I Am Drafter!26 May, 2011 By: Curt Moreno
Assume any job title you want; just don't forget your roots in a vital and respectable craft.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2011 issue of Cadalyst magazine.
Hi. My name is Curt Moreno, and I am a drafter. Yeah, I said it: I'm a drafter. I am not a CAD support specialist, a CAD technician, a BIM alchemist, or a computer-aided scribble coordinator. I am a drafter, plain and simple, and I consider the decision to call myself a drafter a serious one. In the 20 or so years that I've been in the CAD racket, I've seen people call themselves all manner of titles. Regardless, two things connect all these people with me — and probably with you, too.
First, let me clarify that it is perfectly acceptable to call yourself whatever you like. Whether you want your title to be CAD manager or Corporate Executive in Charge of Angry Gorillas — my boss said no to that one — if it makes you happy, put it on your business card. Even though my role is CAD manager, my business cards happen to say Kung Fu Drafter, because I am awesome. Using any title you want is OK because when I say, "I am a drafter," I am not referring to my job title, I am referring to my profession.
Second, whether your title is CAD manager or BIM technician or whatever, if you're like me, then you make a living by drawing lines. No, really; that is the very basis of what we do as CAD professionals — whether you create 2D lines or 3D models, you are a drafter. We draw lines to create documents, models, exhibits, and plans for others to use in creating physical forms. Whether we are discussing buildings, bridges, cars, T-shirts, or video-game machines, before it becomes tangible and reproducible, someone draws it. That someone is us.
That is sort of deep when you begin to mull it around in the old hat holder: Before it is tangible and reproducible, someone draws it. Deep, yes, but entirely appropriate and fitting. And, as fitting now as it was hundreds of years ago!
Why did the world ever need drafters? How is it that, through the ages, there have been literally millions of us? The answer is simple. Between a person with a concept and a person with the skill to build an object, there is the translator. The translator draws a document used to ensure an object is made exactly as it is envisioned. Without the translator, there is no skyscraper or dog toy. Engineering alone cannot will a jet into existence and into the air.
Between design and construction is a craft every bit as important as either of those. That is the craft of drafting.
Our profession suffers from too many veterans who have forgotten that they practice a craft. The rush to adopt new technologies popping up every year has brought not only a crushing wave of new titles and positions, but a new mentality that seems to accept and even encourage that we leave behind our identity as drafters.
Drafter = Added Value
As drafters, our craft should be not only a source of community and pride but also a source of value. By maintaining our connection to our common craft, we can tap into our community and heritage to buoy our morale and professional standing. As a group, we must maintain our value. If we don't — that is, if we continue to become progressively more specialized in how we describe our work — we'll be contributing to the devaluation of our profession rather than adding value to it. Such value is realized not only in pay scales but also in the respect allotted to any profession by another.
Common business practices are such that if you want to advance your career, you must change positions. Moving up the corporate ladder means that the drafter becomes obviated. Yesterday's drafter is today's CAD technician, tomorrow's CAD manager, and next month's "new-technology coordinator." Onward and upward is the way to win the shell game. Too many of us have been convinced that drafter is a bad word and that what we do is not a profession or a craft.
This disdain for drafter is what has led us to believe that CAD is somehow a new and disparate practice. We are now well into a generation of CAD professionals who never practiced on a board. These people don't necessarily realize that they practice a timeless craft. Consequently, they believe that the value of their work is tied to the pay rate of their job. That is a terrible shame.
This devaluation at the very base of our profession is no less dangerous than releasing a jar of termites at the base of a wooden tower. The damage is invisible at first, but eventually the tower crumbles under its own weight. Slowly but surely, the devaluation of the drafter combined with the race to adopt new technology will eat away at the foundation of our craft.
If the trend continues in our profession toward more specialized job titles, the devaluation of the drafter, and the dissolution of the greater community, what effect will that have in the future? I fear it will become increasingly difficult to maintain fair pay scales and attract new generations to our craft.
Where will the new BIM guru come from if there are no general CAD drafters? What sort of worth will new CAD drafters place on their work if their pay is dropping and their goal is to get out? Will the future even know new generations of drafters, or are we a dying breed?
As our job titles become increasingly varied, I maintain that it is important that we see through them. Don't let the cult of initials and professional apartheid lead you to believe that we're different people in different groups.
Hold tight to our shared craft and lean on the long, rich history it provides. Don't allow the respect and pay deserved of your position to be minimized because of a "lack of industry historical pay rates." Each of us is more than the person at the end of the production cycle. We are drafters.