Growing up in small-town, downstate Illinois, I had a number of jobs that shaped my early personal belief system. Most kids I knew spent at least one summer de-tasseling seed corn, which was as good an incentive as I know of to finish an education. Then there was the summer at the Dairy Queen, where I learned that the nutritional impact of substituting banana splits and Mr. Misty freezes for real food is not pretty – even when you are only sixteen. The job that formed me more than any other was working as a commissioned auto mechanic. The way this worked is that every maintenance task on a car was documented in a book called the Chilton’s Auto Repair Flat Rate Manual. If the book said that performing a tune-up on a Chevrolet Camaro required three hours, then you got paid for three hours, whether it took you two hours or five. And importantly, if you rush and do it wrong, you do it over on your own time. It didn’t take long to figure out that you could hustle with care and live well, or diddle carelessly and starve.
More generally, some life lessons that I took from this period were that it is better do things you enjoy than things you don’t; that focus and planning allow you to get more done in less time; and that success requires efficiency AND attention to detail – you really have to know what you are doing before you prosper in any profession.
Fast-forward to my work (and passion!) today which is delivering software that leverages safety professionals’ skills and knowledge better that anyone else. As mechanics, we learned that having the right tools, and the knowledge to use them correctly, made all the difference in our success. To this day I cringe when I see someone unlimber the vice-grips to go after a six-point bolt head (insider reference – you know who you are!)
The same is true today for safety professionals. There are many software and systems tools to choose from to help you do your job well. SharePoint may be an adequate solution for storing documents, but it is woefully inefficient for managing task accountability. There are many continuing education choices to meet different personal circumstances, including some great on-line options. Columbia Southern University would be a popular and effective choice for your on-line Masters in Safety program, whereas Princeton would be a little odd. Choosing the right tools for your specific job situation requires that you understand what it is you want to accomplish and how fast you want to do it. Most safety professionals I have met have a good grasp on where they want to go. When you are ready, I hope you will invite us to help you choose the right tools for your personal and professional growth.