Paxson Matthews | Working Long, Hard Hours & Finding A Way
Work/life balance is a big topic these days, and for good reason. We need balance in our lives.
However, can this focus obscure the fact that we just need to put in the hours and get things done?
Paxson Matthews demonstrates this ethic especially well as he shares his background with us. In this episode, he talks about how he coped with and has found solutions to losing his hearing at the age of 19.
He then earned an engineering degree, went on to work for a large medical device company, and eventually decided to branch out on his own as a freelancer.
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alaska, people, american sign language, growing, engineer, engineering, work, learn, paxson, hearing, called, hook, goals, problem, paxton, device, instrument, develop, schedule, moving
Presenter, Aaron Moncur, Paxson Matthews
The being an engineer podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people, resources and opportunities. Enjoy the show.
Paxson Matthews 00:15
I work a lot. I think my hard work is probably the best thing I can offer. I’m not super intelligent. I’m not actually with you. But I can’t offer hard work. And I do show up early, and I work late. And when I get involved in a problem, I really get down to know the main retailers I really want to learn. So being timely, being early, and also working long hours.
Aaron Moncur 00:57
Hello, and welcome to the being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Paxon Matthews, who is a mechanical engineer, and has been involved with engineering projects at a variety of industries, from consumer products to aviation to medical devices, and even a brush with automotive. He also brings with him something that is a first for a guest on the podcast, Paxson is deaf. And that’s one of the things we’ll discuss today. But before we get into all of that, backson, welcome to the show. And thank you so much for spending some time with us today.
Paxson Matthews 01:32
Thanks, Aaron, I appreciate your invitation. And I’m excited to be on your show.
Aaron Moncur 01:37
Awesome. So we’re using an interesting setup. Today, we’re recording on the same platform we usually record on, but we’re also using Google Hangouts. And that is translating what I say in real time. So Paxson can read it. So I might be speaking a little bit slower than normal, normal, just so Google Hangouts can translate what I say. And we can communicate. Alright, so with that said, let’s start off pacsun with this question, how did you decide to become an engineer?
Paxson Matthews 02:13
Alright, so I decided to become an engineer, after i’m actually going through biology, my first year in college was through studies of just basically human anatomy. And I decided to switch over to mechanical engineering because I really liked the idea of deriving things, and I like to problems. So getting out of that, um, kind of the art side stuff and kind of getting more into mathematics. That was basically why does I didn’t jump ship on biology in the first place. Um, switch over to mechanical engineering. Interesting. So
Aaron Moncur 02:51
you were a biology major to start with, and then you switch to mechanical engineering? Did you ever consider biomedical engineering?
Paxson Matthews 03:02
Actually, the schools that I was looking at were, that intervals that program that I had that I really wanted to study, I go into university because I like Spokane, and I like being in Washington. But yes, I’m actually kind of considering going back to school for more biomechanical or biomedical engineering.
Aaron Moncur 03:24
Nice. Are you from Washington? I think I saw that you lived in Alaska for some time as well.
Paxson Matthews 03:32
That’s great. Um, I was actually born and raised in a rural small town in Alaska, just right at the base of mom Kenley.
Aaron Moncur 03:41
What was that like growing up in Alaska?
Paxson Matthews 03:46
It was very interesting. The town that I grew up in only had about 2000 people. And I lived there until I was 18 years old, and I didn’t really see how different it was from, you know, in the real real world below 48. And I go into college, it’s kind of just to find out, you know, there’s so much out there that involves people The city is, everything was just it was so fast paced.
Aaron Moncur 04:15
What were some of the biggest differences that you encountered after leaving your small town of 2000 residents in Alaska?
Paxson Matthews 04:24
Oh, man, that’s a great question. I think the biggest thing that I experienced that was just kind of culture shock was just the sheer like, amount of people that were out there in the world. Travel during high school a little bit, but I didn’t really get a full taste of what living in a city was like and I originally moved to Anchorage Villages town in Alaska, right after I graduated high school, and that was my first taste of city life and I wasn’t very fond of it at first, but I first get on the air, but I really do enjoy it.
Aaron Moncur 05:03
Was there anything else any other big shocks moving to a larger city after growing up in a small rural town?
