Podcast - Adam Savage Project

Best Jobs Ever – 8/26/2014

The Still Untitled jobs trilogy continues, with Adam, Will, and Norm discussing their best jobs. You might be surprised by some of their responses! Be sure to share your favorite jobs in the comments below.

Comments (40)

40 thoughts on “Best Jobs Ever – 8/26/2014

  1. My best job so far is my current one. I work for Omax Corp., the leading manufacturer of abrasive waterjet machining centers. In my day to day work, I model new designs and assemblies in SolidWorks. Beyond that, I get to physically prototype new components using our waterjet machines as well as CNC mills and lathes. I also administer our CAD software deployment as well as doing some training for our engineering department in various CAD and mechanical design topics. I have NEVER once woken up in the morning and thought “Oh f**k, I’ve got to go to work today…”

    In contrast, my worst job (and yet so very fulfilling on certain levels) was the 12 years I spent as full-time faculty teaching CAD, drafting and mechanical design at a local community college in North Seattle. The student interaction was, for the most part, some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had and yet the soul-sucking dealings with a mostly uncaring, mindlessly bureaucratic campus administration was more than enough to eventually drive me to leave there with no other job lined up. Luckily though, the connections and reputation that I had built up for myself in the Seattle-area mechanical design community allowed me to land the job I currently have.

  2. That ladder story reminds me of this other story my sister told me: She was in theater in high school and they were doing Peter Pan with all the wires and everything. Well, the actress who was Peter Pan had between performances taken off her flying harness. The big fight scene with Hook comes up and she forgets that she has to put it on and the director just tells her to go out there and do the best she can. So she goes out and is climbing all over the railings of the ship set fighting Hook while trying not to fall off the ship and hoping set design did a good job. Apparently she did a good job though because my sister, who was one of the pirates, didn’t notice until after the fight that Peter Pan had forgot her flying wire.

  3. I’ve been lucky enough to have had a bunch of great jobs. My first one in high school was in a rock climbing gym, teaching, doing birthday parties, cleaning, the whole thing. My college job was a bike shop mechanic in Davis, CA for 2 years, which was really fun despite all of the griping we did. Now I manage a geochemistry lab, so I get to dress in a lab coat; play with acids and lasers and plasma torches; and work on all of the cool machines we’ve got. Plus my current bosses are great.

  4. My best job had some of the worst job features: 6 – 8 months without a day off, 8 – 12 hour work days with some split shifts meaning 16hrs between start & finish, some of the worst managers I’ve ever met (and some of the best), a starting salary of $10 per DAY, huge variation on pay week to week (mainly tips), and a sometimes difficult (needy) clientele.

    On the upside: free accomodation, exceptionally short commute to work, free food, some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, and travel – lots and lots of travel.

    The job: Pit Boss on a Cruise Ship (5 cruise ships). I find casinos fun – I know it’s not for eveyone. All of our passengers were on vacation and that seems to relax people no end. Despite the gripes about pay, it was enough for a deposit on our first house (great US – NZ exchange rate at the time). But the best part was seeing the world, 250+ ports in 58 countries over 3 years. There were some horror stories, but in retrospect, they become somewhat ammusing. The job was exhausting, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

  5. Cabinet making is a very rewarding job. I truly miss making cabinets. Even though generally internally it was a thankless job. It was always so rewarding to talk to the clients and see how happy they where with the final products. The pride derived from doing that was one of the biggest rewards.

    I loved working in the spraybooth and the final assembly. Spraybooth was great cause you could crank up the tunes and get in a wonderful rhythm.

  6. What this one showed me most is how different the USA is. like having dept from going to colleges is something that is surreal for me. just as having health insurance.

    both things feel to me as if you would ask someone if they eat every day. it’s like off course your country takes care of your school and your health, it’s in there best interest, because the more money you earn the more taxes you will pay them.

    But as for great jobs, i kinda try to make every job i do great, or i quit. there is no point in doing something you don’t like for a long time. but than again i know that if i quit my job i’m still going to get 70% of my pay check from the unemployment office while finding a new job. i probably sound like a communist by now, and that’s not the what i was going for writing this. it’s just funny this is the very first podcast that made me see how different the USA is.

