The Very Best & Worst Mentor Ever

The other night I cooked dinner for BF & GF.  They’re both younger and just starting in their careers.  I hate to say it, but I’m old.  I’ve been doing the whole career thing for more than a decade, while I’m not yet 40, I’m old.  I feel it.

The conversation shifted to how work was going.  Everyone went around the table and discussed their jobs, and how much they quasi liked them, I found myself saying:

Ehh… It’s a job. The checks haven’t bounced. What more can I ask for?

Right after that, I caught myself.  I apologized profusely.

I’m sorry, I shouldn’t talk like that.  You guys are just starting out, you need to be energetic and driven.  You shouldn’t be coasting.  You should be looking to advance and make the most of your careers.  Even if they are short since you’re following the FI path.

They’re younger, they look up to me (possibly?).  I’m their mentor (maybe?), I shouldn’t talk like that in front of them.  Regardless of how true it may be.

It got me thinking:

Why the hell am I so cynical?

I mean I have a job that other people would kill for.  I get paid a handsome wage to sit in an air-conditioned office and type non-sense into a computer.  It sure beats mining for coal or picking bananas or any other multitude of things I could be doing.

My Mentor

Imagine Mr. Wow fresh out of college, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to change the world.  My engineering degree (mechanical, not software) in hand as I go bounding into the office, ready to design the next great feat of human ingenuity.

I graduated on a Thursday.  The following Monday, I was in the office.  Red lining drawings, updating seismic calculations, you know, being an engineer.

Then, two weeks in, the guy sitting in front of me in the bull pen leans back from his computer,

Well, I’m outta here!
Wait, what do you mean?
I’ve never had a meeting with those three folks in my life.  I’m getting laid off.

Sure enough, after that meeting he was escorted into our bull pen, where he grabbed his bag and then he was walked out the door.  I was shocked, I had been working for 2 weeks.  I sheepishly asked everyone in our bull pen:

What is he going to do?

They just looked at me and replied:

He’s gonna go collect unemployment and enjoy his summer break!  We’re the idiots stuck here!

A month later, another round of layoffs, more guys going out on summer break.  As a new grad, I was cheap.  I kept making the cut.

Through all this, I befriended a salty old engineer, we’ll call him Fred.  He was in his mid 70’s while I was 23.

I don’t know what he saw in me, but Fred saw something.  We would talk to each other constantly.  We would go to lunch often.  We got to the point where we were going ballroom dancing on double dates, and he would even come watch the lacrosse team that I coached.

From all the time we spent together, I learned tons of things.  But there are certain stories that stand out to me that I wanted to share.

Per Diem

Per Diem is a benefit that temporary employees (job shoppers in the engineering world) get from the government.  It basically says that if you are at a temporary job for under a year and the job far from your house, up to half of your salary is tax free.

So anyway, Fred was working with us for a year.  They came in to tell him:

Hey Fred, your per diem is up.  We can’t pay you that any more.

What does he do?  He stands up from his desk, and walks out the door.  Didn’t even turn off his computer.  They asked where he was going, he says:

I’m not working here unless you pay me per diem.

And like that, he walked. It was 10 in the morning on a Tuesday.

The next day I come into the office startled to see Fred sitting at his desk.  At lunch, I asked him what happened.  As it turns out, they offered to pay him enough to make up the per diem payments he was losing.  But that wasn’t good enough, so he asked for more…  They gave it to him.

Lesson #1: Know your worth.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, then ask for more.

The Pay Check

We had a new job shopper start on a Monday.  The entire morning he was getting his stuff set up, he was getting his log-ins for his computer, he was meeting everyone.  But strangely he was on the phone an awful lot for a new employee.  He had never been there before, who exactly could he be talking to all morning?  The guy left for lunch and never came back.

I looked at Fred.

What happened?  Where’d he go?

Fred made a phone call to his temp agency.  Turns out the guy had gotten another offer to do the same job for $.50 more an hour down the street.  So he left, he was negotiating the new pay the entire morning.