Paxson Matthews 05:13
Absolutely. Um, I think the first one was just how close people live together. It was uncomfortable for me to first move in my apartment when I was living in, and my freshman year at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. And I just, it was weird for me to always have to keep the shades short, and just be cordial about what I was doing in my own home. I was felt like I was being watched. Just in the privacy of my own home. So that was interesting.
Aaron Moncur 05:50
where you grew up, was it the kind of town where everyone just left their doors unlocked at night, and he didn’t really have to worry about that sort of thing.
Paxson Matthews 06:00
Yeah, absolutely. It was really lucky. I mean, I I never locked my doors. I think the biggest threat there was, um, animals like moose and bear.
Aaron Moncur 06:11
How interesting. I want to dig into this a little bit more, because Alaska is such a interesting, unique place. And I know it has nothing to do with engineering. But let’s talk about this for just a few more minutes. What what were some of the unique aspects of growing up? Not necessarily just in this small town, but in Alaska? I mean, you mentioned that animals were some of the biggest, I don’t know if threat is the right word. But obstacles are things to be careful of what what else? Yeah, I know that you have very little daylight time in the winter. What was that? It seems like an experience from almost a different country almost.
Paxson Matthews 06:57
Daily, I didn’t really bother me growing up just because I was always into play basketball and just kind of being an athletic kid. And studying with school is very scroll as thick. As always, always trying to get my best grades. But I think I think the most unique part of Alaska is you kind of develop a mindset of how to have your own fun. And you don’t really rely on others to have this one. So you have fun in the wilderness. You go fishing, and you go kayaking, your there’s always room for paddleboarding on lakes. It’s just it’s you and the outdoors. So there there are not really city features around to visit. I mean, the closest grocery store was about two hours away. So it’s really a different lifestyle. And what’s so weird is after 18 years of that, that was that was normal to me. And then moving out of there. What was normal to everyone else was abnormal to me. So when I adjusted to city life is very interesting. Oh, you say these things like and feel like a foreigner. My friends were just lovely. Where did you get that from? This is absolutely absolutely no, no. Just and I’ve lived in Seattle, and I’m actually really enjoying city lights.
Aaron Moncur 08:26
It’s really interesting that you mentioned you have to find ways to create your own fun growing up in Alaska. And I wonder how that has affected you as an engineer. I mean, nowadays, I know my kids have so many options for fun things to do, right? Whether it’s like video games, well, most of them are centered in a screen, some kind of screen video game or watching YouTube or TV or movies. And then there are just the plethora of toys available right there. All these motorized scooters and bikes and all these things. But it sounds like you didn’t necessarily have all of those options and you had to come up with your own methods of recreation. I imagined that cultivates a very creative mind one of ingenuity and resourcefulness. How do you think that has become an advantage or a benefit to you as an engineer?
Paxson Matthews 09:35
So I like that you really touched on that last part resourcefulness that’s basically kind of what I’m going to share my answer around here. I think when you grew up in the woods, you don’t have a lot. You have to scrap wood and you have the outdoors. You have animals you have more trees, lakes, pawns, some water areas, you have mountains to climb and stuff but You really learn to do your best with just very little. And growing up, I remember at about third grade, I started to build my own forts. And I really started falling in love with this just tree forts, and I built them all over my parents property. We own about 44 acres, and I would make these dangerous trip boards with scrap wood about six stories.
Aaron Moncur 10:28
I’m sure your parents love that. Well, You have, I think, a unique background being being deaf. And how has that shaped your perspective on being an engineer? Actually, before we get into that, I think you weren’t always deaf. This was something that occurred as you were growing up, could you talk just a little bit about, you know, that that transition, going from being able to hear to not being able to hear, and then how is that affected you as an engineer?
