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Job Description, Innotrans, 92 Pillows

Sam now thinks he know what his job is all about: mechanical design and long weekends any time he feels like it. He also bought 92 pillows to fill his loungeroom, and went to the Innotrans Expo in Berlin

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Sam - who clearly prefers speaking in 3rd-person - finally knows what his job is. He's a structural designer for train bogies (undercarriage frame + wheels), and is in training to be a project manager. So with what kind of tasks does Sam fill his day? Often a day's work is just to receive frame modification orders, then spend a casual afternoon redesigning parts in 3d software so they look 'kinda right' and 'pretty'. Any real responsibility to ensure the design is safe, manufacturable, within EU standards, and also not too expensive, is passed on to someone else. Really, who could be bothered with all the fine details? Not Sam, that lucky bastard!

Until now Sam had been feeling a little in the dark; that is, he's the only one in Winterthur using CATIA v5 and so there's no one to really help him. That actually suits him rather well. No one can help, but no one can expect anything either; Sam is totally free to define his own tasks and workload all on by himself. Neat eh? How would you like the freedom at work to say: I feel like designing such-and-such today, so I will! It sure does make a work-day feel more like a work-on-whatever-ya-like-day, rather than an actual do-this-do-that-day. Sam often chooses to do overtime when things are being especially interesting (which if often the case). It helps even more that Sam is free to listen to music all day if he wants. He only does that when there is a long grind ahead where the tiniest hint of dullness may appear. However, you may wonder if there is a price for all this freedom - maybe Sam must work strict hours in the office? No actually, it's the complete opposite! Providing Sam does not work +50 or -50 hours outside 40 hours per week, he is free to be there anytime! That means if a weekend is ever ruined by bad weather, Sam is free to work Sat/Sun and take some sunny weekdays off later. How much do you think Sam likes his flexible job? Rather a lot.

Karl came to Zürich to visit this week, which means that Sam now has his first painting! Karl kindly painted a self-portrait although he didn't know it at the time. Sam looked at it very carefully and decided, for so many reasons, that it could only be a painting of Karl. It's a spotty face with big eyes and a big grin that somehow resembles Karl's proportions. There are tear drops falling down one side which describes Karl's ever-sad-looking eyebrows. There is a wiggly arm on the other side that makes the face appear to be dancing dancing, which shows Karl's drunken-partying tendencies. Finally, the fact that Karl decided the painting was finished before covering everywhere with paint, leaving a big unfinished space of white canvas below, perfectly describes Karl's attitude to work: good enough is good enough; Karl frequently leaves gaps in his work (e.g. thesis) due to laziness and/or time limits. Summary: Karl drew a big drunk dancing smiley/sad face, and Sam thinks it looks just like him; also, Sam drew something too.

Sam's lounge room is a tad confused. On one side (viewing side) we have a minimalist white Ikea shelf with two succulent cacti in white pots atop, while on the other side (sitting side) we have two Victorian Era lounge pieces and one Groovy 70's chair. Mélanie's lounge chairs seem to be her grandparent's grandparent's keep-safes, and look straight out of an expensive London antique shop. These two antiques combined with a single curvy leather seat make for an eclectic style indeed. It's all surprisingly comfortable to sit on, sitting bolt-upright that is. So when Sam tries taking a long Skype call, the main lounge chair does it's very best to bend Sam into awkward and uncomfortable positions rivalling the awkward positions of H&M poster models. Sam did find a solution to this problem, but you've all probably already guessed it by now... Of course, the solution was to fill the entire room with pillows! How many pillows does it take to fill a room? In Sam's case, it took 92. Just to save on dustiness Sam put all 92 of them into beanbag covers Meike and he made when visiting Germany (during a self-designated long weekend). There are three and they all make you feel like you're lying on circus-tent-coloured clouds. Also, they're kinda big.

Through the magic of big-company employment, Sam visited Berlin again for a second long-weekend. He even managed to have work pay for the trip, including hotel and car hire if desired (Sam declined). You see, Innotrans was to be held in Berlin and Sam wanted to go; he never expected to be allowed, but he asked his boss anyway. Surprisingly, Sam's boss gave a thumbs up on only one condition: You can go but we won't pay you to be there. Fair enough, Sam thought. Innotrans is an international trains exhibition for industry, financial institutions, government, and for the general public. Sam did not only want to go for the VIP we-built-this-train name-badge, he was also kinda interested in seeing the competition. At this early stage, we're not all too sure where [Sam's Company] fits into the market. Are we the shiniest? Do we use speed holes? Sam can has free food there? These were things to be answered...

The entire time at Innotrans - six hours - was spent looking at every other bugger's welding techniques and completely ignoring a very bored Meike (who came too). Sam's boss, who was there as a trains enthusiast, wanted to show how bad everyone else's ideas were so that Sam would never dare try. It was actually interesting and thoroughly worth spending the day seeing other engineers spying on competitors designs. Sam wondered why they didn't just hand out blueprints and save everyone the trouble of sore knees. [Sam's Company] had an extravagant showing indeed, with it's huge internal bar-lounge and interactive-stuff area, plus mammoth multi-story outdoor building and sea of trains on show. Thinking these things were only constructed for the four show days makes you wonder where all the money comes from. The vibe from both buildings was as if from an upper-class private party that served first-class quality everything - all for free of course, to any bugger that paid his 1.5€ Innotrans entry fee and wandered up. Shocking. Also shocking was seeing how many hundreds of tonnes in display parts Japanese companies had shipped over to show the European market, where they hadn't a chance of selling anything; Sam thinks Europe has enough rail-related industry already - Innotrans was rather large.

Later in the day during a coffee break, Sam felt rather smug when he noticed there were company members there he knew in a met you at a bar in Zürich once way, that his boss didn't know; not bad for the new guy. Sam felt even more smug when he discovered a carbon fibre bolster on a Altrans train, even after his boss was adamant the rail industry is never going to touch the stuff. Winner: Sam. The day continued and included a visit by Meike's dad who joined in for fun, and had time to explain boring train stuff to Meike for me. Sam felt really bad the he hadn't the chance to show off his new company to his girlfriend, and show off his girlfriend to his company - damn that work for getting in the way all day! Overall, Innotrans clearly showed Sam that he does not know enough about his industry and he must read more books. It's nice having some general direction in a career, Sam thinks. After sitting in every train's cabin (quickly realising how comfortable a job drives have) and after honking all the horns it was time to go. The walk back out took over twenty minutes through the length of the enormous expo centre, past every nut, screw and bold manufacturer there. My goodness, Sam thought, How many people does it take to build a train?. The highlight of the day was the Russian high speed train labelled with 'Max Speed 250 km/Ч'. Per year? Things sure must be different in Russia.

The remainder of Sam's second weekend in Berlin was spent standing outside the Potsdam film studios in a 300 m long line of far-too-much-make-up women and tobacco-fumed-derelict blokes, waiting to be cast for an extras role in a movie. Four hours waiting in the line that ran the down the street - one more hour in the internal line to the studio door - then finally the sight of another line ahead while other annoying people jump the line ahead and brag loudly about it: Meike and Dani decided it was enough. Making bean bag covers with a sick-in-bed Meike the previous weekend was much more fun than five hours standing in line. Why didn't anyone think of just getting a coffee at the studio cafe and jumping the line like all the other bastards were? Dani, Meike and Sam all felt silly.