My experiences on the shop floor in aircraft manufacturing are unique in terms of complexity of production due to imposed safety and legal regulations; complexity of aircraft itself due to interdependent systems; complexity of internal processes and procedures due to competing silos and their goals which were at cross-purposes with one another and the company overall; and, complexity of adaptability due to “Information Age” developments rapidly obsoleting entrenched industrial mindsets and inflexible organization designs.

More broadly, these experiences deepened my understanding of enmeshed manufacturing systems, the behaviors they prompted, and their consequences. I learned to see systems dynamics, sense their vulnerabilities, and ultimately, seek and find root causes of systemic problems faced by management and employees at all levels and roles in their efforts to establish, increase, or restore profitability.

It also gave me a feel for the distinctions between adhering to the letter of the law versus honoring the spirit of the law. In other words, it sharpened my skills at knowing when to follow the rules, bend the rules, break the rules, or change the rules—anticipating the consequences from each alternative, and taking responsibility for whichever choice one makes.

No doubt these proved to be useful insights to tuck into my “tool kit” as I headed closer to my future career path.