Paxson Matthews 11:12
Absolutely, I would love to chat about that. So I was actually, um, we call it a quote unquote, hearing person in the deaf world, there’s a game person and there’s a deaf person. But growing up, I was in Atlanta, and I actually lost my hearing when I was 19 years old. It was after my first year in college. So I was learning a new subject, try to develop, you know, what I wanted to be in life, and then all of a sudden, I lost my hearing. So my, my circle just kind of shrunk, my world just shrunk, my friends kind of left me and I had to learn a new language. And everything just felt so foreign. So I actually took one year off of school, just to think about my situation, I started learning American sign language, because I understood that communication is kind of the foundation for, I wouldn’t even say success. And without hearing, I couldn’t receive any information verbally. So I knew that I needed some way to be able to fully express myself in a natural language and also get information from friends and colleagues, other people in unnatural form. And at the time, artificial intelligence wasn’t as fast as it is now. And we can just use a phone and have speech to text their own application. So we had to do it all manually. And I feel really old for saying this. But yeah, it really forced me to dive into the language, American Sign Language. And so I took two college courses of American Sign Language. And that gave me enough confidence to go back to school, actually, and that’s what I redirected paths from biology to mechanical engineering. And wow, that was that was a major chapter of my life, just kind of like, sure, you know, my identity as a deaf person. And I also learned that there was an entire culture out there of deaf people. And I was trying to pick up on that and gain more friends that I could communicate with. So being challenged that I had overcome when I was just 19 years old.
Aaron Moncur 13:34
Did this happen pretty quickly? Or did you see it coming?
Paxson Matthews 13:40
I did, I actually had about one year to prepare. And that’s when I started looking at YouTube videos and certainly get interested in sign language. But I knew that I had a brain tumor, actually, that was on my acoustic nerve. And it it was growing ever since slowly. But one day, it just started to pick up my hearing. And when it started to pinch on my hearing, when I started noticing that difference, I went to doctors, they basically said you got about one year, before your hearing is going to be completely gone.
Aaron Moncur 14:16
Well, I can’t even imagine what that must have been, like you mentioned, taking a year off, which is completely understandable. How, how did you get through that year? I mean, what what was that like and what were some of the tools you use to kind of pull yourself out of that dark place and get your life back on track.
Paxson Matthews 14:42
I, I actually I moved back in with my parents and I just reassessed my whole life. I knew that I wanted to be successful, and I knew that I had these goals. My first goal was to become a surgeon. I’m a neurosurgeon, actually and After that, I was just I just kind of thinking, what can I do I want to be productive, I want to contribute to society. So I just slowly started to build my momentum. After I lost my hearing. I said, ‘Okay, first, what do I need? I need communication. Secondly, what are my goals, I still want to achieve things in my life. And third is like, Where do I want to go to school.’ So I just started putting in these other applications. And I knew I didn’t want to live in Alaska anymore. I needed some more sunshine in my life, because I didn’t want to get depressed. And I decided, I call the university in Spokane was an awesome fit. And so I drew my application, and they come and visit in the fall. So all right.
Aaron Moncur 15:46
I love how you put that together. I mean, it’s so linear, I need to do a, then I need to do B, then I need to do c that is totally the mind of an engineer. Well, I’m learning the engineering profession, I think is difficult enough for those of us with perfect hearing, how did your hearing loss affect the way you learned as an engineering student.
Paxson Matthews 16:13
So this leads right into what I was previously saying about how I was learning, basically another language at the same time as learning the profession of engineering. So I knew that I needed some way to access lectures. And I was going to do that through American Sign Language. But it’s really hard for me to dedicate enough time to learn American Sign Language, and still give my studies enough time as well, because that was my main goal for school. So what I ended up using is I ended up using kind of a live caption service where someone will listen through Skype, they would listen to the lecture. And they would, they would type that out. And I would come up on my screen real time. Of course, the transcripts were not perfect. So what I ended up having to do is, I had to read a lot, I basically read every word of my textbooks, and I would spend a lot of long hours just studying and there’s help out there. But again, it’s not perfect. And when you go to a private university, they don’t experience a lot of people with disabilities. So their their support service is not not really ready for someone that is deaf, I think I was maybe one of the first people to graduate from the university level is that and you just you have to make your own rules, you have to figure out what works for you. And I figured that reading the books, reading the textbooks was an excellent way to pass exams and to learn the material.
Aaron Moncur 17:52
Yeah, that just takes an already difficult curriculum and makes it exponentially harder. Well, before we get into your engineering career, I’d like to spend just a few minutes talking about a role that you had before becoming an engineer. You spent about five years as a commercial fishing deckhand and on its surface that appears to have nothing to do with engineering. But I’d love to talk about that experience a little, how did it start.
