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Plotting Their Own Demise

, , , , , | Working | July 19, 2018

(In the 1980s and 1990s, I work at the office of a naval architecture firm, whose main customer is the US Navy. As such, we usually hire a retired naval officer — a captain, usually — to be the office vice president. We recently had our last VP retire. His replacement is hired on, and is taking a tour of our office. My department boss is escorting him around.)

Boss: “This is our CAD draftsman, [My Name]. [My Name], can you show [New VP] your CAD capabilities?”

(I then show our new VP what types of output I can produce, from letter-size on a laser printer to 3-foot by 12½-foot drawings on a rather large and expensive electrostatic plotter. He “hmms” quite a bit, and I’m not sure if he’s fully getting what I’m saying.)

New VP: “So, if I had a drawing we needed input, I’d give it to you, and you’d put it through this scanner—” *indicating the plotter* “—and we could modify it from there?”

Me: “Actually, this is only a plotter. Any input would be done directly by me, using the digitizer pad and tracing, or reading the drawing and recreating it manually.”

New VP: “Oh…”

(Some weeks later, he’s guiding a potential customer through our office, and they’re standing by my area. I’m busy, so I don’t engage them, but I hear New VP describing how we can scan any large drawings through our scanner — again, he’s talking about the plotter. I interject.)

Me: “Actually, this is our electrostatic plotter, which can output drawings up to 12½ feet long.”

(The VP gives me a dirty look. About a month later, the VP and a customer come back shortly after lunch, holding a much-abused, old drawing.)

New VP: “[My Name], we need to have this old drawing redone according to new Navy drawing standards.”

Me: *looking at drawing* “Okay, I can do this. I take it this is the most legible copy we have.” *they nod* “It’s quite old; it looks like 1938 is the last update year. I’ll have to do some research on its references. Let me discuss this with [Department Boss] to figure out the schedule. My best turnaround time would be one to two weeks, depending on any other work that needs to be done.”

New VP: “One to two weeks?! We need this redone for a meeting this afternoon!”

Me: “Even if I rushed this, it’d still take two or three days.”

New VP: “Why can’t you put it into the scanner–” *again pointing at the plotter* “–and have the computer clean it up?”

(I’d never shown him anything like the computer “cleaning up” a drawing.)

Me: “Sir, this is still just an electrostatic plotter. It has no scanning capabilities. Any new drawing would have to be input manually.”

(The VP huffed away, with the customer remaining and looking confused. I found out later he went to my department boss and complained about my “misinformation” about my equipment. My boss came to me, told me of the complaint, and said he’d supported me. He had let [New VP] know that he had heard me describe my CAD station, and at no time had I said we had scanning capability. Also, he shouldn’t have such unrealistic expectations on updating a 50-year-old drawing. That VP only lasted about 18 months.)