Bruno Gaido was a young radioman-gunner portrayed by Nick Jonas in the 2019 movie “Midway.” An early scene shows a Japanese bomber trying to sink the USS Enterprise by crashing into it with his plane. The scene shows the bravery of Bruno as he ran across the deck of the ship and jumped into the rear seat of a parked airplane, using its guns to shoot back. His shooting damaged the bomber just enough to force it off course, thereby saving the ship just as the bomber crashed into Bruno’s plane, cutting the plane in half and spinning it around.
This spectacle was amazing, but I quickly dismissed it as “Star Wars” action-adventure fiction. Could it seriously have happened that with just seconds to act, a man heroically saves the day while the attacker hits the plane he’s sitting in and yet he survives? Talk about a classic “jumping-the-shark” moment. It seemed like such a Hollywood fabrication that I decided to research this event to get the real story. Imagine my surprise when I learned that not only is it a true story, but the movie was based on eyewitness accounts and ship records, so that is exactly how it happened, including Admiral William Halsey spot-promoting Bruno to Aircraft Machinist Mate First Class for saving the ship.
As impressive as that was, I learned some other interesting facts about Bruno not shown in the movie1. For instance, Bruno had a reputation of being a tough customer and was known as someone who got the job done without a lot of self-promotion. In fact, when Admiral Halsey promoted Bruno, a search party was formed because Bruno was trying to avoid attention. In addition to shunning the spotlight, he was known to invest in others for their benefit, not his own.
Here's one example. In June 1941, Lt. Junior Grade Norman “Dusty” Kleiss, a pilot new to the Enterprise, set out to make his first aircraft carrier landing. Learning to set a plane down on land is hard enough but landing on the narrow strip of a moving ship in the middle of the ocean can be incredibly challenging for even the most experienced pilots. Remember, this was 80 years ago when computer navigation and automated systems were concepts that hadn’t even been imagined yet let alone incorporated into an airplane. The only thing that carrier pilots could rely on to get them safely back on the deck was their skill, experience, and confidence—characteristics that were in short supply for a greenhorn like Kleiss. However, when he got into his plane, Kleiss found Bruno Gaido sitting in the rear seat instead of the sandbags normally used to simulate a crewman’s weight on a qualification flight. Because of his inexperience, Kleiss tried to talk him out of coming with him, but Bruno simply responded; “You got wings, don’t ya?” Kleiss went on that day to be qualified with several perfect landings thanks to the confidence instilled in him by Bruno Gaido.
Sometimes the difference between our failure and success is determined by the faith and confidence that others have in us.
I’m sure we’ve all benefited from the confidence that others have shown in us over the years. When it came to my first solo flight as a student pilot I was just as anxious as Lt. Kleiss. To be completely honest, I wasn’t just nervous, I was terrified. But my flight instructor calmly looked me in the eye and said, “You can do this.” And so I did. One time while I was searching for work, I had stopped believing in myself. In that instance, a hiring manager gave me the shot of confidence I needed when she said, “My company needs what you can do,” and she hired me. But perhaps the best example, and one that still gives me confidence whenever I think about it, is when many years ago my design manager gave me the assignment of laying out a new generation of motherboard for a large computer manufacturer. This was going to be a high-speed design using new CAD software and design tactics that I was unfamiliar with. I would also be required to work onsite at this company for several months away from my regular team. It was an intimidating prospect, but my boss gave me the assurance I needed by telling me that he believed in my abilities to get the job done.
As we all know, the current demographics of the printed circuit board layout industry is changing. Many designers are approaching retirement, and engineering groups are looking for new designers not only to continue their work but take it to the next level. Circuit board technology is also changing. The next generation of PCBAs will require new design methodologies to support their evolving specifications along with new materials and processes to manufacture them. But no matter how much the software and hardware in our industry will change, the simple fact is that printed circuit boards of one type or another will still be needed for a very long time. To keep the electronics innovation process flowing, it is essential that we all participate in the growth of the PCB design industry as much as possible.
How can we help to develop a pool of new layout designers that are ready to take on the challenges of the next generation of electronic development? As we have seen from the example of Bruno Gaido, one of the most effective methods for helping a greenhorn designer is to build up their confidence and give them the stable foundation they need for success. Here are some ideas that I use when working with new people on the job:
- Look for the diamond in the rough: Not all designers will follow a traditional career path. If you find someone with interest and aptitude, try giving them a little encouragement and see where it takes them. A young high school graduate named Mark Eaton was working as an auto mechanic in 1978 when a college coach encouraged him to enroll at his school and play basketball. Eventually, Mark went on to rank second in the NBA for career blocks behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, spending his entire professional career playing for the Utah Jazz. Just imagine if that college coach had seen only a mechanic instead of a potential NBA superstar. May we all learn to look beyond what we simply see on the surface.
- Be accepting of new personnel: Change can be tough, and it is understandably difficult to see a trusted co-worker move on and replaced with someone new. But face it, this scenario is going to repeat itself many times over; we must accept and make the most of it. That leaves us with two choices: we can either bury our heads in the sand (which I don’t recommend because the view isn’t all that interesting from that perspective), or we can welcome our new co-workers with open arms. And as I have learned, more often than not these new people bring with them fresh ideas and new ways to get things done that help in ways I would have never thought possible. It’s a winning combination for everyone.
- Help them to succeed: When working with a new designer, make sure to start them with projects they can grow with and learn from. Otherwise, you may risk discouraging them before they have a chance to reach their full potential. You will also want to ensure they have adequate training in your processes and procedures and be prepared for their questions. The goal should be to create an environment that encourages their success as a designer of your products, and not merely how to punch a timeclock and collect a paycheck.
- Hold a crown over their heads and help them to grow into it: As these new designers come up to speed, don’t be afraid to increase their responsibilities according to their abilities. In this way you will further help build their confidence. However, it is essential to keep an eye on their progress to ensure your new designers don’t overcommit. I’ve seen far too many new employees burn themselves out because they took on too much or were not managed correctly and got in over their heads.
- Encourage learning: Explore different paths of continuing education to help your new designers grow in their careers. There are many options available out there that range from simple online seminars to large-scale design conferences. Not only will your designers learn new skills at these venues but investing in their future like this will also pay huge dividends in building up their confidence.
Probably the best advice is to treat new designers and employees the same way that we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes. Yes, they can get the job done by hiding in the corner and doing only what they are told to do. But to truly excel in our industry requires taking a few risks, and that takes confidence. It’s up to us to help build that confidence in those we work with so they can reach their full potential. If you are questioning your own ability to build confidence in others, let me be the first to say, “I know you can do this, I believe in you.” Until next time everyone, keep on designing.
- H-004-5: Toughness—Aviation Machinest Mate 1st Class Bruno Peter Gaido, by Samuel J. Cox, March 29, 2017, Naval History and Heritage Command.
This column originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Design007 Magazine.