Quality – Lessons from Mr. Bobo
I’ve been thinking a lot about the word quality lately. In my department, we are focusing on the quality of our product. We want to produce the best product possible. We want to be proud of our work. This week The Stretched Blog will focus on quality. To start the week off, I share how quality was instilled in me at the beginning of my working life.
When I was in high school, I had a clear interest in math and science. I’ve always loved solving problems and figuring things out. Little did I realize how important quality is to the math and science fields.
My dad was one of the pastors at the church where I grew up in New Jersey. Sometimes it was tough being a PK (Pastor’s Kid), but most of the time I didn’t mind it that much. My dad was a celebrity of sorts as he knew many leaders, personalities, and business people in and around our town. He knew people from our church who were involved in all kinds of different career fields.
I’d like to think it was because I worked hard, but I’m guessing my dad had something to do with the calls I received to work at various jobs around the community. I cut grass. I shoveled snow. I raked leaves. I painted housed. I washed dishes. I hung curtains. I did all sorts of things. But one job I will always remember is the four years I worked as a land surveyor for Henry Bobo. Apparently, Mr. Bobo had heard about my interest in math and science, and he needed a helper in the field to help him survey properties around the area.
Mr. Bobo was an older gentleman who lived with his wife, Grace, in the center of Mt. Holly, NJ. He kept his surveying business going despite the physical demands of the trade that could be tough for a man his age.
When I started working for Mr. Bobo, I would ride my bike two and a half miles to his house where we would load up his equipment in his red and white van as we prepared for a day in the field measuring distances, taking elevations readings, cutting through brush along property lines, and marking out property corner stones and markers. Working for Mr. Bobo, I learned a lot about the importance of precise setup and accurate measurement and note taking. I remember how frustrated he would become when I didn’t hold the plumb-bob correctly or the rod just right.
When I started working for Mr. Bobo early in high school, I was the gopher and the “rod man.” I was responsible for holding the reflector rod or the plumb bob while Mr. Bobo used the transit and took the field notes. As time went on, I began to learn how to set up and operate the transit. Suddenly, I was looking through the transit and taking notes. Mr. Bobo was very direct in explaining how the numbers should be written in the log book. I’ve always had neat handwriting, but I would always hear it from Mr. Bobo if my numbers weren’t written correctly. This used to drive me crazy.
Towards the end of my time working with Mr. Bobo, he had me doing the drafting up in his office. Here I would take the field notes and draw out the site plan and topographical map of the places we had previously surveyed. It was through this activity that I understood why it was so important to hold the rod steady, to set up the transit properly, and why it was so important to write the field notes so clearly. If the measurements and numbers weren’t written correctly, the plans wouldn’t come out right. There would be “gaps” in the drawings.
Mr. Bobo’s demand for quality was essential to his final product. His lessons in doing things the right way has been important in my career and in my daily activities. I’m thankful for Mr. Bobo and his insistence on doing things right.
Who has had an impact on you when it comes to quality?