Before coming to Tasmania I had been working as a control systems engineer for about eight years. It was the next step after receiving my mechanical engineering degree. It was a fun and exciting career thus far but I needed a bit of a break and Tasmania was that break. I thought that coming here and working in a bike shop would relieve all my stress and I wouldn’t have to stress about “engineering” any more. The fact of the matter is that I do not have a choice. I am a mechanical hands on kind of guy. Some people call that a tinkerer some others may put that on paper and name it “Engineer”. For me, it’s just who I am but working in a bike shop has allowed me to pursue a different aspect of engineering that working for a data system company did not.
For the first couple of months of work in Hobart, I felt like people should know that I was an engineer and this was my year “off.” Back in the States, when you meet someone, what you do for a living is often the first thing you tell a new person about yourself. At first, my pride prompted me to make that sort of vain declaration. Quickly I realized I just looked like a jackass. In Tasmania no one really cares what I used to do. They value my work as a bike mechanic and certainly don’t think of this as a second-rate job. It helps that bike mechanics (and tradesmen in general) make a comfortable wage in Tasmania. My peers own houses and even have boats. I’m not sure you could do that in San Francisco on a mechanic’s wage. The work is respectable and everyday at the bike shop there are challenges that make me think outside the box. Sometimes we are even under a time constraint if the customer is waiting on the sales floor for their bike to be repaired. The stakes may not be as expensive as my work in the past, but they are just as serious. Working for a small business has shown me that no matter what your job is, there is always a sense of stress and urgency because what you put out to the public defines your reputation in an immediate way. Like my boss Mark, the owner of Bike Ride, I take pride in my work and can never leave a job unfinished. I don’t tell people what I used to do anymore; I am a bike mechanic and I am good at it. That’s all they need to know.