Hating my job, and learning CAD

August 12, 2011 at 7:45 am (Uncategorized)

I bitch about my job to the point were a number of people around me are probably well tired of hearing about it. And, you know, I’d be happy to stop bitching if they’d just stop doing something on an almost weekly basis that pisses me off.

Their most recent noteworthy move was to end up in such a bad negotiation fail with our main client that it ended up resulting in the equivalent of about a 30% pay cut. And the same week that went into effect? Additional overtime. Yup, they apparently saw our cut in pay as a perfect opportunity to have us work more without it costing them anything additional. They are so awesome like that.

I mean that’s not the only thing I hate about it, although it’s certain a contributing factor. There’s also the fact that the work is just mind-numbingly boring, that we get a constant flow of negative feedback and nothing positive, that their “QC” standards are f’ed up to the point where making one or two typos a month can cost you an additional 10% pay cut, that my supervisor is ineffective due to the fact that she’s never done our job and thus has no idea what we’re talking about half the time when giving feedback… it could just go on and on.
So what do I like about it? I’ve thought about this and have come up with… flex-time scheduling. I’m not a morning person, so I love this feature, which basically refers to how instead of having a set start time in the morning, we are given a four hour window under which we can show up for work. I love that because I have the speed of a tree sloth in the morning.

Now, frankly a guy can only take being bent over a barrel so many times, and I’ve seen that barrel so often that I’m starting to refer to it by name, holding on as I have deep, meaningful conversations with it about how only it understands me, as I try to keep my mind off of how I wish my company would invest in some lube before rolling out now policies.

So I’ve been looking for something else in my field. And looking. And looking. And looking. They’re just not out there. I have had many other coworkers who have bailed, and taken jobs in companies like retail or customer service… but I’ve done those jobs, and I can tell you as much as I hate my current job, I’d still have to be a step away from being homeless and starving on the street before I take another one of those again. Dealing with the general public just irritates the living hell out of me.

Before I got into my current field I used to do computer support. It paid fairly well, was relatively stress-free, and although it did have it’s periods of boring down-time, the work itself was more often than not interesting enough to keep me engaged in what I was doing. But I got out of that field because it really dried up after the “dot-com boom” was over and companies started to realize it wasn’t that cost efficient to pay an IT guy to be on staff all day after day when there usually wasn’t enough stuff breaking to keep him busy – so they largely started to lay off IT staff and decide to “call it in” when they needed support. That, and although the opportunities are better in large cities, the city I live in is practically an IT desert. And when companies hire now, they’re usually looking for somebody that’s an absolute IT God that knows the ins and outs of every system ever made by man.. and is willing to work for $14/hr. Because they can, because the job market is that cutthroat. So among other reasons I decided this was no longer the field for me as of about 10 years ago.

But I need to do *something* to advance myself past where I am. And after a few discussions with people, I decided to try to take up CAD drafting. This was something I was interested in a while back, but had been told that as a breed drafters were dying out – companies had gotten to the point where they expected people like engineers to just take this on as one of their responsibilities instead of hiring separate staff to do it. Apparently though although this does happen, there are still plenty of companies that hire drafters just to draft, and I’ve thought it would be awesome if I were one of them. I’ve always had an affection for design and at one point was considering going back to school as an industrial design major (these are folks who design mostly consumer products), but going back to school full-time with unpaid internship requirements does not mix well with being a middle-age adult with financial responsibilities; plus I’m not thrilled about the idea of added more debt on top of the school loans that I already have that are taking me forever to pay off (and I’m still not even close).

But CAD appears to be something that can be fairly self-taught. There are a large number of inexpensive (or free) software packages out there that emulate the more pricey programs that are often used by businesses, and there is an endless supply of learning materials out there. Really I figure it should just take some time to learn how the packages work and then get a ton of practice with them, and once familiar with one of the “grandpappy” software programs like AutoCad branch out into a few other popular packages to get an idea how they work.

Then, I figure, maybe if I’m lucky I can land a few temp or contract jobs to “get my foot in the door” of an industry I have zero job experience in. And then hopefully after doing that for a little bit maybe land something full time.
I’m already having daydreams of landing a position with a large aerospace company that is actually within walking distance of my house. That would be so awesome.

Now deciding which CAD program to learn appears to be a little tricky. There appear to literally be hundreds of options out there, with many programs that are specialized for specific types of work (mechanical design, architecture, etc) and the program any company decides to go with appears to almost be a crap shoot.
But from the research I’ve done, the “big daddy” still appears to be AutoCad. At the very least, it appears that a large portion of other programs get the basis of the way they work from this program, and I think it’s probably the best place to start. Doing a search of schools that offer CAD training, it appears the schools all appear to share this opinion as well, as it’s really the only CAD class that schools offer.

I’ve also been seeing a lot of talk about a program called SolidWorks being extremely popular in the world of mechanical drafting, and as this is probably the area I’m most interested in (and is also probably the most prevalent in this city) that will probably be one to keep my eye on as I advance in my learning. (Interestingly, this $5000 (!!!) program is made by the same company that makes DraftSight, the freebie AutoCad clone I’m currently using to learn on).

With my wedding now being only two months away, and being on continuous overtime at work, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to dive into this, but I’ve started and hopefully I’ll be able to pick up speed soon.

(I have to admit, SolidWorks does look pretty damned cool).

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