(Topic ID: 291616)

Contemplating apprenticeship DFW

By BubbaPin

6 months ago


Topic Heartbeat

Topic Stats

  • 19 posts
  • 7 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 6 months ago by BubbaPin
  • Topic is favorited by 1 Pinsider

You

Linked Games

No games have been linked to this topic.

    #1 6 months ago

    Hey pinsiders.

    This may seem like a rant or a life's story but it's not, and kinda is. Trust me, this is pinball related.

    For the past 9 years I have worked for the same company. It's in the care industry and is completely not pinball related. I started working there when I was 21, and before that I worked there for a year when I was 18, left to try out college, flunked and got into a really hard lifestyle. After recovering from that I went back to work for them when I was 21 in 2012, and I have been there ever since. I started from the ground up caring for customers and cleaning up after them for 7.25 after 90 days got moved up to a shift lead. After 2 years moved up to management and I've been managing ever since. Before I was manager the business was having staff issues with keeping people employees and keeping employees happy and keeping business coming. Since I've been manager we have gotten awards and accolades every year since. I have worked round the clock, off the clock, day and night, and have done things most employees would never be willing to do.

    My pay now is well above what it was and is how we can afford a house and kids and bills. We don't do amazingly but we are able to live. which was hard earned especially since I have no college degree and my highschool gpa was a 1.79. on paper I'm not the smartest tool in the shed, but everyone who knows me for some reason will always say I'm one of the smartest people they know because I am always looking for something to learn.

    About 16 months ago I took up pinball machines as a hobby because my wife for years said she wanted a pinball at home. So bought one fixed it up, sold it, bought another, fixed it up, you can guess where this is going.

    Well in the 16 months time I have bought, fixed, sold a full house, space odyssey (which I regret selling) comet, and a street fighter 2. I bought and fixed up and overhauled a LAH, and bought and modded a spiderman stern. I passionately love doing the tweaks and repairs and bringing these games back to life.

    Have done cleaning, waxing, teardowns, rubbers, led conversions, board installations, speaker installations, paint touch up, coil replacement, flipper and mech rebuilds, transistor/capacitor/resistor replacements. Etc

    I honestly love working on these. I piss the hell out of my wife because for some reason when ever I see anything that is off or imperfect with how a machine plays, I obsess over it until I have it fixed, it's not unlike me to be playing a game at home after work and the second I notice something is off or not working, well guess what, i am compelled to rip that glass off and fix it right then.

    My wife constantly tells me that I should look into trying to make this a gig of some sort because she says I got the right mindset for it. And I love it more than my actual job. It's actually almost impossible for me to go to a local barcade because I just obsess over what is wrong with every game and just want to open the game up and fix it right there.

    Well for the past year I've had the feeling the owners of the company that me and my wife are management for were planning to sell. My wife kept on saying no I was just over thinking, well two months ago I had the gall to go ask the owners myself. They were shocked and did everything they could to segway away from the question. Well three weeks ago, they told us they are going to sell either now or soon, and have been planning it for sometime. Wife was shocked, I wasn't. And I get it, it's their right to sell. They assured us that our jobs our safe, my wife would have room to move up and good things were coming.

    Everyone tells me that it's going to be fine, and I shouldn't be worried. Well I am and on top of that I feel betrayed. I have done things for this company I would never dare ask someone else to do. Years ago I wanted to go back to school while working, but the owners have made it clear in so many words that it wasn't a good idea because it would cut down my availability to be called in. When me and my wife wanted to get married, we had to put it off for years due to work and when we finally did it and we just took the afternoon off to get married at a JP, we never heard the end of it. I have put my heart, soul, and the entirety of my 20's into this company just to be used as a selling point.

    Im willing to work for who ever takes over because if there's something I'm good at, is being a company man (i.e. having no self respect, no job description, and do everything necessary). And even if I need to leave I'll find something else as my day job with the skills I have used so far. But I want to contemplate the possibility of doing something pinball/arcade related on the side so I have some more skills I could get some odd work in.

    How does one go into being a tech. Is it required to be a electrical engineer. Can you apprentice a local tech to learn more. Any licenses tax paperwork required, how's the coin op business. Etc.

