Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Re: An American (Pain In The) Tail


Been there! Done that!

Oops, let me correct that last paragraph.

Been there! Had that done to me!

I think our boy is taking the high road, and rightly so. But there
are still more bumps to come on this road. Prospective employers are going
to be asking "What's wrong with this guy? Why did Widget Makers Ltd. fire
him?" Our boy would be well advised to have some answers ready.

As to whether or not to advise all of the state boards about the
dispute, I am not the best person to give that advice; I simply do not know
enough of the facts. If this is a "large" corporation it's possible that
all of this unpleasantness took place at a local level and the actions are
not part of an over all corporate policy. While I, personally, would like
to force the company to comply and publicly embarrass them, our boy will
probably be best served by following the policy "The less said the better".

My experience with this sort of thing happened more than 40 years
ago. I am now regarded as a competent engineer with a high level of
personal integrity, respected by my associates. Getting out of that company
at that time, even though getting fired caused me both difficulty and
embarrassment, was one of the better things that happened to me in my

I hope my experience is helpful to our boy.


H. Daryl Richardson

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bill Polhemus" <bill@polhemus.cc>
To: <seaint@seaint.org>
Sent: Monday, September 12, 2011 7:03 PM
Subject: An American (Pain In The) Tail

> I'd like to tell you all a story, the story of an engineer who just
> doesn't quite fit in. The boy does all right, for the most part - doesn't
> drool much, cusses only occasionally, is kind to both dogs and cats, and
> may even be current on all Federal income taxes...at least in the near
> future.
> Still, too much right-brain in that boy. Too literal in some things, too
> fanciful in others. Makes other engineers kinda nervous to be around, like
> he's the only one in the room with a chartreuse pocket-protector, or still
> uses a Texas Instruments calculator.
> Now, this boy decided to go to work for a very different company...at
> least from his perspective. This company manufactures widgets. More than
> that, they manufacture a VAST ARRAY OF WIDGETS. They have over the course
> of the last few decades, outsold and outlasted many of their widget-making
> competitors, and bought out quite a few of 'em in the process. So not only
> to they make all the widgets their founders invented, but many of the ones
> they used to compete against, until now they have your standard
> four-on-the-floor widgets, widgets that hang sideways, widgets that hunker
> from the ceiling, and even widgets whose particular purpose is to watch
> out for other widgets.
> Our boy has mostly in his life been a structural engineer guy, like all of
> you. The widgeting world was new to him...and, he had to admit, somewhat
> intriguing for the difference (I told you he didn't quite fit in; I think
> you're beginning to see why). Having dealt with beams, columns, spandrels,
> purlins, groins, rakes, eaves, capitals, brackets, joists, copes, shear
> tabs, castellated beams, and the odd transfer girder or two, the world of
> widgets had a beguiling sort of newness to it that our boy just couldn't
> resist, particularly at this stage of his career (his career had gone on
> long enough to have stages in it, you see).
> So he came aboard, with relish, gusto, and a dollop of mustard. The
> bosses - few of whom were engineers but whose life in widgets had brought
> them into contact with enough of them to think them capital fellows - were
> happy. Our boy was happy. Better yet, the young, wet-behind-the-ears
> Engineer Interns whom he'd been hired to shepherd, mentor, oversee and
> occasionally bathe, seemed to regard his coming with not a little relief
> as they'd been unshepherded for long enough that they were beginning to Go
> Astray.
> Now, this company was not, of course, in the engineering business,
> strictly speaking...they made widgets, as I believe I've mentioned. They
> spent a lot more time thinking about shop schedules, equipment
> maintenance, welder training, material procurement, and general roundabout
> manufacturing stuff such as what goes into widget making generally. They
> were widgeteers. It defined them.
> But...they had found a nice lucrative sideline in providing what they
> themselves called "engineering packages" to general and subcontractors -
> sold through their network of independent sales representatives - that
> featured their widgets quite prominently. But along with the widgets were
> widget braces, widget connectors, widget configurators, and other such
> widget accessories that, along with the widgets themselves, the company's
> engineers (well, to be sure, their EITs) selected and specified and
> calculated and put down on drawings for the contractors to install. And
> upon these packages, prominently displayed, were the seals of the engineer
> who had previously held the position our boy had now accepted, and his
> signature. Our boy was not quite so encumbered with licenses as his
> predecessor - that worthy had more than forty - but he was tasked with the
> task of obtaining as many as he could in accordance with the various
> states in which the company was providing engineering packages.
> Now, for whatever reason - probably had something to do with overzealous
> toilet-training in his youth - our boy (who, you must remember, didn't
> tend to fit in all that well. You must remember it because I told you
> earlier. Remember?) was quite leery of all this sealing and signing,
> particularly as it appeared in the past to have been done without much due
> respect to the sealing rules in the given states. And above all, the
> company had not seen any necessity of obtaining the Certificates of
> Authority (or Firm Registrations, or Firm License, or Certificates of
> Authorization, which nomenclature depends on the state in question) in any
> of the states for which they were providing these sealed engineering
> packages.
> Now, our boy discovered upon investigation that the company's management -
> made up with one exception of non-engineers; and that engineer was
> originally from the aerospace field - had only instituted the sealed
> engineering packages because contractors began asking for them, apparently
> without explanation. One of the non-engineer company officers went to far
> as to tell our boy "we sell engineering stamps. It's a nice part of our
> business."
> You might understand our boy's trepidation at this point. He said "that
> sounds a bit crass, but beyond that, it kind of sounds like you're
> engaging in a bit of plan-stamping with the engineer consultants you have
> sealing these documents." Our boy's protestations seemed rather absurd to
> the company, since they'd been doing this for years anyway and besides,
> everyone knew that you didn't have to have sealed engineering documents if
> you're a manufacturer. They were only doing the sealing thing because the
> contractors wanted them. (The notion that building officials and
> inspectors might have been lurking in the background seemed not to have
> occurred).
> So, seals weren't really needed but were provided because they brought in
> fees; and therefore the state Certificates of Authority (or...oh, you
> know...) were also unnecessary.
> Our boy decided he needed to force the issue - his coming upon
> descriptions of disciplinary proceedings against engineers at companies
> that had failed to secure Certificates of Authority appears to have given
> him particular zeal - and stated that unless the company began to secure
> the CAs and the like in the states for which engineering packages were
> being provided, he would have no choice but to tender his resignation
> forthwith.
> (I have personally wondered to myself the precise interval between some
> point in time, and "forthwith" from that point of time, and have come to
> find out from our boy that it consists of one business day. His
> resignation was summarily accepted, his keys and Blackberry demanded of
> him, and he was escorted from the premises forth... well, actually,
> "immediately").
> Our boy is left wondering if he did right. First, he disagreed with the
> company that the engineering packages did NOT represent "providing
> engineering services to the public" since they were being purchased by,
> and provided to, construction contractors for the express intent of
> installation of the work represented in the packages. Second, he disagreed
> that the company could hand out sealed packages willy-nilly as instruments
> of commerce, without observing all the rudiments of the state engineering
> boards' rules. And finally, he most emphatically believed that continuing
> to be complicit in the company's policies would land his ass in a crack
> from which he might find it difficult to be extricated without some loss
> of blood, tissue, and at the least, his professional license.
> Our boy wonders - through your humble servant - what you, his colleagues,
> think of all this, and if you think him a pompous ass who deserved to be
> kicked to the curb, or a principled professional who chose to put
> professional ethics before expediency.
> Noble hound, or hound-dog? What think ye?
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