Paxson Matthews 18:24
So it was actually a family business. I got my foot in the door with my uncle, he owned a boat. And he said, basically, when you turn 16, you can come and fish for me, and I really enjoyed fishing. So I thought, hey, let’s give it a try. And that was my first summer on the boat. And then I spent five years after that. And I actually worked really well to keep that going during the summers and then go to school during the winters and the world. Because they were just able to completely pay for school. And it was nice to go to school and not worry about dad or taking on learning because learning enough capital just through fishing. And it was it was actually commercial longlining By the way, we weren’t fishing with nets. So we fish from the bottom of the ocean or on the option with about three mile I’m sorry, my one line 2000 hooks on each line. Oh my goodness, how they in black Cod.
Aaron Moncur 19:27
I think there are some reality TV shows about Alaskan fishing boats. I’ve ever watched any of them but I’ve heard stories about them that they’re they’re kind of crazy. I mean, dangerous and just really intense experiences. Was that your experience as well.
Paxson Matthews 19:46
It’s funny you say that because my uncle was actually a crapper and if he was about 30 years younger, you would have been on TV and so he always talks about how he missed that opportunity.
Aaron Moncur 20:00
Well, you talked about some dangerous conditions and even catastrophes that required creative solutions on the commercial fishing boat, can you share a few of those experiences and the solutions you came up with?
Paxson Matthews 20:16
Absolutely. So I think I have two stories in line for this question here. So one was just one a flange broke, we had all of our gear in the water. So that means that we had 2000 hooks down at the bottom of the ocean, and they had vision on all of them, most of them, and then our two buoys to show where we worse they would be on both ends of the line. And we went to basically pick our gear up and put it on it, like I’m being roller on the bag, and we have hydraulics and connected it to that roller. And we wouldn’t be connected, all of a sudden, the edges takes up going the wrong way it doesn’t hold the ruler doesn’t hold. And we realized that one of the flange pieces had broken due to the torque on the reel. And so we had to haul it back, we had to pull it back manually. And it’s very heavy, I mean, when you have the weight of your anchors and all the fish and all the gear and the water…
Aaron Moncur 21:17
A three miles of line
Paxson Matthews 21:19
To the buttons and we had to pull it back. And then we had thrown buoy back out and and make sure that the fish were just stay in the water, because as you start taking them off the bottom of the ocean, they kind of start moving around a little bit more, and they create not, so we had to keep it back in the ocean when we thought about the problem. And we didn’t want to leave the fish out yet. So we basically came up with a makeshift solution to tie some rules around the actual should act that would act as kind of like, um, like a stop, it was like a latch that would like load, hook on and allow us to run the hydraulic. And normally I said takes about two hours to pull in all the fish. And it took about six hours because it kept slipping. And we were not to untie and pull it back and forth manually. So it was a long set. But after we figure that problem out, we go back and we got it fixed. I think you want a second story.
Aaron Moncur 22:24
Yeah, absolutely. Better than reality TV is live and in person.
Paxson Matthews 22:33
Yeah, well, the second story was wild. So my cousin actually took a really big look through the meat of his hand. And there is in our form, we had pool footsies going on, we only had a 30 foot 32 foot boat. And we were taking a lot of water on the sides were boats, and he went to take one of the hooks off of the line that’s normally supposed to be on the bottom of the ocean. This will we’re opening it up, and you have to unhook everything off hook and hook them up back on when you sat back and in the water. And when you reach for one of the hooks, he ran my drawings at the same time, and the hook just swung around and basically stuck in Ray and the meat of the hand. And his face immediately turned right? We’re like, Alright, I got how are we going to solve this? The problem was is with the hook, there’s a really large BB on the backside. So you can’t just back it up. And we were originally going to saw it about we decided to use some sincerely leverage there and we use some really big FDM wire cutters and talk to people actually want each side of the room to clip the wire or clip the hook. And then we were in the back of that without the board.
Aaron Moncur 23:56
No wonder people get paid so much money to be deckhands on these commercial fishing boats with risks like that. That’s amazing. Well, let me take just a quick break here and share with the listeners that test fixture design.com is where you can learn more about how we help medical device and other device engineering teams who need turnkey automated equipment or custom test fixtures to assemble, inspect, characterize or perform verification or validation testing on their devices. We’re speaking with Paxton Matthews today. And pacsun you you participated in a project called smart mouth technology. Can you tell us a little about that project and what your role was?