    I live in the great state of Texas, and one of the people I watch all the time is cary hardy, and I've always wondered what it would be like to just sit there and learn something with a person like him, so I could get more knowledge and skill. I just want to learn and be more apart of the local pin repair and tech environment. Don't want to learn from someone to steal business from someone or anything like that. I just want to learn so I can do this too, because I am truly passionate.

    Thank you all for reading. Sorry for the rant. I just need someone to discuss this with. And my wife is tired of hearing it.

    #2 6 months ago
    Quoted from BubbaPin:

    How does one go into being a tech. Is it required to be a electrical engineer. Can you apprentice a local tech to learn more. Any licenses tax paperwork required, how's the coin op business. Etc.

    Pinball tech isn't really a regulated position. So you don't need to be any type of engineer. The successful ones can repair pinball machine though. That is the requirement.

    There are not that many pinball techs that take on an apprentice. But there are some. For the start especially, it would be unpaid. Usually it isn't an advertised job with benefits or anything. I'm sure there are exceptions to that, like places similar to TNT. But to get a job there, I'd have to assume you would already need some decent experience. And I wouldn't think the pay or benefits would be that great.

    So as a career, being a pinball tech isn't the greatest position.

    I've been a pinball tech apprentice for about 7 years now, and I have no plans on stopping. I learn new stuff all the time through it. BUT one very important part of that is that I also have a career that has nothing to do with pinball. My "real" career pays the bills and supports my family. I absolutely require the stability and benefits that provides.

    That isn't saying it is impossible to switch to making a living through pinball tech work. But it is a tough choice to do it. The "pinball industry" doesn't really have a ton of jobs right now. Some people are able to scratch one out, but it takes years. And the coin op industry isn't great. Since the heyday of pinball, a lot of different options have opened up. So again, sometimes there is lightning in a bottle, but overall it is a hard career.

    Quoted from BubbaPin:

    It's actually almost impossible for me to go to a local barcade because I just obsess over what is wrong with every game and just want to open the game up and fix it right there.

    Get that crap out of your head quick. What is impossible is for a public location to keep machines in the same shape people do in their houses. Personally I like to go play, and if there is something wrong with the game, I just take it as a handicap to beating the machine. If a switch doesn't work, well, no, that should be fixed by the operator because it impacts the game directly. But weak flippers, bad setup, take my quarters! I don't care about any of it, I just want to play the game as it sits.

    #3 6 months ago

    DaveH

    I'm not looking into doing this as my only career option. That would be a one in a million opportunity which would require more knowledge and experience than i have. I believe doing the same thing as you, have a day job and have a passion/side hustle I enjoy. The way I see it if I need to change careers I'll pick up something in management because I'm good at dealing with employees needs and doing things for the betterment of the company no matter the cost.

    I really guess I mistitled my post. I guess it should say, something along the lines of wanting to expand my knowledge and experience in a public setting with more experienced techs. I understand apprenticing would be unpaid, I wouldn't expect it to pay at all. Just want more hands-on without having to keep buying machines I don't have room for. (Already turned the dining room into a arcade, who eats in the dining room anyway)

    Thank you for your response and future responses.

    Update: changed title from contemplating career change to contemplating apprenticeship DFW.

    #4 6 months ago

    Leave.

    Don’t choose pinball tech as your career, pinball doesn’t pay. Straight up it’s just a bad idea.
    I have a technical job in the trades and it satisfies my mechanical leanings while paying very well. HVAC/R is a field that is severely underserved right now and the median age for a certified HVAC technician is near 50-60. The skilled trades are not going anywhere, that’s a myth, and they pay better than 90% of the useless college degree jobs that they pretend are out there but don’t exist (ask me how I know).

    The trades are incredibly satisfying if you’re mechanically inclined. They are not going to be automated and the tech is 15 years behind most other fields. We still don’t have flying cars so when we get there, then I’ll believe it. The Union trains you completely and has incredible benefits and retirement. Do it. Be an electrician, HVAC/R tech, carpenter, you name it!

    Your current job is one run by the endless business con-men out there. I can write an extremely long post about how I was in a similar position and I watched 2 good men, who were skilled and has 15 years experience, get paid almost the same as me, a new hire with less than 5 years experience.
    “Company men” get taken advantage of and it’s sad. One of my coworkers couldn’t even afford electricity one month and ran his house on a generator. That’s a joke in this business. Unacceptable. You are worth far more.

    Stop letting the sunken-cost fallacy pigeon-hole you into a bad job. I’ve been there, if your gut tells you this company is gonna be a shitshow when it gets sold, listen. Start looking for something else now. Sell yourself and don’t be afraid to leverage your experience. If someone offers too little, simply renegotiate and refuse. They will call you back. You may think there are 5 million qualified candidates out there, but the reality is quite the opposite!

    Get a good job that pays you what you’re truly worth, and then make time for pinball on the side. If you end up getting a pinball business up and running while working your real job, then that’s an added bonus.

    #5 6 months ago

    Isochronic_Frost

    Again, I dont want to tech as my main source of income. I understand the deal there. I just want to do it more in spare time but for more than just machines I own. Just learn more on the side and more hands on.

    I grew up in a household that was funded by trade skills. My dad was a plumber, electrician, hvac technician and ran his own business until home depot came to him and wanted him to be the license holder in those trades for multiple states. When I was younger I got my apprenticeship license in electrical but at that time it was alittle different in dfw and with my legal background and lack of onsite experience i had no luck getting on a company.

    I completely agree with you and understand. I have thought about wanting to restart that trade. Haven't had any legal issues in ten years, and no traffic tickets in 3 years. What has been holding me back with trying to excell has been my legal past (drug related, clean 10 years) and my driving record ( driving with no glasses... Like alot)

    Thank you for the advice and that is definitely on my radar. Thank you for your response and future responses.

    #6 6 months ago

    Definitely don't quit the day job (and you mentioned you weren't going to) and at least give the new owners a chance. Might turn out to be a good thing. If not, split. Did they sell locally? Having both you and your spouse there might not be a good thing - both incomes tied to the same business. If it goes down hill, it will affect both of you.

    Is there an opportunity to put pins on location, given you can get a pin and fix it up and put it out and perhaps make a few dollars that way? Maybe not a barcade, but maybe places like a pizza joint, etc.

    #7 6 months ago

    mbwalker

    They are in talks with a corporation. Opportunity for wife to be district manager, while me continuing at my location. Having both of us work at the same business has always been a pro/con issue. Pro is we work really well as a team because she's the face (good with customers) and I'm the body ( good with logistics and getting things done). Con is exactly that, if something happens we're both SOL.

    I've thought about coin op, but don't know where to start, I assume you have to get tax permits for, and there needs to be someway to start other than walking up to a store and being like "can I put a pinball machine in here and give you 33cents on the dollar"

    Thank you for your response.

    #8 6 months ago
    Quoted from BubbaPin:

    ...I've thought about coin op, but don't know where to start, I assume you have to get tax permits for, and there needs to be someway to start other than walking up to a store and being like "can I put a pinball machine in here and give you 33cents on the dollar"
    Thank you for your response.

    Perhaps reach out to Cary Hardy, given he's in your neck of the woods regarding pins on location. Not sure if he has location pins or just does repairs on the side, but maybe he can point you in the right direction.

    #9 6 months ago

    mbwalker

    Yeah thought about it, he's no super close, but close enough, but don't wanna bug him. I'll see if I can find some more locals, and if anything I'll send him a message and see if it's anything he'd be interested in. Thank you

    #10 6 months ago

    The thing you need to remember is not everyone wants perfect working machines. A lot of folks don't even know things aren't working as they should. And when things REALLY break down then they seek help. Usually with the caveat "do whatever costs less to get it working". As long as it starts games and makes noises they are happy. There are more ppl like that around than ppl like you who want their machines to be perfect. In any case the anal collectors usually do the work themselves anyway.

    BTW it pays very little unless you are a big name restorer like HEP and I'm pretty sure even HE isn't rich from this...

    I fixed machines for a while (including board repair) and it killed the hobby for me. Sucked the life right out of me really. Most of the work I did was for a local guy with 50-60 machines in a warehouse. Turds he'd buy on eBay for re-sale locally (usually at a loss or very little profit). The direction was always "Just MacGyver it so it works so I can sell it". Uggh. Took me to the point where I sold off all my games and hundreds in parts for next to nothing. Wanted nothing to do with the hobby anymore and got rid of EVERYTHING. Came back into it 10 years later (2019) but now I buy NIB or much newer games. Minimal work. Minimal parts on hand. I'd rather play than fix now. But at least when something isn't right I know how to fix it right away.

    The main thing is get proper tools like a GOOD DMM, GOOD soldering/de-soldering irons. Read all there is to read on repairs - there are a bunch of wiki pages out there. Changing coils and switches is too basic. You need to learn to read and understand schematics, do connector replacement (proper crimping tools and techniques) and board repair if you really want to be able to fix things for people.

    #11 6 months ago

    MrMikeman

    Thank you for your input. At the moment I'm okay with schematics, not great, I can get done what I need it just takes me a bit to track it down. Got a good dmm and soldering station, done some board work, just want opportunity to learn more board work. ICs are what's scary to me right now, but practice will fix that.

    #12 6 months ago
    Quoted from BubbaPin:

    mbwalker
    Yeah thought about it, he's no super close, but close enough, but don't wanna bug him. I'll see if I can find some more locals, and if anything I'll send him a message and see if it's anything he'd be interested in. Thank you

    Yeah, I was just thinking about just a few basic questions to get your feet wet. i.e. Do you need a tax stamp, operator vs. establishment cut, do you need a LLC, insurance (what if a pin burns the place down), etc. kind of stuff.

    #13 6 months ago
    Quoted from BubbaPin:

    Update: changed title from contemplating career change to contemplating apprenticeship DFW.

    So that is a horse of a different color! And I HIGHLY recommend doing it.

    Obviously what you would be getting is education in exchange for work. And unfortunately the really good opportunities to do it are few and far between. So you need to meet a lot of people, and then get to know the techs in your area. The hard part then is screening the tech to see how much you would learn. You don't want to learn from a hack. And you also don't want to learn from someone that just shotguns parts at a board. You want to find someone that knows what they are doing and can teach you good skills in exchange for work. It's my opinion that those type of techs are a rare bird.

    My situation was just dumb luck. I was selling a cabinet online, and someone noticed a pinball machine in the background of the picture. We became friends, and he introduced me to a tech that worked on a machine for him. Over the next few years he and I became very good friends, and eventually that led to me apprenticing for him. I have learned a TON from him. It has been like a pinball education that would have been impossible to buy. Many years later he still teaches me something every time I'm there. At first it was constant, because my soldering skills were shitty. I'd be working on junk boards and he would look at every solder, and then take the time to explain, and show, and teach me. When I started working on Bally power boards, it was awesome. And eventually that turned into all boards. Ripping apart a playfield started as overwhelming, and now it is just normal life. And working on my own games became easy and fun.

    Overall, it has worked out better than I ever could have hoped for. Partly because he is awesome, but a big part of it is that I've never tried to make it "my job". To me it is just still a big part of this awesome hobby. So I've never been disappointed or taken advantage of while doing it. And all the stuff I've learned is probably the most important, but the most fun is the games. He gets games from customers that are awful, and when we are done, they are amazing. So something I really love is to hang out at the end of the night playing a game we just finished. That has allowed me to play a bunch of games I never would have seen. I plan to keep doing it as long as I can.

    So I guess the next step for you is to start seeking out opportunities to do this kind of work. Get to know the pinballers, who will lead you to the techs, who may lead you to an opportunity. Just be really careful you are getting something out of it. A lot of techs or operators, and even regular pinball people will try to take advantage of you if they can get free work out of you.

    #14 6 months ago
    Quoted from mbwalker:

    Definitely don't quit the day job (and you mentioned you weren't going to) and at least give the new owners a chance. Might turn out to be a good thing. If not, split. Did they sell locally? Having both you and your spouse there might not be a good thing - both incomes tied to the same business. If it goes down hill, it will affect both of you.
    Is there an opportunity to put pins on location, given you can get a pin and fix it up and put it out and perhaps make a few dollars that way? Maybe not a barcade, but maybe places like a pizza joint, etc.

