Brace yourself for what I am about to reveal: I have a master of fine arts degree in creative writing with a concentration in poetry.
I will now give you 30 seconds to come up with your best one-liners . . . .
Trust me, my dad had a whole handful of good jokes about what you do with a degree in poetry. And while the value (or lack thereof) of the degree is a discussion for another time, I bring it up because, in this week’s MakingChips podcast, Jim Carr, spoke about some old school machining lessons that have remained relevant throughout his career. As I listened, I was reminded of my early years studying poetry and two common quotes about its lasting value:
“It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack// of what is found there” (William Carlos Williams).
“Poetry is news that stays news” (Ezra Pound).
I won’t bore you with a lecture on the timeless importance of creative literature, but I will leave you with this thought that everyone from the poet to the manufacturer can agree on: ideas that stand the test of time are always worth considering.
It all adds up
Last week I mentioned my husband Tony’s involvement in the academic research side of manufacturing. It makes sense to add that we got married in graduate school. So, while I was studying poetry, he was studying mechanical engineering and eventually finding his way into a career focused on advanced manufacturing and machine tool research. (Turns out, much to my dad’s relief, there is a lot you can do with a degree in mechanical engineering!)
Being that our MakingChips audience is comprised of leaders in the field of manufacturing and one major priority is educating our next generation, I asked Tony if there was anything on the academic side of the industry that has remained consistent throughout. Looking back over his 20+ years of experience, he answered by focusing first on the one thing that seems to constantly change: the language.
Tony explained that when he started his career, Google didn’t exist. The internet itself had only just started to be seen as a reliable tool. And, believe it or not, email wasn’t even used very much.
Today, probably like the rest of us, he says a day doesn’t pass that the terms “email me” or “Google it” don’t come into play. This past year has produced new words based on changes as well. Now every day he has a Zoom or Teams meeting.
I did a quick search for words that didn’t exist 20 years ago and found these:
Looking at this list, it is easy to see how changes naturally expand our vocabulary. But there is one language that Tony says has not changed for him since high school and he still uses it every day - the language of mathematics.
“Mathematics is the language of science,” he said, “If I can start early enough getting comfortable with math, it gives me a language I can use to communicate throughout my whole career with anyone else who can speak mathematics”.
Live and learn
As we have discussed on MakingChips and written about in the Boring Bar, the next generation of manufacturers will likely consist of diverse backgrounds, specialties, and education levels from high school degree to Phd.
One of the best qualities of our field is that there is opportunity for motivated men and women to have fulfilling, lucrative careers - from the machine shop floor to the university research lab.
Keeping that in mind, if you are approached by a young person interested in manufacturing, I hope Tony’s insight can be useful. Not everyone who finds success in manufacturing needs to be a mathematician but, as Tony mentions, understanding this “language” is incredibly helpful when it comes to communicating within the broader field and advancing industry research.
That said, also consider that you are currently reading a manufacturing blog post by a poet who still uses a calculator to figure out what to leave as a 20% tip . . . . I’m living proof there is clearly room for everyone in our industry.
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