Startups, learning, life and happiness by Paul Brown

My Dad The Engineer

Like every young man my Dad is my hero.. He works the hardest, he has achieved amazing things and he has taught me so much.

My Dad is a technician on Heidelberg printing machinery and he is excellent at it, in fact he is so good he is considered by many to be one of the best in the industry - worldwide. Let me set the scene for you..

Being a printer’s engineer is intense, in fact it is I am sure one of the hardest jobs on the planet. To give you an idea a typical job for my Dad looks something like this:

  • Get up at 4am and drive from Rochdale to Spain - and don’t stop.
  • Have a quick rest and then get up and prepare for hell (hell being the installation of a pre-owned Heidelberg SM102-12P which looks something like this).
  • Heidelberg (the manufacturer) would allow around 5-6 weeks and about 6 men to complete this installation, my Dad is going to do it in 1 week and with just 2 men. The job will be carried out to an extremely high standard - comparable to Heidelberg.
  • The next few days consist of early mornings, late nights, and hard work which would test anyone. If your heart and soul is not 100% in it you will not survive past the second day. Most of the time you are only eating breakfast (if the hotel do it that early) and an evening meal - never lunch - you are too focused on what you are doing.
  • Every piece of the machine (there are hundreds) is heavy and will fight you mentally and physically. You will get taken to your limits and then pushed off the edge. Nothing will fit, nothing will work, it is a used machine and you are installing somebody else’s problems. Everything must work before you leave, my Dad owns his company and is 100% accountable for the £million+ machine he is installing. The machine must be levelled and built to micrometers.
  • After the job is finished and the machine is running and the company is happy my Dad will drive home and not stop until he gets home.
  • After a few weeks he will repeat this process and go on another adventure somewhere else in the world.

I know a lot about this process because I had the utter pleasure of working alongside my Dad for a few years and I believe it is this which sculpted me into the person I am today - blood, sweat and tears, I have been through the mill and I will never be the same again, here is a portion of what I have learnt from my Dad..

Hard work is rewarding. You have heard it before but it really is true. If you push past your limits 5 or 6 times in a day I can guarantee you that the sun will look brighter, your meals will taste better and your emotions will be heightened, you will wake up and feel alive.

Never give up. Ever. I don’t mean just keep going and try your best - that is self-limiting. I mean never give up performing at your highest level. Anyone can just turn up and get through the day. You could not do that for 1 minute if you worked with my Dad, every move you make counts, if 10% of you slacks for 1 minute the job is a failure - and failure is not an option.

Be the best in your field. My Dad is extremely skilful and talented. He has mastered his craft inside and out through years of pushing himself beyond his limits. His knowledge demands respect.

Believe in yourself. On one occasion a good friend of ours in Holland was in a crisis with his machine and Heidelberg would not help him, they said the repair is ‘impossible’. My Dad doesn’t understand impossible, in fact it is like a red rag to a bull - my Dad fixed the machine and defied everyone because he didn’t listen to the naysayers - he believed in himself.

Always keep learning and work the hardest on yourself. My Dad is ahead of his peers because he keeps learning. He understands the latest technology and continues to develop himself. In the middle of a job when everyone is tired, my Dad will be up one hour before everyone, sat at breakfast and researching/learning/working.

Respect your tools. This is a huge lesson to learn. Every day, no matter how hard the day was, no matter what time it was my Dad would take every single tool and clean it meticulously. He would never lose a single tool - he would never 'leave a man behind’. At the end of the day my Dad’s toolbox would look like a brand new set of tools, each one in its place - ready for tomorrow’s fight.

Be humble. My Dad is very humble. He will never say that he is one of the best. He is completely respectful of everyone he meets and especially of other engineers. He understands that everyone is working hard like he is, we all have our fights and our problems.

Make people smile. I have always said it - my Dad’s best attribute is his ability to make people happy. He doesn’t realise it but he makes everyone smile that he meets. Whether it is the girl at the McDonald's drive through or the owner of a huge international organisation - my Dad can speak to anyone on their level and make them smile. Everyone he passes in his life he leaves with a tiny bit of happiness - it’s pretty cool.

Every time I look in the mirror I see more of my Dad in me, he has built a powerful engine in me, I know it and I can feel it. That engine is revved and roaring and I am going to use it to work hard, never give up, be the best in my field, believe in myself, keep learning, be respectful of my tools, be humble and most importantly to make people smile..

Thanks Dad, nothing can stop me now.