An all too familiar face.. well not this exact one!
Does the above look familiar to you?
When trying to explain the Industry I work in to my friends, this is the typical reaction I get!
Fluid Power is one of those industries which proves extremely difficult to explain effectively to an outsider. Take for example a Bike: the majority of the world knows what a Bike is; if you say you're a Bike Mechanic most people will understand what that entails. Working with Hydraulics and Pneumatics however is a very different beast! Over my albeit short 3 year career span in the Fluid Power Industry I've rarely been able to explain what my company deals in up until more recently...
When I started my new Job at Derek Lane & Co in 2012, naturally a recurring conversation piece amongst my friends & family was congratulating me on my new job and also asking what my job involved. This is where the fun begins...
The first few times I'd explain a Digger's arm and how it uses Hydraulic Cylinders to move; if it was an online conversation I used to link them videos of a digger in operation, in hopes of aiding my explanation... (I know, fun friend right?) It worked to an extent but I don't think they realised what bit was hydraulic as all they saw was the overall arm, not the parts. That way of explaining quickly got benched!
Slightly to the side but I did go through a stage of having people say "Oh yeah, you sell Tractor Parts don't you?". Although in a way this is basically true as we sell people bits that you'd most likely find on a Tractor, Like a comic book fan who hears a wrongly referenced Avengers quote, I couldn't help but sigh internally.
One time I vividly recall I think was under the influence of Alcohol; the lips grow ever loose once you've gotten yourself slightly fermented and I was fully reeling off what I do for a living whilst on a night out with some mates. As above stated there were a few drinks in the equation so my usual reservation to not fully go into what I do was went out the window with any other inhibitions! I began to explain what Hydraulics and Pneumatics were and I went into quite some depth on Pascal's law; It's quite easy to tell when people aren't following you and although they were saying "mmhmm" and "oh right" at the correct moments, it was ever clear that underneath they were dying inside!
After much trial and error I've found the easiest way is to just keep it brief.
My two go-to responses now when people ask what Fluid Power is are either:
"If it needs Oil or Air to work, we deal in it" or
"If it P****s, it's Hydraulic & if it hisses, it's Pneumatic" (don't use this one kids!)
Obviously these are extremely top level responses but as I've learnt the hard way people aren't always necessarily looking for lots of depth. After all, it is only a little conversation starter!