There are actually two people who helped open doors into my technical world. The first was a good friend of mine. I used to sit in his garage and watch him work on his car. At the time he was rebuilding his automatic transmission. Now this is a man who does not need a book or training. He is one of those people born with technical ability. He was also building his own computer from scratch. It had a huge disk to store data. This was back in 1977. I did not like working at fast-food places and he suggested that I learn how to solder. So he taught me how to flow the solder and the difference between a cold solder joint and a perfect one. He taught me how to apply the iron and then add the solder. Then he helped me get a job where he worked. They showed us a training video and then tested our soldering. I ended up being responsible for repairing everyone else???s mistakes because I was so good and fast.
The other person that recognized my potential was my supervisor at the next job that I landed. I started in an assembly position there too. However it was a different kind of soldering. I was using resistance irons as well as regular soldering irons. I was in charge of a very big project that needed someone with excellent soldering skills. I was making stripline filters that operated in L-Band. My supervisor was actually the Production Manager and also an RF Engineer who taught me the extremely important process of troubleshooting and the science of tuning an RF filter whether it was stripline or resonant cavity. He taught me how to record my findings and use them as a reference when approaching new projects. He taught me the theory of how a wave travels along mechanical devices. I learned about coupling, rejection, VSWR, insertion loss, phase, phase matching, harmonics, etc. I worked on every type of filter from S-Band to KU-Band and by the time that I left that company, I was the Lab Supervisor responsible for delegating the workload, training the technicians, and working with the engineers on proto-type filters. I worked on a device that went up in the first Space Shuttle. I learned so much and am very proud of the work that I have done. I guess you could say that I helped pave the way for other women RF Technicians
I must note that my friend who taught me to solder also helped me obtain another position where I learned how to build a PC and expel my fear of them. I had no problem running frequency generators, oscilloscopes, network analyzers, phase meters, etc. But I was scared to death of computers. So much so that I would spend hours re-typing and hand drafting professional test and assembly procedures for a Microwave Subsystem that I helped bring from design to production. My co-workers tried to get me to use the computer, but I was really worried that I might do something to break it because none of them knew how to use it either. However, once I actually built a few, set them up (prior to Windows being released), and started training myself on one that I built from slightly imperfect parts, the fear disappeared and I discovered that running a computer did not require any special scientific knowledge...just plain common sense seemed to suffice. By the time I left that position, I was the Production Manager and personally processed all customer service issues involving the repair and/or replacement of their systems and created failure trend analysis using the power of the first spreadsheets, Lotus 1-2-3, which I learned from using the ???Help??? menu. My friend performed all of the ROM programming, testing, and trouble shooting on the system motherboards. I have been building my own computers and repairing every one that came my way ever since but I have never gained the knowledge that I needed to make repairs to the circuitry such as replacing an IC to fix a problem with the motherboard.
I have worked in a number of fields as a result of my first acquaintances and some that I seem to have an aptitude for such as Fiber Optics, Airport and Obstruction Lighting, Office Management and Finance. My last long term position started out as an accounting position, but I always try to find a way to be more involved with improving processes and teaching others so that they feel more comfortable and become better workers. I was the Sales Analyst/Accounting Assistant/IT Technician. I became responsible for the client operations and repair, server back-up and maintenance, and technical advisor on purchases for repair and new systems. I would sometimes begin work at 4 a.m. in order to have the client PCs fully operational for customer service at their regular starting time. I worked weekends and holidays and I even worked from home through a VPN.
What I owe both of these men was that they recognized my talent and taught me exemplary work ethics that have taken me very far in my life. They were both calm and exhibited not only intelligence but acceptance of a lack of knowledge and taught me the importance of being able to recognize it and seek answers instead putting on a facade of being all knowing. I am now at a point where I either need to be learning on the job, solving problems, or creating so I am now working on my Computer Science and Programming degree. I worked during my young college years and there are many benefits to being a student as I was so fortunate to be in employment positions during that time. I am now in my early 50's and pursuing my dreams of becoming a scientist/engineer. I am looking forward to the day when I can sit down with a motherboard, or any other circuit board, and know exactly how to go about investigating the problem. I am able to troubleshoot circuits and components at higher frequencies because I understand the theory, but that is only part of today???s designs. I will be very happy when I have completed my bachelors. I am confident that I will then be fully schooled and able to make repairs have eluded me in the past.
Thank you for everything Steve Wallace and Richard Soto...I am forever grateful to you both for having the desire to teach me your expertise and introduce me to the engineering world. It is an exciting and rewarding path that I know you both are continuing to function in.
Lastly, a special thanks to Gene Schultz and Steve Prokop for their support and friendship during some of the best years of my life.