2021-08-09 5 min read


Notes, 2021-08-09.

As more and more of us are heading back into the office, it has become increasingly apparent and unavoidable that the environment of work has changed post-pandemic. For one, the labor force finally has the upperhand and is able to effectively increase wages for jobs - especially in areas like the service sector. For two, more and more companies are offering a hybrid or flexible in-person attendance model to improve their retention rates as more worker bees make their flight back to the hive. But the change that terrifies me the most is the dressing down of white collar spaces - the transition from suits and ties to a more casual, laid back vibe. As a black, masculine-presenting woman who has spent the last few years in advanced manufacturing and defense, the workplace was already challenging to navigate. I know that due to my race and sex I’ll be paid substantially less than my white and male counterparts, which only serves to remind me of the wealth gap. The wealth gap that I can’t help but think about as I rush from my day job as an engineer to my multiple part-time jobs that I need to help pay off the student loans that my white coworkers don’t seem to have.

Being black (and having dreadlocks, and a certain confidence with which I carry myself) I have found that no matter how many degrees I hang on my wall at work, my appearance will always hold certain negative preconceptions. After all, when you think of a successful business mogul in jeans, white sneakers, and a hoodie, you probably think of Zuckerberg or Elon – not someone who matches my description. That isn’t to say that black people who decide to wear a hoodie to work can’t be successful business moguls. But it is far more likely that a black person wearing a hoodie is escorted to the security office before they take 3 steps through the front door of a white-collar office space.

I wear a tie nearly every day, not because I want to but rather because I need to. I need to fight preconceived notions about who I am simply based on how I’m dressed. Systemic bias is alive and well as individuals at work feel the need to comment on my person with “hey, SJ, got a job interview today?” or “you changed up your hairstyle again. It’s so…creative” as I walk by in a freshly pressed shirt and cheekily patterned tie. I can’t help but wonder: if I were white, would they even need to comment, or would my outfit just be “normal”?

As we head back into the office, I ask you, dear reader, for a bit of empathy towards your coworkers of color. The hurdles to career success and pay equality put before us may not always be so obvious.

-SJ Jones

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~14% of opens) was an article about a short lived turn-of-the-century train that drove right through the breaking surf near Brighton.

Popular threads on the Members' Slack last week included one on alternate names for L-key allen wrenches, one on practical ground coverings for small yards in the SFBA, and one on home office layouts for those of us with larger accommodations than are usually afforded in NYC and... the SFBA. This week the Members' Reading Group will be discussing David Graeber's Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit - an interlude before we start a big history of Silicon Valley.

Planning & Strategy.

  • Last month, President Biden’s big antitrust push was signed in via an executive order to promote competition in the American economy, which he hopes will lower prices, increase wages, increase innovation and promote faster economic growth. But not all monopoly is in big tech, I discovered, as I dove into a rabbit hole surrounding hearing aids. It’s estimated that 1 in 8 people (roughly 30 million) in the US suffer from hearing loss, yet the vast majority don’t have hearing aids because they’re expensive (around $5,000) and often aren’t covered by health insurance. The executive order directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue rules that allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter (much like reading glasses) rather than forcing consumers to pay for expensive medical consultations. I can only imagine how this will open up the market to companies like Apple, Bose, Beats, and Sony - all praised for the recent sets of headphones with custom in-ear fitting, noise reduction, and voice clarification features that can be useful for individuals with hearing impairments working in an office setting.
  • While US automakers focus on EVs and Daimler pushes for hydrogen fuel cells, a Volkswagen subsidiary is working on overhead electric cables to power long haul trucks. Germany is estimating the costs at about $5 million per mile (which seems steep), but multiple studies have concluded that overhead cable trucks, despite high infrastructure costs, are the most cost-effective option.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • It is every manufacturer’s worst nightmare when a part fails on the world stage - and what stage is bigger than the Olympics? An Olympic cyclist was left eating dust when his handlebars snapped off at 65kmh during the Tokyo 2020 men’s team pursuit. The part was made by Bastion Cycles, which boasts that it is the only bicycle company in the world to have in-house titanium 3D Printing capability which it uses to create bespoke cycles for its riders.
  • Despite its founder being indicted on federal charges of making fraudulent statements that misled investors, the current CEO of Nikola, Mark Russell, endeavors on with full speed ahead as he tries to keep the company focused on business targets set earlier this year - starting with production and shipments of battery-powered Tre semis. Amidst the scandal, the need to raise more funding, and an automotive industry still slammed with global parts and material shortages, Russell has his work cut out for him as he attempts to shift Nikola into gear for producing full-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell battery trucks.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • A clever way to measure tight inside corners with a measuring tape.
  • A good breakdown of Biden’s new infrastructure plan detailing where the money is going to, coming from, and whether or not your elected representatives voted for it. The new infrastructure plan not only creates more jobs, but should also improve commute times, add chargers for electric vehicles, and give everyone access to fast, cheap internet.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


  • I love sharing links from the Prepared’s Members’ Slack with my team at work, but this link was a bit more of a tickler: PornHub is giving tours of historical nudes - from the times before internet where you had to go in-person to museums to appreciate the naked female form.

A year after protests that shook the nation, UCF researches tackle systemic racial bias in neuroscience by developing guidelines for subject hair preparation in black subjects.

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