From Apprentice to Crew Chief
I started working with Bombardier in 1995 as a sheet metal apprentice and worked under some great leaders there. Great leaders don’t only impact your work ethic, but they help you grow as a person. They paint a vivid picture of a goal and sell you on that goal. I can remember working for these leaders and hoping that I would inspire the next generation of employees. Well as time has it, I was given many great opportunities to grow here at Bombardier. They seem to always have exciting projects going on. I worked in the sheet metal shop for many years. With the guidance of the generation before me, I made myself into a sponge. I was going to soak up every bit of knowledge and skill I could possibly absorb. While in the shop, I was given many large and difficult fabrication tasks. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge. I had the opportunity to work with the Bombardier Tooling department for about a year, also. They were a great crew of fellows from Bombardier Canada. They were full of knowledge. They introduced me into the world of problem solving by design. They were able to take what we have available, and make it into a tool that ensured quality and saving time to the techs. I was actually blown away by those special techniques.
I’ve also worked in the weld/machine shop for a while under a great man. He was full of tribe knowledge and was able to help me take all the pieces of knowledge that I’d obtained and help me put them all together. It’s a great thing when you’re able to understand a task and have the ability to come up with solutions and aids that will make what we do here at Bombardier better for our customers. We want to be able to provide an unmatched quality and cost effective service to our customers.
Throughout these positions, I was trusted as a temp crew chief role from time to time. Then I recall that there was a posting for the sheet metal shop crew chief. My manager, at the time, suggested that I apply for the job. Remembering all that had been given to me, I wanted to help. I see this as a great way to feed into a new generation of work force. I ended up getting the job in the sheet metal shop as the crew chief. One of my mentors ran the shop on the front half and I ran the crew on the back half of the week. It was and still is a great opportunity for me.
How would you describe your work?
It’s challenging and rewarding all at the same time. Everything is evolving and continues to change into what our customers need and desire For example, a few years back, I was asked to work on a project to help called SOS. This temporarily pulled me from the day-to-day of the sheet metal, weld and machine shop. After completing the project, I was handed a new challenge. Another example, a while ago, we made an investment into equipment but we were not running them to their full potential. I was excited to learn about it and start a new adventure into the CAD/CAM software. By utilizing this software, we made huge leaps into making what we do easier. And I believe that we can do much more!
So my work now looks like this. I’m the crew chief over the sheet metal, weld and machine shops. I also serve in a temp supervisor role in our external business. I get to take time to explore avenues that will make us the most sought after heavy maintenance provider in North America! Love a good challenge!
What is your most memorable project?
I worked on a project in Chicago with three other colleagues for about four months. It was a very large task and it called for a lot of structure work. It was the largest structure task that I have ever been involved with. It was also the first time for a wing to fuselage demating. So, yeah, it was really exciting! The crew lead, Todd Huddle, was carrying Tums with him during the whole demate process!
I can recall a great man running this project; Paul Massey, if memory serves me right. He was a manager with Bombardier Canada. He was in charge of the project. I can recall that we were having some major parts issues with a 280 frame. I remember Paul taking a picture of the old frame and sending it to production. The next day the part was shipped and then delayed somewhere. Paul’s reply was, where’s the part at now? Come to find out, the part was at a facility about a seven hour drive away. It wasn’t 10 minutes later that Paul took off! The next morning I asked Paul, where did you go yesterday? He replied, I have your part in my car! I was floored that he was willing to step out of his role as project manager and hop in his car and go get this part! It left an impact on me! Sometimes during my day-to-day, I reflect on his actions. It seems sometimes we get so bottled up with our positions that we just don’t take the time to help. So sometimes, I will jump in and help where really needed. If you want the respect of your team, sometimes it just takes a small act like this.
What rules/best practices have you developed over time?
I have changed like the seasons. It would seem that life in itself is like the changing of the seasons and requires you to change as well. I have and always will make it my number one rule to realize that I’m not always right and someone else may have a better solution. Take the time to invest into relationships with your team. They are people and the better you know them, the better you can understand them. Always be willing to jump in and get your hands dirty. I found it’s the easiest way to gain the respect of your team. Be consistent, do what you said you’re going to do and be a person of your word. Never back down from a challenge, even when you feel like you’re not equipped for it. Someone believed in you, or you would have never been asked to step up for the challenge. Be confident in what you are doing, and never think asking for help is a weakness. It is strength when you know you can ask for help. Be bold and optimistic about everything. Never let a pessimistic mind allow you to settle. It’s like cancer to your team. With every set back, find the rewards in the set back and learn from it.