Paxson Matthews 24:44
Absolutely. So this is probably my favorite engineering project I’ve done so far. my entire career is also my first and what the device was. It was basically leveraging feeling Instead of hearing, so we call it sensory substitution. And blind people use same concept with Braille. So they basically read where they’re feeling with with their fingertips. And so it’s translating, feeling into words. And then, like in current media, we this way, whatever you want it to be. So back in the 60s, there was this renowned scientist, his name was bloody Rita. And then we were trying to develop some instruments that kind of follow this pathway. And so centralized concept was a sensory substitution. So what we did is we actually built a device, that would, it would listen with your smartphone, and it would be connected to your smartphone wirelessly, but it would sit inside of your mouth, on the roof of your mouth, actually. And since the tongue is so highly innervated, you can press your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, and then there would be a nice electrode array that will display electrical impulses in relation to whatever the sound was being produced by your environment. So certain frequencies would produce certain like small shocks on different parts of your tongue. And through our algorithms, we created that code that would, it would leverage lip reading, because, for example, phone is like P and B, like those two are really difficult to discern the difference between when your lip reading. And so we use frequency to basically set those apart. And so as you would expect, if if P will be received by the rise, then a will shop basically in the front of your town, but B would be received by the device, then In short, the back end, we will make sure that we would set those very far away from each other. So user could easily discern the difference between the two. So interesting. My part in this project was, it was not so much with the design of the device, it was more of taking the batteries of the device, outside of the mouth, because dangerous batteries inside of mouth. And so I wanted to create a human transformer, essentially, and pass power up through the neck. And we caught in the mouth. And it was interesting, because I had about three months to do this. And it was a major crash course in electronics.
Aaron Moncur 27:46
How did the electrical impulses work? I mean, was it communicating like letters, and then in your mind, you would have to string those letters together and spell out a word, or were there certain patterns that correlated with certain words.
Paxson Matthews 28:04
It was basically syllables. So each syllable will be converted into voltage, and the voltage will be passed through a filter through if it was high or low, or whatever the frequency was. And depending on where it was in the frequency spectrum, spectrum, that’s what electrodes would be fired. for that. So one word, if it was a lot of word, it could have maybe three electrical impulses, but it would light up different parts of this mouthpiece.
Aaron Moncur 28:37
How well did it work? I mean, could you actually use it to communicate effectively.
Paxson Matthews 28:44
So I was working with them very, very early development stages of it, but I actually was able to, I was able to get a chance to test that. And we did some user testing on me. And I think we noticed just a very slight improvement. But the idea of sensory substitution is it’s based on brain plasticity, and brain it evolves very slowly over time. So it’s, I think one reason why we didn’t see so much gain in our experiments, is we didn’t allow enough time to progress for my brain to basically learn that new language.
Aaron Moncur 29:25
Paxson Matthews 29:26
Aaron Moncur 29:27
Because it is a new language. Just like learning American Sign Language is learning a new language, right? You have to give yourself time to pick up these frequencies and patterns that you’re feeling on your tongue and learn how to convert those to understandable communication.
Paxson Matthews 29:46
That’s Greg. One thing that I just wanted to add really quickly to give everyone a feel for what the sharks actually felt like is there’s Kenny out there called Pop Rocks. It’s really similar to pop rugs.
Aaron Moncur 30:04
Well, if it tasted anything similar, you can sign me up. I’m all for that. You worked as an aircraft mechanic at kaitou aviation, and one of your claimed victories there was regularly completing assignments early. And I loved that, because that’s a habit that I developed a long time ago myself, that is proven to be tremendously valuable. I had a customer once, who, I don’t know why he said this, but we were talking one day and he looks at me and says, Aaron, I bet you were the kind of person in college that waited to the last minute to study for the test. And I said, ‘No, I was the exact opposite. I was the guy who started studying like two weeks in advance, partly because I just academics never came very easily to me, but also because I’ve always just been a very prepared person.’ So I love the idea of starting early and and getting finished early. Why was it important to you to complete assignments not just on time, but but early? And what were some tactics that you used to do that, because it’s, it’s hard to have the discipline, you know, to schedule yourself so that you finish things early.