I was kind of bewildered.  I couldn’t believe it.  But, Fred looked me square in the eye:

Isn’t there something else you would rather be doing today?  You could be out with your friends, or fishing or coaching lacrosse, but no you’re here, stuck in this office making them rich. (pointing to the executive suites) The only reason you are in this office is for the check.  Don’t let anyone talk to you about fulfillment, friends, and all that other garbage they try to feed you.  You come to work for a check, and that’s it, don’t you ever forget it.  They’ll throw you out in a second.  So, if someone down the street is going to offer you $0.25 more an hour, you take it and you never look back.

Lesson #2: Jobs are about money. Period. They’re a means to an end.  They don’t define you.


As a job shopper, Fred would make 1.5x his hourly wage for any hours he put in over 40/week.  Now mind you, he wasn’t working at the grocery store for $8/hr.  He was a highly paid engineer with a specialty in seismic safety specs for nuclear reactors.

One day, the head of engineering comes by and tells him that he needs this calculation done by the end of the following week.  Well, Fred looks at him and says,

I’m gonna need a lot of over time for that.

It was approved.

Oddly, two days later I walk into his cube, and he’s reading the news on his computer.  Looks up and says,

Hey, let’s grab lunch.

Again, my naivete set in,

How do you have time, aren’t you slammed getting this calc out?

In his aged wisdom he replies:

Oh I just tell them that, so they pay me OT.  I have been doing this for so long, I have all the calc’s set up into excel sheets.  I just have to fill out the cells, then write up a little synopsis.  I even scan the specs into the spread sheet, so I have all the reference material right there.  That way I  don’t have to track it down again.  Besides, if I finish them fast they won’t pay me overtime and they’ll just give me more calcs to do.  Anyway, whatcha hungry for?

Sure enough, he would have the calc done in two days, while charging the company two weeks worth of over time.  He basically made it so that his time would be covered if he ever had to update the reference material or build an entirely new spreadsheet.  Once he finished a new one, he would burn it onto a CD and add it to the collection for the future.

Lesson #3: Work smarter not harder.  The only reward for hard work is more work.

Was he a good or bad mentor?

You could argue these are bad lessons for a kid straight out of college.  Maybe I would be better off with some one that told me jobs are supposed to fill some intrinsic need.  Maybe I would have been better off not watching wave after wave of layoffs within my first months of employment.  For better or worse, he had such an impact on my life.

Your first experience with things tends to shape your outlook on them for the rest of your life.  I mean think about it.  Everyone has that one booze they drank to much of and can’t stand the smell of anymore. (Rum, urgh!!!)  I look at my career and attitude towards work, and I can’t help but see a lot of Fred’s influence.

To this day, I keep nothing at work. I can pack my bag and walk out the door in 10 minutes without a trace.  No pictures, no decorations, nothing.  Lesson #4, perhaps?

That doesn’t mean that I’m lazy, and it doesn’t mean that I am not engaged.  It also doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy work, per se.

But, it does mean that I fully believe that a job doesn’t define who I am as a person, or the value that I bring to the table.  It’s just what it is, a job… for a check.

That sure was a crazy place. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.  You know… you never remember or talk about the times everything went right, do you?

I wonder what good ole Fred is up to these days…

Do you have a mentor?  Or a crazy employment story?


  • Tonya@Bugetet abd the Beach January 10, 2018 at 6:05 am

    I have to be careful what I say because big brother is probably watching, but yeah, I think times REALLY changed after the recession. Before it does seem there there was some idea of loyalty on both sides, but now it really doesn’t feel that way. Like you, I keep very little at work. It’s kind of sad that that’s what it’s become. I think the advice you got is both good AND bad. There is some level of apathy to it, but I get why too. The rest of the comment I would want to write we can discuss in person to protect the non-innocent. lol
    Tonya@Bugetet abd the Beach recently posted…Your FIRE Card is Revoked!

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 7:17 am

      I completely agree, it’s both good and bad to get that kind of advice early in life. But I really think it’s impacted the way I look at my career and jobs in general. They come and go, there are higher paid and lower paid, but in the end it’s a job.

      Best of luck with all that!

