I can do the impossible with nothing and deliver it yesterday. Honest!

Contact the University of Arizona. I want in on their flexible screen prototype testing.

I need you to learn to code so you can write me an extensive tablet interface for information keeping purposes.

I want you to come up with something that will decode human speech over the radio and put it in to text on a screen.

I need you to design a computer interface that will cut training intensive quall time down from 6 months to 6 weeks.

I need you to create a system of trouble tickets that will automatically track work and report to me daily with their progress.

 

This is just a small list of the things I have been asked to do recently.

 

I’m an IT1 in the Cost Guard. I don’t have the training to do most of this crap.

Seriously, half of this would require a team of 8 software engineers with a 3 million dollar budget and a 2 year timeline to even come close to what you are asking for. And I’m just one of two minimally trained grunts who resets e-mail passwords for a living. Do you have ANY idea what you are asking for here? Any idea at all?

Now, I consider myself to be fairly resourceful, and fairly intelligent. (Quiet in the peanut gallery. I don’t need your input here.) I can be handed a project and do my absolute best to make sure I can give you what you want. In fact, I have made some decent progress in each of the above venues. But seriously, this is a little out of my job description, paygrade, and expertise range.

I like being challenged as much as the next guy. In fact, I do my best to make sure I have some sort of a challenge each day, but really?!?!

Oh, and for what it’s worth, the Computerized interface for cutting quall times? I totally pulled that one off!

Hells yeah. It’s awesome. You should see it.

The buttons… they almost press themselves.

Being stationed on the Mackinaw has been an adventure that I’m not sure I would relive if I had a choice. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. I enjoy my job. There is satisfaction to be found that I haven’t found anywhere else. I have job security. I have good pay. I have a wonderful home in a beautiful town with a large lawn. Honestly, I want for nothing here. But, this billet has been filled with ups, downs, bigger downs, and the occasional down that has posed as an up. Really, it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.

Until recently.

Honestly, the opener to this post has nothing to do with the post itself. I guess I was just looking for something that I could write that would have a little detail to it and give some insight to my recent triumph. But really, the story has nothing to do with the following.

Kinda.

I’m an engineer on the ship. And Engineer of the Watch, or EOW. I don’t work on the engines or the mechanical equipment, but I do monitor them for 4 hours at a time while I stand watch underway.

The process for becoming an EOW usually takes anywhere from 3 to 9 months. In my case, it took 2 years.

Now, before you decide to jump my case and give me a hard time for that, there are a few reasons it took so long and to make the long story short, I’m going to simply say that in the beginning it was my fault, but at the end it wasn’t. And I’m sticking to that.

Anywho, it’s a long qualification process. You are required to learn tons of information. Get 250 different signatures for sign offs, and sit through a large number of drills and an oral board.

The problem that I saw when I first reported aboard was that the information I was required to know was nowhere to be found. You could ask people and they might know one or two of the parameters. Another person might be able to show you how to reset a system. And the rest would simply say “I had to look it up, you can to.” Frankly, that attitude sucked. I didn’t like dealing with it. No one was willing to help someone that was supposedly a “shipmate”. You would think that helping someone get qualified would help your personal duty rotation. Make it better. Give you more time at home. Etc.

Here? Not so much.

So, for two solid years, I fought, kicked, screamed, studied, tore through manuals, wrote study information for myself, and compiled a veritable treasure trove of knowledge that if used properly, could probably overthrow a small third-world nation.

The collection of data was immense!

I had flash cards, study guides, work sheets, notes from meetings, recordings of conversations, print outs of e-mails, and copies of peoples personal thoughts included in this behemoth of a quall packet.

I was ready.

At least, I thought I was ready.

Kinda.

Maybe.

Crap.

I walked in to the board, passed the info that I knew. I answered the questions. I passed. (More or less) Then, I was qualified. Life got easier.

Now, anyone that really knows me knows that I’m not a jerk. I don’t usually do things to make peoples lives harder. I don’t like to put up a fight or make a fuss.

If I can do something that will make someone else’s life easier, then I will.

And about 2 months ago, I stumbled on something, quite by accident that would make everyone’s lives easier.

We have 12 new engineers reporting this season. That’s a lot of people to get qualified.  I really don’t want to wait 9 months for my duty rotation to get fat again, and that is where my idea came in to play.

I have this touch screen down in main control that isn’t being used. So, I built a computer and filled the hole. On the computer, I installed a web page. A very fancy touch screen style web page.

One that contained the essential essence of my monstrosity of a note collection.

Every stupid little stat, note, hard to find piece of information, manual, drawing, recording, and diagram that will be used in the process of getting qualified was placed on the that web page, and it was all done in an easy to use, shiny, attractive interface.

THIS WAS A GAME CHANGER!

I installed it. I grinned to myself being quite proud of my work. And then I walked away.

I waited.

I watched.

Three days passed……. Nothing.

Hmm, “maybe people don’t realize what is sitting here” I thought.

So, I walked down to main control three or four times a day and played with it. I asked questions. I took more notes. I probed people for information on what they would like to see available to them.

I spent another week programming and compiling data and then I redeployed it.

I waited.

Suddenly, it happened.

I walked by Main Control on my way to fix something that some uneducated fool had broken (again!), and I saw someone sitting in front of my terminal. I stopped and watched from outside the room.

They were pushing buttons.

They stopped, read, and then wrote something down.

They pushed a few more buttons, stopped, read, and then wrote something down.

SOMEONE WAS USING IT!

I smirked and walked away.

On my way back to my office, I walked by Main control again and there was a different person repeating the process that the first had done.
Over the course of the next few days, I had noticed that there was almost always someone sitting in front of that terminal using it for information, reference, and compiling their own study information for their qualls and for their board.

My frustration at my situation over the last two years, in a matter of moments, suddenly went away.

I had suffered through something that had allowed me to design and distribute a resource to the crew that is already decreasing qualification time.

I’m receiving praise from my supervisors. Even the one that doesn’t like me.

I realized earlier today that since seeing this, I haven’t scowled at my job. (Other things? Yes. My job? No.)

I guess the long story can be summed up in a few short sentences.

I made something that made the lives of my shipmates easier. I decided to take the route of helping those around me, and I’m seeing the benefits and reaping the rewards.

Honestly? It feels good.