Rising Stuyvesant sophmores used to be required to take Drafting 1, and were then required to take either Drafting 2/Honors Drafting or Introduction to Computer Science.
For once in my life, I went past the call of duty by not only taking Honors Drafting, but Intro to Compsci at the same time. To top it off, I took an optional compsci course at the same time, and followed both drafting and compsci course paths to full completion in later years. AP Compsci, both of the senior-level compsci courses, Technical Drawing, and Architecture were what padded out my remaining years at Stuy. Choosing to do the extra work and stick it out with both course paths turned out to be one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, because despite my major being computer science, I was totally prepared for both of my internships, especially my current one at JDP Mechanical.
Transitioning from CADKEY to AutoCAD was easier than I expected. I was already familiar with how CAD drawings are handled and manipulated, so all it took was a little experimentation and direction to find out which command I needed to enter to do what I wanted. CAD work is actually quite fun, and while I’m very efficient, I’m still amazed at how fast my dad can mold his drawings to what he sees in his mind.
Unfortunately, drafting is only half the battle, and the lower-paying half at that. The reason my father gets paid the big bucks (big = only slightly more) is because he is able to solve problems. The primary problem is that New York City is brimming with people, Manhattan in particular, and every cubic foot of space is precious. Given the choice between making the machine room comfortably big and squeezing out a couple extra hundred thousand dollars isn’t really a choice at all. Landlords will always choose to make the extra money and hope that their AC and heating units will fit in the little niche carved out in the basement. And therefore, landlords will always need companies like the one my father works for. He coordinates with all the other contractors, trying to make sure that his water pipes can fit alongside the gnarled masses of the electrician’s cables and the plumber’s sewage lines, while making sure he isn’t getting in the way of the gigantic ducts strewn across the ceiling.
My father is paid well because it is difficult to compensate for human error while minimizing costs and working on a deadline. It’s a difficult job that requires an intimate knowledge of the industry and its conventions. From a purely practical standpoint, it’s the best career for me to jump into. It is such a niche field that experienced, dedicated workers are far and few, which means companies are more willing to train and cultivate workers. I already have a great foundation of CAD knowledge, and I found that my mind easily warped to decipher schematics and reconstruct them in my mind. To top it off, I have one of the best draftsmen in the industry as a personal mentor.
But the best worker and father I’ve known also gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard: “Do something you love, because if you like it, you won’t mind putting in the hours to become great at it.” It summarizes very well the key to his success, but it also summarizes why I’m so hesitant to take up what would otherwise be a great opportunity. I know I could be good at it, but I don’t know if I would be willing to put in the effort to become great. I remember happily spending hours coding up my first programming project, making a freakish monstrosity easily two or three times the size of everyone else’s projects. At least a third had been handwritten during my free time between classes and on the train, without ever wondering or worrying about the amount of time I was putting into the project. Programming was fun, and still is. Debugging is frustrating but ultimately rewarding. Difficulties are exciting challenges, not hinderances.
That’s the attitude my dad wants me to have, because while he would love for me to follow in his footsteps, he wants me to be happy most of all. My job is going to be somewhere I spend 8+ hours a day, so given the chance, I ought to spend all that time doing something I love. I want to keep being able to say that I love my life and have never regretted the choices I’ve made.
So I’m going to go for it. I’m not going to settle; I’m going to keep dreaming and desiring, so that one day I’ll be able to do. If I fail, it is not going to be for lack of dedication. But if I succeed, it will be.