BRUCE HOFER, AP CHAIRMAN & CO-FOUNDER
Notes from the Test Bench
Well, summer is here, the weather is excellent, and it is easy to become distracted at work. Especially when one is working to advance the state-of-the-art (which is pretty much what I do), frequent breaks and occasional distractions can actually prove beneficial in getting around “brain knots”. Invention and creativity also do not respect the calendar, or even time of the day. Indeed, some of my own best ideas have occurred during the middle of the night, or while sipping a glass of some good Oregon pinot noir.
All too often I hear about technology companies treating their engineers as a commodity--persons that can be hired or fired as circumstances require. The concept of actually nurturing professional talent, let alone allowing some free time for exploration, learning, or getting around brain-knots, seems to be sadly absent in many companies.
The future belongs to those that succeed in developing new ideas, products, or even technologies before their competitors. It is hard to see how this can happen in an environment where engineers are treated as a commodity. The founders of Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, Fluke, and others understood this all too well. I was privileged to know Howard Vollum, the founder of Tektronix, when I worked there from 1969-1983 (Howard Vollum died in 1986). It was truly a magical place until the mid 1970s when Howard had to begin stepping back from daily management due to his age and health. Senior engineers would mentor younger engineers, and pass on the accumulated knowledge of the company. Spontaneous meetings would often happen at the drop of a pin to discuss a technical issue or a new idea. Sometimes these meetings would have little to do with the products of the company. Howard delighted in participating in some of these meetings.
Here at Audio Precision we strive to keep a delicate balance between company goals and professional job satisfaction. That does not mean we are a country club without project schedules or responsibilities. It simply means we understand the challenges and uncertainties in new product development, and that engineers are also human beings. I do hope you can see the results in our products.