  7. i am just at the point where adam mentioned the missed drawing sessions, and i had to pause to type this up real quick:

    walt stanchfield used to do life drawing sessions for animators at disney. naturally, these were way more concerned with getting the figure’s gesture down than making one of those nice, academic drawings, where every part is finished to an equally beautiful degree.

    the handouts and notes from these sessions got released as a two volume set of books called “drawn to life,” by walt stanchfield. they are really good. 20ish $ each.

  8. My best job was, oddly enough, working construction. My main co-worker, Randy, was a guy a lot like Adam, who has done darn near everything, and really knows his stuff, and had that eye for detail and requirement that it was done right. He liked to say “I’m lazy, this means we find the easiest way to do this right” or some variation on that. This, coupled with the fact that our boss managed to get a series of jobs that, as Randy said where “Nearly humanly impossible” allowed me to learn a huge amount about building. We also worked “foundation to finish”, so it was everything from pouring concrete to building oak cabinetry and installing miles of custom made trim. Every day we went to work, and solved problems, invented new ways of getting insane tasks done, and had a blast doing it. Sure, it was physically taxing at times, but looking back, I would love to be doing it again.

  9. one of the great “jobs” i did, not in terms of how great the work was, but great boss wise, was my 10 months of alternative civilian service. in germany, we had, up until a few years, the choice for young dudes, to either go to the army for x months, or do alternative civilian service for x+1 months. you had to write an actual letter explaining why, ethically, you can’t do army service. (fun story in itself that young me, a war/army/military/weapons nut, would not do army service. young me didn’t like the prospect of undereducated choleric assholes screaming orders at him)

    so i got a job at a big, state-run mental hospital – they had a small station of assisted living & care for the elderly, a lot of wards for less serious stuff, wards for drug dependencies, and even a forensic unit where convicted criminals got when they committed their crime from a background of serious mental problems. i was initially planned to work in the staff canteen kitchen, but the personnell office boss had second thoughts about me possibly being useful for him. so i worked for him instead, doing all the paperwork for the other civilian service guys, running errands, etc.

    the work itself was totally horrible. fear is the mindkiller? no. bureaucracy is.

    what was awesome was my boss. he was what you’d call an old school kind of guy. he could hire people based on his gut response alone, and was always right about who is reliable and who turned out to be a lazy bum who made problems for everyone. he also saw where people came from, and how desperately they needed this job, and had a good enough heart to hire them and bend rules whereever possible so that everything turned out alright. he was the kind of guy whose number one priority was to deliver good (ethically and qualitatively) work. therefore, he was caught between pressure from above, where there is constant bickering about the numbers not being as good as they could be, and let’s just rectify this, and from the people below, who needed work, who needed a certain amount of time and manpower to do their work vs. what the rules allotted them (never enough). he was there in the morning before i got there, and no matter how late i was staying, he was still there when i left.

    every so often, he’d call me in, saying that we need a spreadsheet showing to the state how the numbers add up just so with what is allotted budget wise, or rules wise. and he had calculated it all up so it always worked out, despite the rules being abstract bullshit totally removed from the act of human patients needing human care, and the departments being overstaffed enough to get their work done. this usually was days upon days of revising these spreadsheets, with him recalculating and me trying to fit this all in the amount of pages it was allowed to take.

    late in my time there, i once asked him what made him reassign me from cantine duty to his office. and he told me that he was alarmed when he first saw me – thin as a stick, zero sunlight pale, i looked exactly like i belonged in one of the drug dependency wardens – but said he couldn’t shake the feeling that i could be just the kind of computer whiz he needed and would do good work. and that his feeling didn’t betray him.

    i think i was never before in my life so proud. he was a guy who never cut corners, who’d demand the highest standards from himself before he asked them from others. who never was in for bullshit, telling people one thing and talk bad behind their backs. coming from the usual nerd life, where all people see is someone to ridicule, i was amazed at being told someone saw potential in me, and that i fulfilled these expectations, was awesome.

    sorry, that got a little long. but that was a really good feeling, despite me never ever wanting to do that kind of work again.

  10. The best job I ever had was a peer tutor. I helped fellow students learn chemistry and calculus.

    I get paid to do this? That’s all I’m going to say about.

  11. The best job I ever had was my first one; food delivery, where you’d order off of a menu through us, we’d deliver it for a flat fee between x and y miles, plus another fee if further (twenty miles or so). I went to all kinds of places (some I probably shouldn’t have, too, like smoke shops and strip joints), and the most important thing I learned in that job was how to read and fold a paper map (later upgraded to a Key Map; book style map). This was back when a night’s tips could pay for gas (driving an 80 El Camino), you didn’t have to worry too much about people sticking you up to take your cash bag and you got to see all kinds of people during the days and night.

