The One Thing They Can't Teach You At Univeristy

I absolutely 100% knew everything when I left college at the ripe old age of 19

I was going to be a manager.

Make as much as my dad was by the time I was 21.

I had an education in business and finance so I knew I'd be great at leading people.

Then I got a job in a piston ring factory.

There was this process called lapping in which 20 piston rings would be placed in a thick cast iron pot (shaped like a thick tube) so they could be pushed up and down inside the pot by a machine.

This simulated how the rings would act under pressure in the car piston.

My job was to then check the rings after the lapping process with a variety of tests.

My mentor/trainer told me the thing holding the rings in this pot were called lapping weights.

I had no reason to disbelieve him.

So a day or two later my trainer asked me to go and ask the guy in charge of the lapping machine for a long weight for lapping.

I went over and asked him.

The guy nodded as if he were asked this all the time.

"Just wait there mate" he told me with a straight face.

A long weight for lapping.

A long weight.

I did.


A long time.

It took me ten minutes of my colleagues trying to hide their laughter from me before the penny dropped.

I also fell for the left handed spanner.

Can you get me a left handed spanner from the store room?

Just ask Dougie.

He will sort you out.

Dougie (aka Mr Grumpy) wasn't sympathetic when I asked him.

Lots of expletives about stop wasting his effing time.


I was so green you would miss me walking through a field of grass.

That's the thing about experience.

When you have none and you're 19 and you've believe you know it all.

You actually know nothing (Jon Snow!).

I had a long way to go before I'd be managing any teams.

Fast forward 5 years and I was leading a team of technicians.

I'd also come to learn that the jokes were part of the deal for all new starters.

It wasn't personal.


It's irreplaceable.

I know now another 20 odd years on that you never stop learning and everyone starts with no experience at all.

Everyone has to be taught the systems that through years of trial and error have become standards.

That's why I'm now trying to pass on the systems I've learned and developed over the past 25 years to get value out of data.

Data for me started in that factory as it was there I learned about testing, measuring, standard deviations, statistical analysis and much more.

I didn't know it then but the early grounding I had with that would serve me extremely well later on when I got into digital marketing and analytics.

The point I'm getting at is learning comes in many forms but it's a lifelong process that doesn't end with a degree or some college certificate.

Experience is much more useful.

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