  • DocG January 10, 2018 at 6:35 am

    My g-d this is a great post. Young people everywhere should see this. Know you worth!
    DocG recently posted…A Confession

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 7:20 am

      I do feel like that’s a good lesson. Some of the other ones not so much, but they all came from the same old guy. That simple idea has really helped through my career. I remember watching that happen and I was surprised to see him back the next day, with substantially more money. I’ve learned over time it’s all about leverage, and sometimes that can backfire, but if you know the situation, you can really leverage yourself into a good spot.

  • wendy January 10, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Definitely agree on the ‘know your worth’, though the leverage may be a bit different outside of high demand tech careers.
    I look at it as a ‘no fear’ approach to career… if you know your worth, the worse they can do is fire you. If you’ve internalized that and know what you’d do if that happens (ideally you’ve saved up your Efund already), and made your plans, then you can actually be relaxed about doing good work, speaking up about some of the stupid things, etc. Management has a lot harder time brow beating you if you’re not intimidated & have the confidence to walk out the door.

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:49 pm

      This is something that’s gotten worse (better?) as time has gone on and our cash stash has grown. It’s very interesting… Imagine having this attitude all the way through your career and now you really have no fear since it doesn’t matter at all. It’s a little weird.

      Negotiating my most current job was interesting, I think an exact quote was, “I don’t need this job, I’m happy staying home. So if you want me to come in there, you’re gonna pay me what I want.” The hiring manager was taken back a little, because I don’t think they get that kind of response often.

      There maybe be more leverage in tech careers, but the principle is the same, know your worth and stick to it. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

  • FIRECracker January 10, 2018 at 9:20 am

    What an interesting mentor you had! Back when I was in college, my 2nd internship/co-op job had me walking in on the first day to find out that my boss had been let go. So being the green little 21 year old that I was, I immediately thought my internship was going to get cut short. As it turns out, I was too cheap to let go, so they moved me to another team and kept me on for the duration of the term. After that, I realize no job is really stable. But since I didn’t have a Fred around to teach me about “knowing my worth”, I made the stupid mistake of not negotiating a proper salary for my first 6 month contract after college, thinking I was just lucky to get a job. Good thing I didn’t make that stupid mistake again when I got my full time job afterwards. But it’s definitely a mistake a lot of people make.

    Great story!
    FIRECracker recently posted…How to Stay in Europe for More Than 90 days

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:42 pm

      I don’t know if I was lucky to have him mentoring me or not. He did make me super cynical and a little jaded. But on the flip side, he didn’t sugar coat shit. He laid it out there like it was. And I don’t know if I needed that or not, but he certainly wasn’t lying about any of it, at least in my experience.

      There are so many more stories about him and that place. It’s crazy to think about now. I look back on it fondly now, where at the time I thought it was nuts. I guess memories do that to us.

      I’m glad that you finally learned the ropes… it’s obviously served you well. 🙂

  • Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto January 10, 2018 at 10:15 am

    Junior Lunceford was his name. I was 22, he was 70. An old black guy, handled complaints in the customer service group I was in. Mostly slept (had a great knack for making it look like he was looking at his old greenscreen computer when we was, in reality, napping).

    That old Dude was COOL. Even at 70, the guy just had cool swagging all over him. Reeeeelaxed. He played Jazz saxophone in some of the old clubs in that gritty, industrial city where I started my career. Word was he was a bit of a legend, also played in Swing bands as early as his teens (he was born in 1915).

    All he cared about was that music. I wish I would have gone to see him play. Yup, Junior Lunceford. I’ll never forget that guy.
    Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto recently posted…Do You Want To Be Younger In 2018 Than In 2017?

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      Junior sounds just like Fred… although Fred was Asian, and into ball room dancing, not so much Jazz. But yeah, Fred did not give an F about anything. It was nuts, and to pal around with him and learn the ropes from him was something very different.

      Funny who has an impact on your life huh? Imagine… There’s someone out there that’s talking about that crazy old guy Fritz and how much impact he had on their life, interesting huh?

      • Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto January 11, 2018 at 5:47 am

        I just wish they were talking about how I’ve mastered the skill of sleeping while looking at a computer. I should have taken better notes during my time with Junior. Man, he could really pull that off (tho, in fairness, that “Head Jerk” when you walked into his cubicle and said his name was a Dead Giveaway.
        Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto recently posted…Do You Want To Be Younger In 2018 Than In 2017?

        • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:16 am

          I’ll tell you what… that is a skill they need to teach. Maybe that’s what you can start teaching once you’re done. Sleeping at your desk without falling over.

          It really does make you laugh doesn’t it? HAHA These folks are awesome to meet, and you never know where they come from!

  • Dads Dollars debts January 10, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Awesome story. I agree. Work is work. In fact my wife and I talked about me switching from my current job to a locums, as needed, gig. So yeah work is work. I also have very little here. Never want to make it so cozy that I want to stay long term.

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:36 pm

      It’s interesting that you agree, given your profession. I feel like that’s one that is especially subject to the fulfillment and altruistic argument. I also think for you guys, you have to some separation. That’s what I’m learning from the Mrs.

      In the end though… it’s still a job, for a check. if you really enjoy it, you can continue to make a difference in many ways.

      • Dads Dollars Debts January 10, 2018 at 9:42 pm

        Its a good job for sure. But a job. It used to be more of a profession but with more metrics, clicks, and regulations it is changing quickly.

        • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:55 pm

          I can understand that. The grass is always greener, right? How’s that saying go? No matter how great the job is, someone wakes up in the morning and says, “Ah shit… it’s Monday.. back to work”. Hedonic adaptation?

          • Dads Dollars Debts January 10, 2018 at 10:20 pm

            Ah, different than hedonic treadmill. I like it indeed.

          • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:06 am

            Well yeah even the stealth bomber pilot gets up in the morning sometimes and doesn’t want to go to work. But how cool of a job would that be?

  • Mr. PIE January 10, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    For me, a couple of decades working tells me that it is the people you remember and how they treat you. Not the specific role or responsibilities.

    Always treat people fairly on the way up as you may well need their help on the way down!

    When I retire in 4 months, I hope to be remembered by my colleagues as someone who offered help, had a good heart and didn’t take himself too seriously.

    And if they want to give me a gold star for being handsome, smart, witty, I’ll take that too….(wink, wink)
    Mr. PIE recently posted…PIE Tunes: An Awesome Festive Medley to Warm your Savings World by the Yuletide FIRE

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      This is exactly why I think he had such an impact on me. There were other folks there, and I remember them vaguely, but he took an interest in me, for better or worse.

      I try my best to give everyone respect, and treat them with kindness and help them where I can. I can only hope that the folks that I’ve had working for me, or with me that are younger take good lessons. I’m sure, give them 10 years, when they’re writing a bad PF blog, They’ll be questioning whether or not I was a good mentor.

      I’m sure you did just fine BTW. At least from my experience with you!!

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher January 10, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Omg, can I just say that I adore Fred? I think it’s valuable to hear the honest truth behind work. Too often us young’n’s fall for the “family at work” thing and work for peanuts. Fred’s right that work is about earning money; if you can find fulfillment at work, great, but at the end of the day it’s about business.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…A Review of Ladder

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:31 pm

      He is awesome. We also went ball room dancing… HAHAHA. What a way for a 23 year old and a 74 year old to bond, LOL. It’s really amazing that all these years, I still vividly remember things that he told me and things that he did. There were others as well. it was a hilarious place. All the guys would have clip on ties in their desk, so if there was a board meeting and they were supposed to wear a tie, they had one at the ready. HA

      • Mrs. Picky Pincher January 11, 2018 at 1:09 pm

        I LOVE that. I’m a remote worker and I do the exact same thing with suit jackets!
        Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…A Review of Ladder

        • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:42 pm

          I used to laugh every morning I walked in and there were chairs set up in the lobby. All the guys around me would be like, “SH!t, get out the ties.” And they would all open their top drawer and clip their ties onto their polo shirts. It was hilarious, just like Office Space. HAHA

  • Accidental FIRE January 10, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    Fred is a unique cat. Great post.

    I’ve had some great mentors and some so-so one’s. I’ve also had some great times in my career where I loved my job and loved going in every day. I can’t say it defined me, but it was awesome. Of course that didn’t last, and I drifted around from “my job is ok I guess” to periods of “I can’t go there again tomorrow”.

