Siemens switch gear factory from 360 view

Learn all you can, while you can: Nearly fifty years of hands-on experience taught me how to teach others

By: Maryland Hendrix, Working Foreman, Siemens Low-Voltage Production, Grand Prairie, Texas

Editor’s note: On March 4, 2022, Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton joined President Joe Biden at the White House for a Made in America manufacturing event during which the President spoke, via video-link, with Siemens employees at our Grand Prairie, TX and Pomona, CA facilities. Two Grand Prairie employees, Maryland Hendrix and Johnny Le, spoke about their work with Siemens—Maryland in comments to President Biden, and Johnny in a speech at the White House event. Their stories make clear how important manufacturing workers are to our future, and how dynamic individuals add value to their jobs and careers.

 

On May 3, 2022, I will mark my twenty-eighth year with Siemens USA, and I will also retire on that day. In total, however, I have nearly fifty years of hands-on electronics experience. I started out doing wiring for car phones, the kind that only CEOs had back in those days. Then I worked at Rockwell International in Richardson, Texas, and rotated through all three divisions there—commercial, defense, and aircraft. I put in the wiring on military aircraft and helicopters, and Humvees.

 

When I started with Siemens in 1993, I joined a small outfit in Oak Cliff, Texas, called Siemens Energy & Automation. I grew up in Oak Cliff and I walked to that first Siemens job. There were just four of us in that department. That business moved to the plant at Grand Prairie—and then I had to drive to work. I started at Grand Prairie working on RC3 switch boards, which were the most demanding piece of equipment I ever touched—they’re heavy and can be tough on the hands in you’re not careful. When the low-voltage equipment came on-line in 1996, I applied for and got a transfer to that section, and once I was there it was almost like I could teach a class because my experience and certifications in aircraft wiring helped me so much that I was able to help other people, showing them easier ways to do the point-to-point wiring.

 

Helping others in low-voltage production is what led to my wanting to be a Working Foreman. I applied for that position and got it on the spot in 2000. I’ve been in low-voltage work since then, 22 years as a Working Foreman.

 

I stayed with Siemens for so long for a number of reasons. First, the people—they were a major factor. I have coworkers that I love. Second, the work just made sense. Electronics were my whole background. I could put in a full day’s work and get something done. Third, back in my early days with the company, my son, Patrick, was in college and that tuition was no joke! I was a single mom and I wanted my son to get an education. But once he finished school, I realized that I was going to stay with the company.

I tell people—here at Grand Prairie or anywhere at Siemens—to learn as much as you can from your job while you’re there. That way you can make sure you have a lot in your background when you look to the next stage of your career. Life-long learning is something that happens day by day—you build it up.
Maryland Hendrix

My son was my inspiration for the internship program that I got started at Grand Prairie. One day at work I began thinking that it would be a great thing for him to have hands-on work experience, even if it wasn’t exactly in the field he planned to enter, because having Siemens on his resume would get noticed. So, I approached management about our creating a summer internship for employees’ kids so they could come see what their parents were doing for a living, and also gain some valuable skills.

 

When the program started, in the summer of 1995, my son, a coworker’s son, and a supervisor’s son where the first three college-age people to become summer interns. The internship program has been going strong ever since, and we’ve had close to 20 college-age kids—employees’ children—come through in that time. They can sign up for it in their first year of college and be an intern that summer. Three of my grandchildren were also interns.

It's a good thing for kids to see what their parents and grandparents do on the job to bring home an income and take care of them. I’ve worked on so many things at Grand Prairie, all over the plant: switch boards, power panels, power-distribution systems, and those RC3s. It’s a safety-intensive environment for sure. And being the Working Foreman, if someone needs help, it’s my job to make sure things are done properly, using the right tools, and to make sure that the paperwork for the part is correct—you have to cross-check the wiring list and sometimes check the full schematic to make sure the wiring is right. There are a lot of things that have to be done by hand, using crimpers, strippers, and screw drivers, but we’ve got Makita power tools, too.

 

I tell people—here at Grand Prairie or anywhere at Siemens—to learn as much as you can from your job while you’re there. That way you can make sure you have a lot in your background when you look to the next stage of your career. Life-long learning is something that happens day by day—you build it up. Identify with your process, your parts, your tools, your coworkers—show everyone what you can bring to the table. My main thing was I could always show people ways to do their job easier, more efficiently. Don’t do it the hard way.

Published: April 29, 2022

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