Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Interview with Ross MacKay

Ross you are considered a world authority on pump maintenance. Why pumps?

Ross Mackay
This is a field I fell into many, many years ago as a young man graduating from high school, I was offered an apprenticeship with a large corporation in my home town of Glasgow, Scotland. Part of their product line was industrial pumping equipment, and it was an area that I particularly enjoyed so, when I immigrated to Canada, I sought work in that field and have been in it ever since.

What is the secret sauce to becoming a world expert?

Ross Mackay
I believe it was Earl Nightingale who once said something like, "If you read on a particular field of endeavour for one hour every day, you can become a world expert within 3 years". I had been in the business for almost 20 years before I started teaching other people about pumps. I hadn't been reading every day, but I had been working with others and picking up some good information on a regular basis and I suspect that's why it took me so long.

The real secret is ongoing learning. When you start to believe that you know it all, that's when stagnation sets in, and you stop learning. After all, how can you learn anything when you already know everything.? The need for an inquisitive mind is paramount.

The other thing that I believe made a difference to me was when I was asked to do a seminar on pumps, then another, then another. When you do that and you have to field questions from people who know that they don't know, that's when you too start to learn, simply to stay ahead of your students. Suddenly you realize that you've become "the topic expert". At this stage one of the most rewarding aspects of my training work is that I am totally comfortable telling people that I don't know if they ask me a question to which I don't have an answer. I don't feel as though I "should" have an answer and try to B.S. my way around the question which is a trap that will catch too many.

For a technical guy you have a pretty good people side. How do you explain that apparent conflict?

Ross Mackay
Oh, I was just born charming..... :-) Seriously, I don't view that as a conflict at all, although I do recognize that many people consider it as such. If you love what you do and enjoy the people you work with, it falls into place quite naturally. If one or the other isn't there, that's when the conflict results.

I used to work with Robin early in my career. He was a brilliant scholar and a hard worker. Robin was one of these guys in college that bemoaned the extraordinarily difficult examination he had just written and still finished up with 97% as a result...!! Unfortunately Robin was painfully shy and tended to rebuff people who tried to get to know him. Consequently he had almost zero communication skills which made it almost impossible for him to get along with anyone.

What else would you like to add?

Ross Mackay
What you know means absolutely nothing if you can't communicate it to other people. You don't necessarily have to be born with an engaging personality, but you do have to learn the science of effective communication, and it is a science. One of the best places to learn that is as a member of Toastmasters International an international organization dedicated to communication and leadership. There are clubs all over the world and they can be reached at http://www.toastmasters.org/

Contact Ross Mackay

Note from George Torok: Ross Mackay was the first guest on my radio show, Business in Motion, in September 1995. He was so good I had him back again.

George Torok
Business in Motion - the radio show
Canadian Business Speaker

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