    I’m glad that I don’t need a job anymore 🙂

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:28 pm

      He certainly is, I can only imagine he’s at the very least retired… hopefully still alive, I might actually try to track him down since I’ve been thinking about him so much writing this.

      I’m the exact same way. There were times when I was super engaged, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that people just aren’t designed to sit in a cube and type on a computer. I do actually enjoy the work, when I’m doing it for myself, or my wife.

  • Ron Cameron January 10, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Work is a funny thing in the FIRE community. It’s usually work people don’t especially like for only as long as is absolutely necessary. I get the whole “work is just work” thing, but I’m a big fan of finding work that you really enjoy. If you’re willing to go down the street for a $.50 raise, you probably haven’t found that place yet! Looking back at my eleven years in retail I can tell you it was quite fulfilling, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Of course, I’ve always applied myself 100% at work. That may be more a sign that I found “a good fit” than so much my character. It’d be hard to give a real 100% at a place that sucked to be at.

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:13 pm

      yeah, work certainly is a funny thing in this community. It really is a double edged sword, it allows you to make these things happen, but it’s something you may or may not be interested in doing.

      Well, I guess the question then becomes, is it the work you truly enjoy or is it the company and the community you developed? Because if it’s truly the work, why wouldn’t you take more money for the exact same thing regardless of the company???

  • FullTimeFinance January 10, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    Count me as one of those odd ducks who likes is work. If I didn’t I’d probably pack my bag up and go find something else. It keeps me grounded and gives me a sense of purpose. It helps that the company I work for gives me enough leash that I work from home and take off essentially when I choose. Its all about finding the right fit imho. I do agree though that loyalty doesn’t exist. I have no illusion if I didn’t have the leverage I do have and the companies numbers were bad I’d be gone.
    FullTimeFinance recently posted…Making Hay While the Sun Shines

    • Mr WoW January 10, 2018 at 9:10 pm

      I don’t know that you’re an odd duck. I actually enjoy my work. I just really keep in the back of my head, I am replaceable, as much as they are. It’s one of those things where we both have to be happy with the relationship.

      I fully agree with the sense of purpose as well. That is nice, and I’ve gravitated toward a little more of that. I still have a little of Fred in me though. But then again, maybe I haven’t found that one true calling?

  • Team CF January 11, 2018 at 5:30 am

    Well Fred did know how to play the game in his favor! You can debate the ethics of it all, but at the end of the day he was right about that paycheck! Very cool story actually.
    I had mentors, but never one that told a story that would stick like this one. I did meet a guy at Uni who also knew the system well. He noted that you need to produce work at the right time (i.e. work smart) and hit your deadlines. The remainder of the time you can read a book or browse the web. The scary thing is, he was right as I’m doing the same right now, and it works! (this reply was proudly sponsored by my employer 😉 )
    Team CF recently posted…BENL FIRE Meetup – Leuven Edition

    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:13 am

      Playing the game is definitely his strong suit. And yes, you can debate the ethics of it. But, the facts remain that after ~10 years of working, I’ve learned that he was right. A job is all about a paycheck, a hobby is what you enjoy. But since it’s all about the paycheck, you have to maximize the money you get for the life force you lose.

      So maybe I’m better off since he told me at the beginning, so I didn’t have to learn it the hard way.

      Glad to see you are hard at work!! LOL

  • Sean January 11, 2018 at 9:26 am

    I am glad to realize you are a fellow Mechanical Engineer on the FIRE path! Most of the bloggers out there are computer engineers, so it’s refreshing to see someone else in my particular niche.

    Do you have any insights into leveraging a Mechanical Engineering degree for a side hustle in retirement? It seems a little more difficult to work remotely than for those with a computer engineering degree.

    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 8:00 pm

      So, unfortunately, I started out as an ME, then I shifted and went to business school and now am in software and strategic analysis.

      That being said, you might be able to do some sort of remote drafting? or red-lining? Don’t know if you’re a PE, but there are always firms that need reviews and sign offs from a PE when they don’t have one on staff. Food for thought? It’s been a while since I was a ME. Also, my father-in-law wrote a book on non-linear system vibrations that he wants me to proof read and edit… I can get you a copy of that?? HA

      I will say this, I’m super glad I have that degree in my back pocket. It really did teach about everything, and most importantly it taught me how to think and problem solve, which is way more valuable than stress and strain diagrams and carnot cycles? I think I still have some of the vocab?

