I am a parent of two young children. As a result of my experiences as a mom, I feel that parents make great Reliability Engineers because there are so many shared skill sets. Please enjoy this lighthearted comparison to start your week out with a little humor.
First, I have to point out the development of a brand new Reliability Engineer requires the same skills of lubrication and vibration that the conception of a child requires.
Time management is critical for parents, especially when their children are young. 7 pm bedtime is both not early enough and way too early. Managing time spent at the plant and still getting home early enough to get a few precious hours with the family before baby bedtime can be a challenging balancing act, but if anybody can handle it the Reliability Engineer can.
That sinking feeling you get when you realize that you’ve left the high frequency accel in your office when out in the field checking out a gearbox problem is the same feeling I get when I realize there are no diapers left in the diaper bag during a poopsplosion in Target. Usually it only has to happen once before you learn how to properly organize and manage resources before you leave the office.
If your kids are old enough to go to school and you don’t have a story about that time you “misplaced” your child, then you are not being honest with yourself. Once you’ve felt the deep fear of not being able to identify and locate your offspring, you will probably take better steps to inventory and manage those assets.
Just like finding a daycare or school is easier if you have vaccination records, troubleshooting a bad actor is a lot simpler if you have maintenance records.
Herding a playgroup of toddlers out of the park and back into the car requires the same skills of unending patience, empathy and negotiation as convincing a group of mechanics to adopt a new alignment procedure. Herding cats is easier.
When you walk in the door after a long day and both kids are crying and so is your spouse, you have to use your prioritization skills to triage the situation and stop the cycle. Weeding through all that stress at home helps a Reliability Engineer deal with emotional situations, discard any attempt at blame and move forward to help get things running again.
Root Cause Analysis
Anybody who has lived through a newborn has the ninja skills to get through the static and find the root cause. How else could they determine what is the cause of that racket from a tiny person who cannot express themselves with language yet? Using our skills, we can determine if that pump (baby) is making that noise because it’s cavitating (hungry), has a leaking seal (needs a diaper change), or requires some additional vibration monitoring (wants some cuddles).
Quiet, unbiased observation is critical for troubleshooting. It can tell you when you need to start moving towards the potty because the moment is (finally!) here or if it’s time to make the call on pulling that pump from service. This same skill is developed by parents to best learn their child and their needs.
Infants condition Reliability Engineers for unexpected shutdowns and delayed start-ups. Parents have that critical skill of being instantly awake to respond coherently in the middle of the night to a night terror or a critical compressor failure. We’re ready for anything!
I take a lot of satisfaction in a job well done, but even an easy solution to a long-term problem cannot compare to the feeling of the bright smiles of my children and my son’s happy cry of, “Mama!” when I come through the door. There is no greater joy than being a parent.
Parents make the best Reliability Engineers.
Trial by fire, sink or swim, whatever platitude you wish to use to express the unique experience of living with a small human. Reliability Engineers understand what to do when run-to-failure is not an option.