eventually sold off as part of a restructuring plan that the management claimed would help them to refocus more appropriately on their ‘core competencies’.

But it’s not all bad news. For his part at least, Jack is a happy camper once more. Although he’s back in a smaller design environment again, this time around he has enough experience to be able to recognise the benefits of it, rather than just its disadvantages.

David Wilson

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