  12. Funnily enough, it was 10 years ago I started the job.

    Also, as a US citizen, you would have been taxed. Which is why very few Americans work on board.

  13. This entire podcast reeks of neurotypical privilege. Taking risks is for people who network well and can rebound relatively easily when a risk doesn’t pay off.

    Now that I’ve exposed the ASD chip on my shoulder, I have to say that the best job I’ve ever had was a paper route. There was minimal contact, but when I did have contact with people, they were friendly and to the point. I never heard from my route supervisor unless a major change was made or unless I had screwed up, which only happened once. I was essentially my own boss. I got paid to exercise, and I didn’t have to worry about fuel costs. At the time, I lived in a very Leave It To Beaver neighborhood, so I got up with the birds and made my way through misty mornings, earning my paycheck while sipping coffee and doing little else. I lived at home, so $200 a week was a bundle.

  14. I guess Hollywood should be run by beautiful people who got laid in high school, not ugly nerds that made a career. Forgive my snark.

  15. I have had one employer since I graduated from high school. Over the last 34 years I have lived in Malaysia and the USA (I’m Australian), and worked in other countries for shorter periods. I worked on aircraft projects, starting with the design process then watching as the engineers turned our vision into metal. Finally I got to take that aircraft into the air and conducted a large part of its flight test program. I have flown in fighter jets (a F-18 just like the Blue Angels aircraft Adam flew in on Mythbusters), been winched into helicopters and launched off an aircraft carrier. Survival training, weapon firing, four wheel driving in a three ton truck and fishing on a lonely beach in Northern Australia all on the company time. In fact they insisted I do all these things, and usually said yes when I asked to do them again or try something else. They paid for my university education and gave me skills that I use every day. Even going to war brought me a deep feeling of satisfaction insofar as I made sure that the troops on the ground got the air support they needed as quickly as possible.

    I joined the Air Force at 17 after turning down a job as a bank clerk. For stupid young teenager that was very wise decision.

  16. One of the best jobs I ever had was my first real job. A traveling computer tech in 1990 in New England. No GPS, no cell phones, no internet, I would get to work in the morning and get hand full of hand written slips from my boss, they were my service calls for the day. It was great, a kid of 20 driving around in a big old company van heading out on the road with truck full of computer parts and a pile of road map books so I could find where I needed to go. I loved the job since I was a sheltered kid who spend a lot of time in the basement drawing and reading comic books and watching Star trek and Star Blazers…I suddenly was out in the real world trying to catch the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard so I could make a 10:30 am appointment to fix a 3 1/2″ floppy drive on an old IBM computer. Or drive 3 hours up to North Conway NH to fix a printer problem…I learned so much about dealing with people and how to rely on myself and to be creative fixing issues. I would be 100 miles away from the office and spare parts and I would sometimes have to figure out ways to fix problems. I would drive all over Massachusetts, NH, RI…I really got good at finding all the public restrooms. I got paid dirt for that job, but loved it.

    Worst part of that job was that was where i met my first wife…that did not work out so well….but hey that’s life.

  17. Best job ever: taking pizza orders in a poorly managed Call Centre. By poorly managed, I more or less mean they didn’t care about anything other than order accuracy; you could do pretty much whatever you wanted at your desk, wear whatever you wanted, be more or less tardy, and it was nearly impossible to get fired. A guy actually came to work very drunk one time; had walked to work in pouring rain; took his pants off when he got there, and sat for a few hours taking orders, drunk, with no pants on, and only got sent home for the day. Over the few years I worked there I read dozens of books(mostly non-fiction), learned some street-magic tricks, learned how to make chain-mail, and much more.

  18. I have a odd one that ties into the worst jobs ever podcast, because depending on what day it was and how work went this was either my worst hated job or my best job aside from my current employer (which is also part of the same diatribe I’m about to go on).