Paxson Matthews 31:23
Thank you for sharing, I really, I really appreciate that. So I feel the same way about getting things done early. I think as far as productivity goes, and stress goes, we’re way better off getting things done early in the business world. But the reason why we do that is because I really wanted to prove myself at that job. I wanted to show my colleagues and people that I was working with, but I had the mechanical aptitude because I was going to school as a mechanical engineer at the same time. And I think I had really high expectations on my part of myself, not only from me, but also from the people I was working with. And one of the main reasons why I actually picked up the job was because I wanted to have kind of the second side of mechanical engineering. So I was starting to learn all of the books of mechanical engineering. But I didn’t want to lose my hands on aptitude. So as far as getting things in early, how can I get things done early, I would work a lot, I think my hard work is probably the best thing I can offer. I’m not super intelligent. I’m not actually. But I can’t offer hard work. And I do show up early, and I work late. And when I get involved in a problem, I really get down to know the main retailers, I really want to learn. So being timely being early, and also working long hours. But secondly, I think was scheduling myself and knowing what my week would look like. So I wanted to be really organized with my work. And we would do things called 100 hour maintenance checks. So the plan that we were working on would actually shuttle climbers up to Mum, Kenny, and every 100 hours, they needed certain things check like ailerons, or actuators or the wheels were placed or things like that. And so we’re gonna have a list of all of these things that need to be done. And we want the hours of each plan. And then I can see what my work was going to be. Well, you know what it will look like during the week. And I think I really use this to my advantage. I think the last thing that contributed to getting my work done early was I knew when to ask questions. So I had a lot of questions on the job. It’s there. I didn’t really know a lot about friends. But I had the drive. And I was working with a lot of really talented people loadouts and mechanics. And when I get stuck on something I just asked questions, I knew when when to stop.
Aaron Moncur 34:09
I liked that you talked about scheduling. I think that is an underutilized tool. I typically start my weeks, either Sunday evening or Monday morning by identifying all the things that I want to accomplish that week. And then the ones that are really top priority of the utmost importance. I schedule those into my week, so I know exactly when they’re going to happen. In fact, at the end of last year, I went through an exercise where I identified the goals that I wanted to accomplish in 2021. And these are larger goals, goals that are going to take many months, maybe even up to a year to accomplish and what kind of surprised me about that exercise was my goal was to plan for How I was going to accomplish these goals. And what ended up happening was, I didn’t really think that much about the technical aspects of the goals, what I did think a lot about was, how am I going to ensure I have enough time, and that I actually spend that time working on the goals. And it ended up being just creating recurring calendar events in my calendar. So every week, I have, you know, two hours on Tuesday and three hours on Wednesday morning, and they’re all scheduled in there. So I have this dedicated time that’s already reserved to work on these goals. It’s kind of like, this is getting a little long winded, but it’s kind of like when a company offers a 401k plan, and instead of the money going to the employee, and then going into the 401k plan, it just goes straight to the 401k plan, and never even sees, you know, your personal bank account. It’s the same thing. I don’t leave this scheduling up to chance. If I have time, I guess I’ll work on this goal. Nope. I’ve scheduled it in so it’s automatically going to happen. And that’s been a good tool for me.
Paxson Matthews 36:17
Makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I really like what you have to say about goal setting there. I think that’s super important. And it’s interesting to talk about setting goals inside of goals. And, you know, being efficient with your time management there and setting aside just a brief a little bit. Yeah, really unpack about what you want to achieve. And so I think that’s super important, and definitely key attribute to someone that’s well organized. Yeah,
Aaron Moncur 36:47
Thank you. Let’s talk a little bit about your time working at a company called Ventana Medical Systems. And one of the problems that you solve there was eliminating fastener alignment failures. Eliminating fastener alignment failures within the instrument, manufacturing environment. And that I don’t know why, for some reason, that just sounded kind of interesting to me. And I’d love to talk a little bit more about that. I imagine there was some interesting engineering that went into that solution, can you give us a bit more background on the problem and then share about the solution that you implemented?
