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Career Story: Machinist, Business Owner

Machinist, Business Owner

Job Title: Machinist

Type of Company: I own a CNC machine shop and manufacture parts for many industries.

Education: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, BA, Columbia University

Previous Experience: I worked as a technician/mechanic in the film industry, then worked for a couple of companies doing machine design for Broadway shows.

Job Tasks: I run my own business, from when I unlock the doors and start up my machinery to when I send out completed jobs to customers. Bidding on work is a major part of my job: trying to come up with the most accurate educated guess about how long something takes to do is critical to success in the business of production of precision parts. I have learned to be increasingly selective about what we are interested in doing, and what we aren't. I order all materials, cutting tools and supplies, and strategize about most projects we decide to undertake. I also perform all maintenance on our machinery and am responsible for keeping everything running. I also do all the programming of the machinery we use.

I try NOT to do too much in the way of operating machines, because I need to be the person supporting and hopefully optimizing that part of the business. It's much better, for example, if I can spend some time finding a solution to a problem that ultimately saves us time. But I do periodically jump in at this level to try to gain some idea of how realistically I'm bidding on jobs.

Job Tips: Being a machinist is a super specific thing to do. The best way to learn it is by doing it. Go work in a shop for a while, and see if it's for you. But do understand that this is something that people spend their lives doing, and that the skill takes years to acquire. The good part of that is that if you like it, you can get tremendous satisfaction by getting better and better at what you do.

Additional Thoughts: One thing I like very much about my job is that I can move around in a number of different industries. I've made stuff for the computer industry, the stage lighting business, and have done store fixtures for Ralph Lauren and made a part for a 1935 Alfa Romeo race car. I think I would have had an easier time getting started with my own business if I had had some of the super-specific job shop experience that a lot of the guys who have worked for me have had.

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