    Anyway, I had gone to school to be an EMT, and given the circumstances of where I was and what medicine was looking like for work when I was done with school no one would hire me as an EMT. So I went unemploymed for a year handing off an aplication to anyone who would take it. This culminating to me sending out an online resume via Craigslist to an car stereo and security company. About three days later I get a call back on that job offer to learn that was a lie, and that the real job was to install interlock (those breathalyzer s that get installed on cars). So I went and had an interview with a guy who was leaving the company and I was going to take over his shop … Which is especially daunting for my third job ever (food service and a grocery store clerk). And especially because as I would come to learn I would be the only employee representing the company between the 200 miles that is between Monterey CA and Ventura CA.

    So the job was me, working utterly alone in an empty garage installing breathalyzer s on very car old young and exotic you can imagine. From mobile homes to brand new Mercedes Benz. What sucked was it was a one or two day a week job, so the pay was Shite.

    Lucky I was very capable at this job.I would get a couple raises in less then a year and inheret another shop in Ventura CA when our tech left that location, expanding the range of my territory as far south as North LA County. And another raise and travel expenses paid to travel the 260 mile by 60 mile bubble of customers that needed this device on their car. Again, I worked entirely alone, I saw my boss in person a total of three or four times the entire 18 months I worked for him.

    I would wake up with a list of clients i would see that day in either my shop up north in San Luis Obispo or spent south in Ventura or the very often mobile service call at God knows where.

    I think I racked up just around 200,000 miles on my car doing this. Killed the engine entirely with blown head gaskets (on my door 2002 WRX … So happy my gas was taken care of on that hehe).

    In that kind of an environment you learn … How to drive, efficiently if nothing else. You learn how to deal with all kinds of people from multiple perspectives. How to problem solve and improvise on a number of things. Time management, reasources management. And self motivation because you are the only one ever getting stuff done because the next guy is litterally never closer then three hours away.

    But this got me another job, my current job, one of my customers was driven to his appointment to have a device installed by a friend who owned a wireless signal company. And because I had worked alone for a year I had built a habit of taking to myself through a job or task and for whatever reason this guy liked that and gave me his email to give him my resume … To cut down my ramblings this ended up as a you’re second part time job in Santa Barbara. Which means if youre paying attention that was now two jobs in three cities. I’d work Monday and Tuesday driving an hour and a half one way to Santa Barbara, weds pop up to San Luis Obispo, thurs back down to Santa Barbara and then on Friday and Sunday drove two hours to Ventura to work. And I also had a girlfriend living in Pasadena who I had to pick up on weekends to see.

    So so much driving and then spending all day working. And this is all from 20-23 years old.

    The end of this story is my part time wireless job turned into a full time one. So I quit my job as an interlock installer and moved down south finally. Just before my car all but exploded in defeat.

    So I got out when I needed to as it seems.

  19. Best job ever was working at the AMC Springs South 6 Theatres in Kansas City, KS for Bryan Scheid. I knew he was the best boss ever, because he swore several times during the interview. He forced us all to learn from the bottom up, from sweeping garbage and stale popcorn off of the floors of the theaters, all the way up to manager trainees, box office, and projectionists. I can still make change manually, make REAL Creter’s movie popcorn, thread a 35mm xenon lamp projector, and Brix a soda fountain, thanks to his training.

    My friend Al and I tried DESPERATELY to get in to the Glenwood Theatre for the advance screening of Temple of Doom (we even bought a Ballantine novelization, cut the cover off, and tried to “typeset” the pass information on the back with Letraset press-on letters, but we chickened out).

    Then, that same evening, after driving home with out tails between our legs, I called in to see if I had to work on Friday, and Mr. Scheid said, “Yes. Oh, and we’re threading the print of Temple of Doom tonight at around midnight to test, after we close. You can come by and bring a friend if you want, just don’t tell everyone.”


  20. My first job falls into the best-worst category, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how much it helped shape my skill set and who I am today.

    In high school I worked at a Mom & Pop Hobby Store. (model trains, scale models, pinewood derby, diecast etc) I was paid in cash, (probably under minimum wage) and was literally the only employee. The owner, a very eclectic civil war reenactor, and I would run the store, handling repairs, customer service and all the restocking, inventory and other minutia that comes with retail work.

    But it was such a formative job for me, because: 1) It forced me to interact with all the customers, many of which were very unique characters. Which broadened my views and experience with people and really developed a sense of respect, tolerance, and etiquette towards people different from myself. 2) I was allowed to purchase anything through the store at cost, which for a lot of those model kits, was close to 50% off. So it gave me the means to learn all the fundamental building/making skills. There were many weeks where my entire paycheck was basswood & plastic (I bought my first Dremel kit there, for example) 3) I was the odd kid in high school who still built models, replicas, etc. And that job showed me that there was a whole group of people that appreciated the craftsmanship of the hobby. That gave me the confidence to pursue my interests and skill set. Which has led me to working in the Film Industry today.

