When you’re new to your career, your role, or even new to the industry, the pressure can be immense. Then you find yourself at a trade show representing your company, tasked with bringing information back to your organization. But take heart, at least you’re not Harrison “Jack” Schmitt. Jack really understood pressure.
Schmitt is a retired NASA astronaut from the Apollo era but let me take a step back and explain some of the history. The U.S. space program, as you may recall, went to the moon with a science-based agenda; astronauts brought back lunar samples to study. But the earliest astronauts, understandably, weren’t scientists; they were pilots with elite military backgrounds, so their skill sets were skewed toward successfully operating the complex equipment to get there and back safely with a moonrock payload. At first, it seemed, everyone was willing to sacrifice the quality of the samples for the sake of having any samples at all.
By the time NASA got to the Apollo 15 mission, the astronaut crews were becoming more comfortable with the flight systems. They weren’t any simpler, but there was now a sizeable body of knowledge to share regarding how the Apollo spacecraft actually performed. The flying of Apollo seemed to become almost, well, routine.This was fortunate because scientists started exerting greater pressure on the astronauts to bring back something greater than they had. It wasn’t enough to simply come home safe with a bag of gravel; now the science community demanded that the astronauts slake their thirst for knowledge about the moon’s origins. Not just any rock could do that, after all. This is where we circle back to Schmitt.
Jack Schmitt started as a trained geologist who followed test pilots into the astronaut program. He was scheduled to fly the Apollo 18 mission but was moved up to the Apollo 17 crew instead. There were a variety of reasons that shifted Schmitt to the earlier mission. One of them, ostensibly, was as a response to the call for more expertise in science.
In HBO’s 1998 mini-series, “From the Earth to the Moon,” Schmitt plays a prominent role in the episode titled, “Galileo Was Right.” The story follows Schmitt’s role influencing Lee Silver, a Caltech geology professor, to train the astronauts in how to spot scientifically interesting rock samples. Thanks to this training, the Apollo 15 crew was able to identify and return with a rock more than four billion years old. This rock has been dubbed the “Genesis Rock” and has contributed immensely to our understanding of the moon’s geology.
Can you imagine the pressure that was put on Schmitt to train and prepare the astronauts to get the right kind of rocks? This wasn’t just a trip across town. It was a trip to the moon and all that entails. Now that’s pressure to get it right.
Pressure comes in many different forms. Pressure to meet expectations is immense. Your new role may even feel as pressure-filled as attending a trade show for the first time, especially when you have to report back to your team, department, or company.
What are the expectations you’ve been tasked with? How will your company take what you’ve brought back and advance your knowledge and technical knowhow? How can you be like Jack Schmitt, and mentor other teams based on what you learned?
We took that idea to heart while planning the February issue of SMT007 Magazine. We wondered, “I’ve gone to the show (or conference), so now what? Where do I go from here?” In this issue, you’ll find a roadmap of key steps to take after the show. We offer some practical tips to effect real change armed with conference information.
Some highlights: Barry Matties discusses how to make the most of your post-show activities; Dan Beaulieu offers 10 key tips for what to do while you’re at the show to ensure you have what you need. We also look a little deeper into an equipment manufacturer’s perspective in our interview with Koh Young. In another interview with Alpha Circuit, we investigate what goes into building out a greenfield facility. Even if your post-show shopping endeavor is for a single piece of equipment, it’s the greenfield buildouts like Alpha’s and Rocket EMS’s that have figured out what to do. Finally, Kris Moyer provides guidance on how best to share the knowledge you picked up with others.
And, as a supplemental idea, I suggest downloading Happy Holden’s book, 24 Essential Skills for Engineers. Happy shares soft skills to help you be effective in communicating and/or persuading once you’re back in the office.
On our cover, we showcase a mass of LEGO® Bricks because it represents the pieces of separate bits of information gleaned from networking with other industry professionals that we must then assemble into a cohesive strategy afterward. For us engineer types, the compulsion to make order out of those bricks is very real. Turning your conference and trade show knowledge into action in the factory should feel just the same. I’m sure Harrison Schmitt would understand.
This column appeared in the February 2023 issue of SMT007 Magazine.