Things they don’t teach you in school

Background: I am currently a Junior in the Mechanical Engineering program at the U of M – Twin Cities. This past January I accepted an 8 month, full-time internship with St. Jude Medical.  I am part of the R&D (Research and Development) group in the Cardiovascular Division.

For a variety of reasons I spend a large portion of my time at work in the machine shop. It is my understanding that I am not at all required to but it allows me to be involved in every part of the R&D process. The machinist, Ed, enjoys teaching and has sort of taken me under his wing. Ed is almost always swamped with projects meaning that if you need something built it could take days or weeks.

One day, Ed and I were working in the shop when our mutual boss, Ralph, came in with a pretty urgent project which he hoped Ed would expedite. Now some people come into the shop, throw down CAD drawings and quickly leave expecting Ed to drop everything for their project, but Ralph knew better. After casually chatting with Ed for a while, Ralph handed Ed some CAD drawings and said, “Alright Ed, here is an opportunity [he paused for dramatic effect] to excel. This project goes all the way to the top (it didn’t at all). Before today Dan Starks (St. Jude CEO) said ‘Ed who?’ but not after this project. 20 years from now employees will still be talking about you!” Ralph said this with a smile and Ed knew it was BS but he appreciated the effort and quickly finished the parts for Ralph.

Weeks later I was at my desk when Ralph approached me. With a smirk on his face he said, “Alright Anthony, I have an opportunity for you to excel…”

Apparently there was an urgent project that no one wanted to do, so Ralph needed me to do it ASAP. It turned out to be a great project; very interesting and enjoyable but now when I am approached by an unusually friendly superior, I expect to receive an important, urgent, or undesirable assignment.

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