Monday, October 03, 2011

What I Like About ... Work

In the past I have written about negativity and how it drains me of positive energy.  I have mentioned that I sometimes go to great lengths to avoid negative people so that I can stay positive.  Recently, I've read that some of my Facebook friends have started deleting friends that regularly post negative comments or statuses.

To counter some of the negatives that I encounter on a daily basis, I've decided to write a series of What I Like About ... posts. I'll cover a number of things like work, home, family, friends, church, community, etc.  I invite your to share your likes in the comments section as they relate to the topic of the day.  Please keep in mind, this is an exercise in emphasizing the positive so negative comments won't be posted here and will be deleted from Facebook.

What I Like About ...

I like my job.  I've had to work for a living before (lumber yard, aluminum factory, retail sales, insurance sales). This is enjoyable enough that it's almost like not working.  For those that don't know me well, I am an air traffic controller and a proud member of the National Air Traffic Controller's Association (NATCA), the union representing controllers and many other aviation related government employees. I work in an up/down facility which means that some days I work in the tower and some days I work in the radar room. Most days, if given the choice, I'd prefer to be in the radar room. However, the tower is generally a good day, too.  There aren't too many jobs that you can get into trouble from NOT staring out of the windows! It's a little over-simplified to say that I get paid to look out the windows and watch the airplanes take off and land, but I do kind of get paid to watch airplanes take off and land.

Getting used to working with a bunch of ATCers is a bit of a trick. We all have extreme egos and believe that our way of doing things is the best way. If I thought that somebody else had a better way, I'd do it that way. While there are certainly stronger players and weaker players, as a whole the US air traffic control system is a sort of dream team. From coast to coast, we guide you safely to your destination -- day after day, every day. There isn't a way to describe the feeling you have after working a busy session.  Sometimes you're helping somebody else; sometimes you're the one being helped. The goal is to get you to your destination in a safe and expeditious manner -- every time.

At a time when government employees are being looked at as a liability instead of an asset, it can be difficult to keep a positive attitude and keep doing the job that we do at the level that we've always done it.  The flying public is fortunate that we take such immense pride in our work that we cannot do less than our best each and every time that we plug in to a position.

It's true -- I get paid well to do my job. But then, you really don't want the lowest bidder to take over a system that should be more about safety than about profit, do you?

ATC is a good gig. Like most careers, it's not for everybody.  The schedule can be difficult on family events and normal activities--we're open 24/7. I've worked a few holidays and missed out on things that other parents didn't have to worry about missing.  It's all a part of the package.

I've been told that I have a very important job. I usually respond that my mechanic has an important job. If I can't get to work, I can't do my job.  It's just my way to keep things in perspective.

In spite of the frustrations that go along with working for the government (and the cover your butt and pass the buck style of management that is the FAA), I feel blessed to have been given the opportunities that this career has afforded me.  Through serving on two different national standing committees with NATCA, I have met controllers and made friends from across the country. We (controllers) are passionate about our jobs, our families, our union, our playtime, ...pretty much everything we do.

For the past 19 years, 8 months and 27 days, it's been a fun career.


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