    And as far as crazy boss stories goes, He was great and respected me and my time, was super accommodating towards my high school extracurriculars. I really couldn’t have asked for a better boss. So my crazy stories stem from some of the more regular customers, like one fellow, to whom I made the mistake of letting on that I’m a huge star wars fan. Every week he would stop by and proceed to talk Star Wars with me, and by talk, I mean quote entire sequences, most notably the entire death star run from Episode IV, Yes sound effects and all.

  21. Love your thoughts on jobs, good and bad. Love to hear from Norm, he fades sometimes in the background, but is always very interesting once you get him going.

  22. I noticed you don’t have a hearing aid on the table any more, and I recall a while back you talking about a surgery you had done that was very successful on your (I believe it was the left?) ear. Did you have that surgery done for the other now, as well? I work in live sound and an advocate for hearing protection, so I’ve been fascinated by it ever since you talked about it.

  23. Adam sits rather far from the mic on most recordings, it would seem, in comparison to Will. I don’t recognize the microphone model, but it’s possible that due to the acoustic qualities of the microphone that it’s causing “proximity effect,” which would mean the low frequencies of his voice would be amplified, causing a perception of him being louder. The low tones could be “masking” the higher ones.

    Edit: There would also be some difference in level due to the distance from the microphone.

  24. Adam sits rather far from the mic on most recordings, it would seem, in comparison to Will. I don’t recognize the microphone model, but it’s possible that due to the acoustic qualities of the microphone that it’s causing “proximity effect,” which would mean the low frequencies of his voice would be amplified, causing a perception of him being louder. The low tones could be “masking” the higher ones.

    Edit: There would also be some difference in level due to the distance from the microphone.

    I didn’t even think of that, good point. Looks like he does indeed sit further away from the microphone. Now, if only I could get Will to not interrupt so much, and Norm to talk a bit more, all would be well 😉

  25. I’ve had a lot of great jobs. I used to build props and do special effects, I used teach rock climbing, the job I have now in animation is good but I think my favorite was a period of time when I was a janitor.

    It was for a major art museum in our city. The cleaning was easy and I was much faster at it than I was expected to be. I was part time so I always had the Sunday morning shift where there was very little supervision. I’d get all my tasks done within the first couple of hours and then I’d spend the rest of the day walking the galleries looking at art. It was a brilliant environment to exist in for so much time. It was very different than visiting for a few hours, being there for several days a week sort of seeped into your psyche. I was happy to mop floors and clean toilets and in fact felt a desire to maintain the peacefulness of the environment through it’s cleanliness.

    If it had of paid better, I’d happily have stayed there for the rest of my life.

  26. I guess Hollywood should be run by beautiful people who got laid in high school, not ugly nerds that made a career. Forgive my snark.

    Yeah that comment could only have been said by someone with the sort of holier than thou attitude that comes with a lifetime of being worshipped.

  27. Two related jobs, tearing apart aircraft and designing test parts for aircraft, almost mindless destruction on the first one with tons of free time, and the complete opposite on the second, both equally awesome.

  28. Crazy bosses:

    As you know from my previous comments and communications I work in the restaurant industry. I find myself to be lucky to work in the bridge from old school chefs to new school chefs both in the way of thinking and in the way of managing. My first boss, Chef Robert, was “Old School”… He threw pans, knives, hot oil, yelled, kicked customers out mid meal, “real life hell’s kitchen style” kinda work, but and I but a real but in front of this next statement, I learned a TON of stuff from this guy. He was nuts, a huge coke head, a drunk but I learned more in that first job then in most of the rest of my kitchen experience. I worked there long enough to the point of running that kitchen when Robert was not around or passed out from the night before and this was at the age of 16-18. Today his shenanigans would never fly, cooks are too pampered but I do not regret working in that kitchen at all.

  29. I would assume that though labor intensive, Mythbusters and Tested.com are amazing jobs. And it is cool to hear the routes whether 2-3 jobs or 15-20 jobs that you guys took to get here.

    Norm, any other t-shirts in the works?

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