  • Jason@WinningPersonalFinance January 11, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Fantastic post. Not sure if he was a good or bad mentor. Probably both. The lesson to look out for yourself is wise. His way of scamming overtime might have been criminal, I don’t suggest you do that one.
    Jason@WinningPersonalFinance recently posted…3 Steps to Improve Your (Financial) Health In 2018

    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      Yeah well. That’s part of why I think he might have been bad as well as good.

      I don’t think it’s so much criminal as it was unethical. I mean technically he was doing the work he was paid for.

  • Mr. Groovy January 11, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    For the first 20 years of my professional career, I worked for government. And in my little corner of bureaucracy, you practically had to murder someone to get fired. And not once did we ever have layoffs or salary freezes. Anyway, I relocated to Charlotte, got a job in the private sector, and the first month I’m there, the company loses a federal contract and all 100+ people on that contract are shown the door at lunch. Talk about culture shock. Anyway, that and a few other incidents taught me that I was very expendable. I then went about automating and programming the shit out of my job. And thank God that I did. Around 2012, the suits decided to close down the Charlotte office and move all the operations performed there to Dallas. The only problem was that no one knew how the hell I did my job. So the suits had no choice but to allow me to work remotely. Haha. It took the programmers in Dallas three years to figure out what I did and take over my tasks. Well, those are some of my pathetic war stories. Great post, my friend.

    P.S. Fred wasn’t a textbook employee, but he taught you a lot of valuable lessons. We could all use a Fred in our work lives.

    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:40 pm

      I guess there’s some value in creating some stuff that no one else knows how it works. You lock yourself in. HA.

      And you know, he might not have been a text book employee, but I don’t know that any of us are. And I as I’ve aged I’ve actually come to appreciate the honesty that he shared with me. These are only a few things that he taught me. Some where even crazier. I don’t know if it’s the best thing to teach a kid fresh out of school, but you know… I’ll take it!

  • Joe January 11, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    My old boss was let go a few days before Christmas in 2010. He asked to stay a few more days so he could get the year end bonus and they just escorted him out. That stuck with me and I knew everyone was expendable. The corporate environment is all about money and you have to play politic. I’m so glad I’m not in that environment anymore.
    Joe recently posted…I’m taking on Warren Buffett’s Million Dollar Bet

    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:37 pm

      Yeah, I can’t wait to not have to play around with it. It’s really unfortunate that so many folks have to deal with all that. I am anxiously awaiting my exit. It’s going to be so nice.

  • Steveark January 13, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    I have to say I wouldn’t take Fred’s advice on anything. Deliberate overtime is stealing and the way to serious pay is not through paltry per diem’s, it is through major increases in responsibility. I thought work was an awesome hobby and while I did eventually get tired of it and left the 9 to 5, for decades it was one of my life’s greatest thrills! I mean yeah, it is a means to make money but why not have a blast at the same time?

    • Mr WoW January 13, 2018 at 6:10 pm

      I understand the concerns, but that’s where the caveat of good/bad comes into play.

      I don’t know that I would consider it stealing any more than I would consider going to the bathroom while on the clock or getting coffee while on the clock stealing. As a contractor, you are allowed to provide an estimate of time that you think it will take to do your job. If the company agrees to pay that and you get it done under-budget and before the schedule, the rest is profit for you. That’s the exact way the company treated it’s contracts with the DOE.

      Yes there are ways to increase your income through additional responsibility, but if you aren’t afforded the opportunity, or aren’t interested in giving up more of your day/life to a company, then there are ways to get more money without going that route.

      It’s great that you enjoyed your job and your career, unfortunately I think you are in the very small minority. Most people just don’t find it fulfilling to be in a corporate job. It’s very, very few that ever make it to the top, or actually enjoy it. I’m thrilled that you were one of them. Congrats!

