Built By Hand

Yack with Zach: Built by Hand
By Zach Fothergill

It’s no accident that I work in a panel shop, managing the crafting of custom, high-quality electrical panels. I’ve always been someone who enjoyed taking things apart, and then putting them back together.

As a kid, I worked puzzles at a really young age. Then I graduated to taking the television remote apart (my parents loved that!). I just kept going from there, learning more and more about how things work and what it takes to put them back together.

After progressing to go-carts and tree houses, I started helping my grandfather when I was 14 with his hobby: motorcycle and car racing. I found there were a lot of mechanical rewards in building race cars: if you design and build it well, it goes fast and you can win. If you don’t design and build it well, the race doesn’t go your way.

In the UCEC shop, we do something that I’ve never seen in any of our competitors: our shop employees work and are trained in the mechanical area they gravitate to: the construction side or the wiring side. For someone like me, building panels with an emphasis on math, measuring and drilling is a natural fit. But another one of my colleagues might find wiring and its intricate and precision emphasis more to their liking. We hire people who are good with their hands, but we try not to shove them into a box that doesn’t fit their particular technical skills.

When I am crafting something by hand, one of the things I always do is to look at the project as a whole. Then, I try to take a step back and improve upon it. That’s not to say whoever designed the project did a bad job; it’s just a form of creativity for me. I like to make things even better than they were before.

These days, I’m building things by hand at work and at home. My girlfriend Margarite and I race cars on the weekends locally in one of our Subarus. It turns out we’re both happiest when I build the car and she hops into the driver’s seat.

Zach is Operations Support Manager at UCEC. 

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