Sooner or later most shops have to face the frightening prospect of one of their most skilled employees retiring. You know the person. The one who knows what works and what doesn't. The one who remembers not just how things are done, but why. The one who can often beat high technology with much simpler tools. The one who seldom sees standards higher than his own.
We're staring that prospect right in the face now at Modern Machine Shop. In April, Jodie Bradbury will retire, and so will go one of our most precious bodies of knowledge.
Although you may not have seen Jodie's byline in MMS, you've surely seen her work. For more than 30 years, she has managed the second half of this magazine. Virtually everything that has appeared on a page—and there literally have been hundreds of thousands of pages—has been there because Jodie decided it should be. It's a task that involves a remarkably interdisciplinary knowledge of layout, copy editing, print and production technology, as well as knowledge of the many metalworking technology providers that grace our pages every month.
Privately, I always feel a bit of a piker in Jodie's presence. But I do have 20 years in and around the trade publishing industry, and have come across some very good people along the way. In all that time, I've never met anyone more competent in his or her work, or that cares more about quality.
The question is—as it is for all enterprises that come to this milestone—what are we going to do without her? We're already at work on that, moving job functions around, training, and applying new technology in places we haven't used it before.
We view the technology part as an opportunity. Indeed, there are some things we might have done a couple of years ago, but that Jodie's talents rendered unnecessary—indeed, even counterproductive over the short term. Now we have to change simply because we can't expect any one person to handle the job that Jodie has performed so well for so many years.
I bet that sounds pretty familiar to a lot of shops. Let's welcome the change, and the new muscles it brings us. But let's also remember, and honor, those extraordinary people who've delivered us to this moment.