  • Steveark January 13, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    Ok, points taken, I was a unicorn of sorts. Easy to judge someone when I haven’t been in their shoes. My apology. I get very judgy sometimes, or cranky maybe in my case.

    • Mr WoW January 13, 2018 at 8:06 pm

      No apology needed. It’s great to have an open discussion with dissenting opinions. And yes, there’s a grey area in some of the lessons, that’s a big part of why I wanted to write this.

  • Mr. SSC January 15, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Fred sounds great! In the first year of my career in O&G, there was a brief downturn where oil went from ~$144/barrel, to just over $30/barrel. My company let a lot of people go and it made me realize I was expendable. I found my best pay raise by leaving my old megacorp and coming to my new company. I got a healthy sign on bonus, 30% base salary increase, my bonus target doubled, and I got LTI’s (long term incentives. Friggin’ awesome!

    My first day or 2 there my mentor came in and wrote DGAFIAPTSA on my whiteboard. I asked what that meant and he said, “Don’t Give A Fuck, It All Pays The Same Anyhow”., followed up with, “You’ve been around right? You know how this works, get me if you need anything, otherwise, just do your job and stay out of the political shit around here and you’ll be fine.” Truer words were never spoken. 🙂 3.5 yrs later, and I still love it here, even if there is politics around. I just remind myself and everyone else, “It’s just work, don’t take it so personal.”
    Mr. SSC recently posted…Our 2017 Spending: What a Dumpster Fire!

    • Mr WoW January 15, 2018 at 9:24 am

      “Don’t Give A Fuck, It All Pays The Same Anyhow” Truer words haven’t been spoken… LOL! What great advice! Goes right along with another great quote from Fred: “Have the checks bounced yet? No? Good, then shut up and keep cashing them!”

      Again, I don’t know if this is the way a mentor should talk to a mentee. Shouldn’t they be building you up about some sort of intrinsic value in the job? It provides fulfillment, etc?

      What great lessons to learn your first couple of years in the work force!

  • freddy smidlap January 16, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    i had this same guy but his name was ray J. he was a short bald guy a year from retirement and i was a 25 year old chemist with hair down to the middle of my back. can’t even believe they hired me. we shared a room in an r+d lab and this dude was fearless. he had made major contributions over the years like getting patents and such for commercial resins but never got the associated pay raises. every time somebody would recycle some bullshit assignment he would shout “we already did that work 10 years ago! here’s the notebook with the results. tell ’em you’re done and then tell ’em they’re assholes.” used to go to the horse races with him and his wife and listen to horse racing on the radio every day during august.

    and one last lesson: HR is not your friend. i’m glad you wrote this post.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…I Made a Model Bulletproof Portfolio

    • Mr WoW January 17, 2018 at 5:44 pm

      Sounds like a good guy! We all need these folks in our lives. It helps keep you grounded. Also helps with understanding the nitty gritty of how the world actually works.

  • Philo February 12, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    I loved this story! Fred had me laughing my ass off.

    I was really interested in going back for an engineering degree a few years ago. Unfortunately, all of the California State schools said “hell no,” since I have a BA already. Too bad. What sort of schooling does one need for the career you ended up in? I’d love to be able to work from home occasionally.

    • Mr WoW February 12, 2018 at 9:03 pm

      Fred was awesome. He really did teach me a lot. Really fantastic guy. Sometimes I wonder if he ever knew how much he really changed my life. I guess that’s just one of those things, you’ll never really know who you impact, until it happens. And even then it’s a rare bunch that actually find out.

      I kind of backed my way into my current career. I ended up as a business analyst after business school and all the coding stuff is self taught. Now, I do a lot of coding and statistical analysis. You could always look into some of the online course providers, uDemy, or Coursera are good. Look for anything with Web Analytics or Data Science. I’d say concentrate on SQL & Python. Those are the biggest ones in the Data field right now. You’ll hear stuff about Spark & Hadoop, but really that’s for a select few and super cutting edge stuff at the moment.

  • Always Be Interviewing - Fiery Millennials February 19, 2019 at 5:38 am

    […] can­non when it comes to my career. I like to chalk it up to the fact that I had an uncon­ven­tion­al men­tor. But, some could just say that I’m a lit­tle whacked out of my […]


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