A letter to my younger self – Giles Bradley

Reflecting on his career, Giles Bradley discusses the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone and how dental technology has changed for the better.

Well, this is a little odd! Get a pen and take down these six numbers, they are for the National Lottery. Oh, hang on, it doesn’t start for another 20 years. Take them down anyway way just in case ‘plan A’ fails!

So, after finishing school we’ve decided that, following a couple of false starts (once with engineering – apparently, I’m not that good at maths, and then with professional golf – apparently, I’m not that good at golf), we are going to follow dad’s footsteps into dental technology. Well, I did build up my first crown when I was only 14, so how hard can it be?

College years

You won’t realise from where you are – way back in the 1980s – just how lucky you are that it’s relatively easy to get onto a dental technology course. Further down the line, governments don’t seem to see this as a priority. Anyway, this won’t affect you for years to come.

Make the most of your time at college; watch, listen and learn. You will love college and the friends you make, and even the lecturers are awesome. At this point in your career, the industry is moving pretty slowly for the average lab, so what you learn will be put to good use for another 20 years or so.

Later on, technology will hit the accelerator hard, so hang onto your hat and keep up with it. You’re in for a steep learning curve and a wild ride!

Change for the better

The good news about that is the job gets much better than you ever thought it possibly could: easier, faster, cleaner and the big one, more profitable. The industry almost becomes respectable, but don’t let that go to your head.

Opportunities will sometimes come from unexpected places. Grab every single one of them – who knows where they could lead? Get used to being out of your comfort zone as you will be feeling uncomfortable a lot!

The industry has changed so much from where you are then to where you are now, and the good news is that it’s for the better, mostly…

Stepping out of the comfort zone

Worryingly, stress seems be on the increase, but then so it is everywhere. Thankfully, so does awareness of it. As hard as it feels, reaching out is the first step. Remember the bit about feeling out of your comfort zone and doing things you don’t want to?

Your career will shape you in so many ways. Being part of a small family business means you have to wear many hats – some of which you are technically not formally qualified to do, such as accounts (remember the engineering and not being too good at maths? Turns out you’re not that bad) and hiring and firing (yes, you get to do both, neither of which are easy). You learn a big life lesson here: sometimes in life you have to do things that you would give anything to avoid doing, but they just have to be done.

It becomes obvious pretty quickly that you a while, but you will get the hang of asking for help when you need it. You are lucky to have such a great mentor, but you always knew that, and how handy is it that it’s your own dad, so the advice is free! Double win.

The world wide web

In a decade or so, a bit of technology that has been bubbling away underground will burst to the surface and change the world. It’s called the internet. Everyone will have it and it will change the way we communicate.

You and your fellow dental technicians will be able to talk ‘online’ wherever and whenever you like. If you have a problem, all you have to do is ask and you will be hit with a flood of answers and help. You can share ideas, techniques, pictures of duff impressions you received that morning. This is the time your chosen industry gains strength.

Get involved in this ‘online’ community, learn what others are sharing and share with others what you know. You may not think it now, but 30 years in you will have a wealth of information. Well, some of it will be useless, but some of it will be good.

Work smarter, not harder

It will take you about 25 years to realise that working a 60-hour week probably isn’t the way forward, but once you get your head around pricing and charging what you are worth, things will improve and you will spend less time in the lab.

Spend time doing things you have missed, like holidays and having a life. Obviously, you must work hard and go the extra mile to set yourself apart, but aim to work smarter, not harder. Working in a small, focused lab has its limitations. We are well into the 2020s now and technology advancement has hit warp speed. Keeping up is expensive! Luckily for you, some very savvy and entrepreneurial technicians set up shrines to dental technology. These sacred places are called ‘milling centres’, and they are here to make your life much, much easier.

Keep an eye out for a young chap called Dan Barber; he is going to go a very long way in life and deservedly so. He is the person that the phrase ‘going above and beyond’ was coined for. He and his team at Element Digital will magic away your worries and stress.

Keep moving forwards

You can look forward to technicians and labs working together, sharing workloads and generally making each other’s lives easier. Shame it took so long.

Around 30 years from where you are now, you will still be loving your job. It’s the same, but so very different all in one. You are still making things to put in people’s mouths, but the method and manner you do it is very different. It’s gone from being ‘not rocket science’ to, well, almost being rocket science.

You will have so much backup from people you met on that new-fangled internet that nothing will seem impossible. Keep on learning and you will keep on moving forward.

This article first appeared in Laboratory. To subscribe, join Dentistry CPD Pro.

Follow Dentistry.co.uk on Instagram to keep up with all the latest dental news and trends.

Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar