Growing up in a printing press

My mother used to run a printing press, and I had the opportunity to grow up observing her overcome her challenges on many fronts and learned from the experiences!

Being a working mother, with children to care for, and home and office just a street apart, it used to be easier for us (as kids) to just walk over to mom’s office and observe her at work!

She used to be super-fast in whatever she does. Her productivity levels were very high. She knew every single team member well and what they are good at, and when to leverage whose skills.

All jobs used to come in the last minute. Apparently, finalizing the content of what needs to get printed is the toughest part, printing process is never even thought of as having any complexity and jobs will always be needed-next-day!

Even today, when we give our pictures or photo books for printing, do we think about the people who actually print it for us? That they have families, and their children might be waiting for them to come back home and cook and care for them…! That is the nature of this business.

Two printing machines that I have grown up watching & smelling the ink and shades of colors being mixed, smelling the turpentine, old rags to wipe off the paint that sticks to our hands, cutting machines, book gathering etc.

For books and/or papers that have multi-color printing, they used to be loaded and re-loaded multiple times with different shades of colors. Every single time there was some lesson to be learned by someone in the team.

The paper edges have to be cut after printing before it goes to book gathering or binding. The huge machinery that needs to be carefully handled cuts thousands of sheets of paper with just one slide. Imagine the sharpness of the blades. It used to be no-kids-allowed zone at office!

Kids are usually allowed in the book gathering sections and I used earn my pocket money gathering printed papers in the right order to form the books, ready for stapling 🙂 I used to always think I was smart enough to gather as many books as possible and earn pocket money to buy candy the next day at school – till I became a mother… then I realized how smart she was to make me sit quietly in one place without disturbing her so that she and the rest of her staff can continue to do what they were supposed to do 🙂

Every member of the team used to have some critical skill that is needed for the team to succeed. Anyone who possessed that skill used to be very competitive and unwilling to share their expertise. Some who were willing to teach and share their expertise knew how to grow and were well liked amongst their peers.

Mistakes were common, but someone in the team always knew how to overcome the same and come out of the situation without impacting the timelines.

There have been nights when my mom had to work while some part of her team was at office working. There always used to be the concept of overtime for team members – which used to be a decent compensation for being unable to plan in advance.

Concept of ethics, working parents challenges, necessity for money, end-of-the-month finances, managing through a crisis, dealing with customers, cut throat competition, dealing with various stakeholders, work life balance, there were many lessons learned – just by observing my mom at work.

Every child needs to have the opportunity to see their parents at work – doing their work. What they observe and learn can never be taught in classrooms.

My children asked me to write about this today, and it was a good walk down the memory lane.

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