I had a summer job at Haldex when I was fourteen. For four weeks I stood at a conveyor belt, manufacturing hydraulic pumps. I like mindless work, and it was one of the best summer jobs I ever had, except maybe the summer that I spent with my father, chopping hundreds of cubic meters of wood and restoring houses.
After maybe four weeks I was one of the fastest assemblers at the factory.
In my first week, I met one of the supervisors. He was incredibly fast at assembling pumps and produced the least amount of broken pumps. Virtually all of his pumps survived the testing station, and if they didn’t, it was probably the cast.
He frustrated me at first; whenever I worked with him, he told me to slow down. I didn’t want to make him wait, and so I hurried whenever I was in front of him at the conveyor belt. He would calmly tell me to work more slowly. I was annoyed, but I listened.
After two or so shifts of working with him, he said: “Do you know why you’re supposed to slow down?” I said no. He told me that, by the end of my summer job, I would be almost as fast as him. Of course he was right: after four weeks, whenever we worked together, we churned out more pumps than any other team at the factory.
It was none of those Koan experiences, though. It didn’t end with “and the student was enlightened”. I do think it profoundly changed the way I work, especially when learning on the job, of course, but I don’t think I consciously thought about that experience until a few days ago, when I discussed professionalism—and the lack thereof—in tech with my fiancée.
Thank you, man whose name I forgot. I think you might’ve had a great influence on my professional life, without either of us knowing.