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Re: An American (Pain In The) Tail

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Bill,

       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
career.

       I hope my experience is helpful to our boy.

Regards,

H. Daryl Richardson

----- Original Message ----- From: "Bill Polhemus" <bill(--nospam--at)polhemus.cc>
To: <seaint(--nospam--at)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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