Paxson Matthews 37:32
Absolutely. So my original work there at Ventana was going to be with R&D, and then we had a heavy pull towards quality when we were trying to push one of the instrument that and get it on market. So what we ended up doing is we chose to review all of the fastener checks or all of the fastener points on the entire instrument, because we were having some issues with manufacturing. And some of the pilot instruments we’re seeing whole mess alignment, and they’re being kind of difficult to assemble with the assemblers. And so we actually made a poll to review every single part on these instruments. And they were very convoluted with super complex like, over 1000 parts, you know, moving forward. You can imagine the size of a refrigerator, but it processes all kinds of slides that receive these biopsies from patients. And basically, the slides have to, they have to be stained to eliminate cancer. And then pathologists can easily detect if the cancer is, you know, triple negative, or what kind it is, if it’s completely negative on the way or know that they have receptors that just this says will bind you. And it automates the whole process and asked you sterilize all the fluids. So there are all sorts of different components to this instrument. And one major problem was that just the walls, they weren’t aligning. And when we actually started to get into this, I thought it was going to be fairly boring. But I started to develop a really magnificent appreciation for geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. Because you have your placement of the hole that the screw is going into. And then you have the placement of the hole that the screw is going through. And then you have the dimensions on both of those holes. So there’s actually there’s a lot going on, and sometimes it gets even more complicated when there’s a four or five or something and it can adjust maybe in the X or the Y dimension and so I actually developed a really big appreciation for this. And we, we basically adjusted the parts from like, outside to inside. And tackling this problem was, it was not an easy task, it actually required about five engineers. And so we took on maybe five months just to review all of them. Look at priority fastener alignment checks and just run the numbers is as a lot of number crunching. And then after we, we decided, which parts need to be redone, then we went through engineering change orders, and we would redline everything. And make sure that these parts were going to get to be produced perfectly at worst case scenario.
Aaron Moncur 40:54
And what was was the solution to use GD and T, as opposed to typical tolerances? What what ended up being the solution that worked?
Paxson Matthews 41:05
In general, yes. But overall, we didn’t want to make huge adjustments to the parts because we already had the instrument built. It was just we needed to make some small adjustments and when we could implement Julian to the knots when we have that,
Aaron Moncur 41:21
And it worked, I guess.
Paxson Matthews 41:24
Aaron Moncur 41:26
That’s great. I love it, the engineering process strikes again. Fantastic. Well, you are, you’re working as a freelancer right now. And tell me a little bit about freelancing. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it?
Paxson Matthews 41:45
So freelancing is kind of a world when you never really know what to expect. I originally jumped into freelancing when I got a random request to just work with a TV lift company. And they needed someone to migrate all their files from onshape, sorry, from SolidWorks, two onshape. And it’s just this new cloud based software. That is, it’s a CAD computing software. But I started jumping into that. And after that project, I noticed how much I really enjoyed just working for myself and I can work anywhere that I wanted, I could work on the schedule that I wanted. And it was all up to me to basically get that work done in a certain amount of time. And after I picked up that job, and that was when I realized that I don’t have to rely on a corporation to support me. And that was fun, because I didn’t necessarily like living in Arizona, because I’m from Alaska, and growing up in Alaska used really cold temperatures. And when you get summers that get up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s just uncomfortable. So I want to move back to the north, the Pacific Northwest. But I didn’t really know how to do that and still be working. So I took my freelancing work with me. And I learned my jeep, everything. And I drove north and I moved to Seattle for two years, and then decided, hey, let’s be a freelancer in Seattle. And since then, I’ve just got to work on some of the most amazing projects. A lot of my work is with its early stage startups, and they don’t really know what they’re doing. And I said, ‘Hey, you know, I can offer my services and help. yeah, I can push your product to production. So let’s work together.’ It’s been a blast.
Aaron Moncur 43:40
What are some aspects of freelancing that engineers working full-time for a company might not fully realize or appreciate without having done so themselves?
Paxson Matthews 43:54
This is an excellent question. I think having the set salary as a corporate worker is so incredibly overlooked, is because you know exactly what you’re going to earn in one year. And as a freelancer, you really have to work for any money, you do a lot of work by the hour. And if you don’t wake up in the morning and you don’t go to work, you’re not going to make any money. So I think a lot of people that that work for firms, I think they kind of take that for granted. So I think that would be some advice, just to kind of kind of count that blessing. That’s it’s really nice to have steady salary in there. Um, I think that’s overlooked a lot.
