Boyd Logo

e-mail me:
Website news Page

My Big Screw Ups at Work

As hard as it may be to believe, I've made some big screw ups in my employment at IBM. There are a couple that I sometimes wake up at night and lay in bed feeling bad about. The first one, happened in 1979, nearly 30 years ago, and I still wake up once in a while with feelings of guilt and failure. There's no way to make it right (there wasn't really at that time), so you'd think I'd get over it, but I haven't.


I worked in Jet Pilot engineering for two years and hated most of it. It was BORING! I was still working on the same project I got the day I started.. in fact that was what I screwed up. I was assigned the task of finding a better design for the microscope that we provide as part of the customer engineer's service tools. It was used to adjust the ink stream. You looked through the microscope while adjusting a potentiometer to get the ink drop spacing just right.

The microscope was an optical tube in this injection molded housing with a thumbscrew to run it up and down. The thumbscrew thing slipped and just wasn't very positive in the way it worked. So I designed this rubber bushing that went on the thumbscrew shaft so that it would have more positive traction when running against the scope tube. Then I had to modify the housing so that the rubber bushing could be gotten into the housing and so that the center of the thumbscrew shaft would be moved back to allow for the extra diameter of the rubber roller.

Well, when I calculated the distance the shaft had to be offset, I screwed up, and had it too far back so that the rubber roller/bushing didn't even engage the scope tube. I realize I made the error. At the same time, I had requested a transfer to facilities engineering and had been transferred. I'd only been in the new job a couple of weeks when my new boss came to me and said my previous boss, Tom Watkins wanted me to come over and help them with a little project. I went back to Jet Pilot and saw Tom. He told me he wanted me to check the dimensions on this one drawing... the one that was screwed up. I knew that we had ordered 3000 of these new parts ( that was like 10 year's supply, but it was the minimum we could order and we determined that we needed the improved parts). So when I checked through the dimensions, I realized the error. I took the drawing back to Tom. He asked me if I had checked the dimensions. I said yes. He said, OK, and I said OK, and I went back to my new job. I still don't know what to think of Tom's making me aware of this error. As I said, I still feel terrible about it, and I guess that's what he wanted.

About 1989

I had a bunch of guys from a local business into the IBM office to give them a demo of some engineering software. I went to Subway to get them sandwiches for lunch. The guy that was making the sandwiches at Subway, cut his thumb with a knife and was bleeding. He got another guy there to finish up the sandwiches.
When I got back to the IBM office, I told the customers what happened and that they might want to look for blood on their sandwiches. After that, no one wanted to eat their sandwich. Some did, some didn't. What a stupid thing to say. I should have just kept my mouth shut, or not purchased the sandwiches.

Lesser Screw Ups.

One time, I got screwed up on a meeting in Cleveland. I drove to Cleveland, couldn't find the meeting, got depressed and took route 42 home.. A long slow drive that took most of the afternoon. I felt better by the time I got home.

One time I forgot to cancel a hotel reservation and had to pay for it. I think I just recorded some additional mileage that month to pay for it. I don't remember for certain. I know I didn't pay for it out of my pocket. (the customer meeting was cancelled just a day or so before the meeting and I was really, really busy at the time and just forgot to cancel the reservation. I did it one other time, but talked the hotel into dropping the charge.. I was staying there a week later).

I did forget a customer meeting one time.. only once. I realized it the next day and called and apologized.