February 9, 2012

Stolen Work

The other day I posted about an unscrupulous person who was caught selling comic trace art and falsifying a rather impressive bio in order to integrate himself in the industry further and make more money illicitly.

At least one person thought I was a bit harsh in my assessment.  Not my place to say, so I left the comment standing.

That one comment has been brewing about my head for days now and I'm not sure why.  Earlier today I think it hit me.  My work, my ideas, have been taken from me several times in the past.

Some think that just because you are earning a paycheck anything you come up with is owned in whole by your employer.  That can be true, especially if there is an expressed written agreement covering the subject, but often it isn't.  At more than one job I've had my work taken and passed off as belonging to someone else.  One person allegedly got a promotion for one of my ideas and another made an extra $100K co-opting my work.

While I'd like to get credit where credit is due, I know it isn't going to happen.  When I make suggestions for improvement, and I'm working in a team environment, I should be flattered when those improvements are made.

While I'm thinking about some specific events that could illustrate my point, I don't think they would be inappropriate for sharing here.  I can think of a more concrete example of my work being stolen that was almost comical.....almost.

Back in 1997 I was sent on Temporary Duty (TDY) to Kuwait.  Our small group was there for several months basically keeping equipment "warm" in case Iraq came back to re-take Kuwait.  We were little more than a speed bump should that occur, but it was between the Gulf Wars.  The day-to-day job was pretty much driving an hour and a half out to the Udari Bomb Range to control some training missions for 20-90 minutes and then drive back.  We were giving civilian vehicles, Mitsubishi Pajeros, and had to "dress down" while in populated areas.  Generally that meant we could wear PT gear or simply take off our desert camo blouses (Yep, our shirts were called blouses).  Normally you only had to go out every two to three days because we had enough people to rotate on the trips.  Nobody liked driving out to the desert.  That 90 minute drive was if you were speeding and those Mitsubishis would emit a loud "ding" if you drove above 130 KPH.

Now at this point in the story you need to know a little bit about how I was in the service.  Generally speaking I was a bit anal-retentive and a bit obsessive when it came to certain operational "things".  One of those "things" were my maps and control cards.  As younger Airmen I took every opportunity to get in a control when I could.  It was common for the certified controllers to "pass-off" the handset to one of the airmen for the last pass of the aircraft, provided someone was prepared.  Usually the aircraft would inform the controller that they had one pass left.  It wasn't uncommon for them to have to impose some sort of restriction before they had to leave the airspace.  You might have been working a set of three targets from only one or two ingress points (IPs), but due to the way the planes have to fly home that can only hit, or only desire to hit, a certain target from a specific IP....and one or both of those points weren't ones they've been using.  At this point the ETAC or ALO would say, "Who has X worked up from IP Y?"

My hand was always up.....always.  Before going to the field I would pour over the maps and mark them up with all the information I would need.  I'd run all the data and plot everything out.  Then I'd figure out a way to organize the data to fit my possible needs.  Sometimes I filled out the 9 Line briefing cards in advance with multiple sets of data.  Other times I'd type everything out in a small reference chart.  This helped me get in a lot of extra controls compared to my peers.

I was known to spend my weekend before going to the field doing nothing but working on my maps.  On TDY (temporary duty) while the others were out partying (a couple Las Vegas trips come to mind) I'd stay in until my mapwork was done.  I didn't mind it because the prep work saved me a lot of time later when I didn't have it.

Now back in Kuwait one of the first things I did was work up my training map.  Once I got everything the way I wanted I laminated it and created a copy.  I used one map for mission planning and kept the other in my kit bag so it would be there when I needed it....and so I'd have a backup.  Usually I'd type up a lot of the information and affix it to the map, but this time there was a lot handwritten information.  After my first couple trips out to the desert my map disappeared.  Guess I was lucky that I had a backup.

A couple of months into the rotation I was asked to escort a small group of A-10 pilots out to the range to get them familiar with it.  These guys were fresh in-country and there would be some occasions where they were going to control each other for training purposes.  Out at the range we used the back of the Mitsubishi to do some last minute mapwork and explanation.  I go to grab the map and put it away and one of the pilots tells me I just picked up his map.  "I don't think so" was my immediate reply, but he was pretty adamant.  "Sorry Sir, but I'm pretty sure I can recognize my own handwriting."  One of the other pilots hands me another map which is definitely mine.  I take a second look at the "original" and it's now obvious that it is a copy.    The other pilots showed me their maps.  Sure enough, they all were identical.  That map of mine that went missing, it wasn't lost....it was stolen.  Someone from their squadron had taken one of my original maps, scanned it, and printed off full-size color copies for all the pilots to use!

Needless to say I was pretty ticked off.  Had they asked I wouldn't have had any issue letting them borrow one of my maps as long as I got it back.

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