Wow! 20 Years

Turning Point

This month marks my 20th anniversary as a metalworking editor. That’s close to a third of my life. My four now 20-something kids were not even up to double digits when I was hired back in 1992.

This month marks my 20th anniversary as a metalworking editor. That’s close to a third of my life. My four now 20-something kids were not even up to double digits when I was hired back in 1992.

To say I’ve spent the prime of my life doing this job is true, but doesn’t tell the full story. More to the point, this job helped make my prime just that.

Reflecting on the opportunities for travel and education, along with relationships both personal and professional, that have come my way crisscrossing the country and the globe for the past 20 years, the many miles fade to fondness. You see as they say, it’s not the journey, it’s the destination.

In pursuit of “the story,” I’ve managed to visit 45 of the 50 states, many of them multiple times. The amount of time I’ve spent in Illinois, Chicago specifically, should qualify me to vote there although I hear that’s not a rare occurrence.

Internationally, there are pins on my map for 19 countries totaling more than 50 trips across one pond or the other. For a person, such as me, with wanderlust since a child, travel (in spite of the airline’s efforts to the contrary) is much less like work and more like I can’t believe I get paid to do this.

By the way, if any of you live in Maine, Alaska, Montana, Idaho or Wyoming and have a story you think would be of interest to the precision machined parts industry, drop me a line. I’d really like to try and complete my map of the U.S.

The key to longevity in any job is one’s willingness to continuously update the skill sets that got you in the door. Before coming to the magazine business, the skills foundation I brought to the party was more than a decade working in the machine tool business at Cincinnati Milacron.

Back then, the “Mill” was certainly considered blue chip and so with that bona fide, Gardner Publications figured I was a reasonable risk for writing articles for Modern Machine Shop. I rolled in with somewhat of a youthful swagger thinking I knew a whole lot more than I actually did.

Sure, my grounding in milling, turning and grinding were not bad, but what the heck was EDM? I quickly learned of a metalworking world made of machines and processes I’d never heard of. Of course, that was the education part of the new job.

Thanks to the patience and competence of my colleagues and a unique industry penchant of trying to educate any willing student, my narrow metalworking world began to expand. Like our universe, it’s still expanding. An early lesson well learned is to approach one’s work with the attitude of a student.

Moving on to another decade of searching out products, processes and techniques that will help manufacturing to continue moving forward, my hope is to build on the foundations that have been laid so far and bring to the pages and website of Production Machining information that is useful to our readers.

I can say that time has, in many ways, made the job a little easier by virtue of the contacts made in my travels. I’ve been blessed to meet some incredibly smart and creative people in this industry.

One grisly editor told me a long time ago, “We editors don’t really know anything except what we’ve been told.” That’s true to an extent, but I’d add that the successful editor has the judgment and experience to take what’s being told and tailor it for the audience being served. Separating what is relevant from what is a waste of the reader’s time is the chief function of a trade magazine/Internet editor. I must accept the fact that I am now that grisly old editor in the eyes of my younger colleagues. Sigh.

By far the smartest people I’ve met in my travels are those who make the whole thing work. They are the shop owners, managers, operators, programmers and production engineers whose job it is to get the job done. Everyone has access to the same tools. The smart part and the part in which I find virtually infinite variety is how those tools are applied to make all the different parts that make up the metalworking industry.

One thing I do know, based on my 20 years at this job and 30 years in the industry, is that because of the passion, dedication and cleverness of those involved in manufacturing I will never find a lack of material to write about. Someday, they may have to pry this keyboard from my cold, dead hands, but until then, this student will be attending class.