Aaron Moncur 44:42
Sure. Yeah, I know I spent several years myself doing freelance work, and I hear what you’re saying loud and clear. You have to hustle to get enough work, but the freedom I remember I worked a lot more hours when I was freelancing than I did when I had been an employee at a company. But I was okay with that, because it was so much more rewarding to kind of be my own boss and be able to set my own rules that, for me, trumped the mild disadvantage of having, you know, to work a lot, because you’re wearing all these different hats. How? How, how did you become confident even that you could make a living as a freelancer? Like, how did you know that? You could do that? You know, how did you know how to find your own work? How did you know how to manage your own schedule, that’s a pretty big leap from working in a, you know, a corporate environment?
Paxson Matthews 45:47
I think it is, it’s really a confidence thing. So at the beginning, I would just apply to really simple jobs. And I would say, hey, look, I’ll do some CAD work for you in exchange for a few dollars. And after I started getting some momentum and building profile, and showing community basically what I can do, and actually displaying my skills, then I started picking up more and more engineering opportunities. And now I’m, I’m in charge of one product design.
Aaron Moncur 46:15
That’s fantastic. There, there’s a group I’m a part of, and it’s kind of a business development group. And someone I can’t remember who it was shared this framework for thinking about how I don’t even know what the right words are to describe it. It’s like, how to how to how to price yourself or how to grow your, your services. Anyway, the framework is, get cheap, get busy, get good, get expensive. And I always thought that it was really good advice.
Paxson Matthews 46:59
There’s all sorts of fees that you have to skirt around. So you have to be really careful about where your time goes. It’s easy to just dump a lot of time into working with clients or writing proposals and not making any money. So you have to be really careful and stick up for yourself. Yeah, let the people that you work with. Yeah, but you have to say no, a lot.
Aaron Moncur 47:23
Yep, absolutely. Well, we’re getting close to time. So let me just do one more question for you. You’re working on a project. Right now, it’s a wearable product dealing with air purification, what can you tell us about that project.
Paxson Matthews 47:40
So the product is called “aramid.” And actually, I just finished up this morning, final meetings. So the MEP should be coming out here shortly. It’s with a company in Bangladesh. And their idea was to basically make kind of a lanyard system that would blow air up in front of your breath wave, and it would purify the air around you. But also give you a second option to kind of connect a little bit of a hose. And then that hose could connect your face mask, and then it’d be 100% purification. But there were two main reasons why we came up with this idea. And I think it’s just it’s perfectly time. So one obviously the virus right now with with the pandemic, and then two, because of the pollution in Bangladesh, it’s so horrible. We kids keep experiencing problems. And they wanted to kind of solve this problem somehow. So they brought me on and I took it from concept to not quite production, but concept to their final design. And they’re working on 3D printing, and then it’s optimized for injecting injection molding, so they will see that through to production years. Surely.
Aaron Moncur 49:01
Fantastic. That’s very cool. What a neat idea. I imagine being that it’s it’s I guess, headquartered in Bangladesh, is probably needs to be a fairly inexpensive device as well.
Paxson Matthews 49:15
That’s absolutely correct. Yep. budget was a major, major feature that we had to work around. And I was doing almost work for free. But I really love what I do. So I was investing my time to just help them get off the ground. And I think they’ve developed some other devices. The company is called tech geeks. And just a really great group of guys from Bangladesh.
Aaron Moncur 49:44
Very cool. Well, best of luck with that. I hope it hope it turns out really well and a huge success. Well, Paxton, before I let you go, how can people get ahold of you? I mean, I’m sure there are a lot of people who are going to listen to this and Thank you know what we need some help some engineering help. We don’t quite have enough resources. This Paxton guys sounds pretty smart. We should give him a ring hit him up. How can people get ahold of you?
Paxson Matthews 50:14
So right now I’ve been working through a board. So my first and last name is Paxson Mathews is that’s just PAXSON and then Matthews with two T’s. But I also have a LinkedIn. And as I from that, I mean, email works great, too. It’s just my first and last email@example.com. So reach out if you have any questions.
Aaron Moncur 50:37
Awesome. Fantastic. Well, Paxson, thank you so much for sharing the stories with us today. This was awesome. I really appreciate having the chance to talk with you and wish you the absolute best with your freelancing and everything else you’re working on.
Paxson Matthews 50:52
Thanks for having me.
Aaron Moncur 50:57
I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design, and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please leave us a positive review. It really helps other people find the show. To learn how your engineering team can leverage our team’s expertise in developing turnkey custom test fixtures, automated equipment and product design, visit us at test fixture design.com Thanks for listening.
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