    Corporate buyouts usually go south. I’d recommend looking at other possibilities.
    Stick around definitely to see how it goes, but keep in mind, corporations don’t want to pay you what you’re worth. They want as much as possible for as little as possible.

    There is a reason most places people work always seem horribly disorganized and disjointed. A large part of business in today’s world is literally “doing the bare minimum to make money” there is little incentive to do better when you can hire someone for cheap and merely maintain status quo.

    Find someplace where you’re appreciated and worth it. Seriously by just what you’ve typed, make up a résumé and start interviewing. You gotta realize your own worth and always lookout for number one!

    #16 6 months ago

    Thought 1: flipping games might be more lucrative and you could do that as well as fix them for clients

    Thought 2: go to trade school for electronics or electrician. It would benefit your side gig of pinball tech but could also lead to a better main career.

    #17 6 months ago

    jackd104

    In regards to thought 1. That's kinda what I've been doing. Bought a trashed full house that was a barn find. Fixed that up, did a custom western theme cause we were gonna use it as a art piece, bought for 250, put about 300 in it plus time, sold for 750. Bought a space odyssey for 450, put about 100 in it sold it for 750, added 500, bought a comet, fixed it up, traded it for a BBH pro and a multi case. Took the 750 from full house added 50 went and bought a rough street fighter 2 for 800, put prolly about 500 into it, sold it for 2k, added 2250 bought a spiderman in great condition.

    Bit of a rant there, but that's what I like to do when I have the funds to do so, and the space that is. Currently contemplating selling off the multicade and possibly the big buck so I got room for another pin. LAH is my wife's but I might end up buying it from her just so I can continue to trade up, sadly it seems she's lost interest.

    As for thought 2. I'm kinda on the same wave length there.

    #18 6 months ago

    Very interesting read and good advice above. Like the OP, I obsess about getting things I restore to the next level, better than new. After playing a game, I begin thinking how I could make it better, or did I notice something not perfect. I just came from a well maintained pinball parlor. I have met the tech several times. He travels across several states and has a contract with multiple arcades. He has a significant stock of pinball parts, so that he can fix darn near anything. Of course it has taken him years to build up his business and get a great reputation. The point is, that like others have said, Owners only want the machines to collect money. They care less if it has weak flippers, or all the lights work or some targets don't score. I sink my quarters in and play. If I find that there are problems with a machine, I don't give it anymore quarters. Sometimes, I will tell the tech if he is there, that there is a problem. Usually his response is that the machine is not on the owners list, or he might look at it later.

    I have had multiple careers in my life and now retired. Jobs come and go. Owners, managers, accountants only care about the bottom line. Especially the cost of employees. I worked in the oil industry for 9 years in Houston. I had 4 companies go bankrupt or get bought out and left me without a paycheck for months each time. What I learned was that it was easier to get hired, if you already have a job, than it is to be unemployed and looking for a job. It is always good to have side job skills (as you seem to have). Stay positive and do what ever it takes to take care of your family.

    #19 6 months ago

    @ Tophervette

    Thank you. I've always said the same thing, "it's easier to get a job when you have a job". I've been doing hiring for the company for years and I know the first two things I look for are: 1. Are they currently employed. And 2. How long was each employment.

    As for me, the only employment history I have that is of note is 9 years with the same company, in a field that I'm already one of the highest paid in. I make 21.50 as management of a animal care facility. Which is high, I've never asked for a raise, I've actually have told ownership to split my raises with the other employees for the past 3 years because I didn't think I was anymore entitled to it than the people I count on. So the likelihood of me making what I make now doing what I do now in the same field but somewhere else is crazy to me. Maybe my dad was right and I should of done electrical and hvac from the get go... I dunno. But either way I'm gonna keep thinking on it and thank you for your time and responses.

    Hey there! Got a moment?

    Great to see you're enjoying Pinside! Did you know Pinside is able to run thanks to donations from our visitors? Please donate to Pinside, support the site and get anext to your username to show for it! Donate to Pinside