Today we’d like to introduce you to Ilko Dimitrov.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Ilko. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I have never thought about myself as a subject for an inspirational story. I will start with the fall of the Berlin wall and the crisis in Eastern Europe. It started in late 1989, I was in the Air Force in Bulgaria, in my second year. Next year I went to Technical University of Varna, freshman, Major-Shipbuilding engineer. I remember back in 1990, late fall-stores were empty, for a few days there was no bread, milk or anything else on the shelves. But we had a desire to learn. I used to spend most of my monthly allowance for books.
Graduated in 1995, and was lucky to get employed with a 5,000+ employees Varna Shipyard, scantling engineer and after the first year-production supervisor. In my first year I was replacing a retiring 75 year old second generation shipbuilder who in his last day at work left us with these words of wisdom: “I am 75 years old, and I am still learning. Never think that you know everything.” These words remained as a motivation from then on.
In January-February 1999 we did stop getting paid. Officially we were employed, but not paid. I had a crew doing ship repair, and it was unbelievable hard to let people work without knowing when they will be paid. The shipyard went to bankruptcy in March 1999. Then 4-4,500 employees were terminated for one day. This is something I will never forget.
In 1999-2000 I was employed by a contractor / supervisor in a shipyard in Kuwait. Sometimes responsible for 60-70 steel workers. 16+ hours shifts were very common, with one 29 hour shift to be remembered. Temperatures hit 122 degrees in May, and 126 degrees in June, measured on shadow. Meanwhile I received the first letter that I had won a green card lottery for USA. Then my supervisor became very angry and form this day on I was just another number on his list. He did not allow me to go back to Sofia to pass my first interview.
In 2000-2001 I was employed by ASRY in Bahrain, as a design Engineer, a 3 month contract that turned to an offer for a permanent job. I asked them my supervisor after the third month-when I will be heading back to Bulgaria, he answered laughing-Ilko, you can retire here.
In June 2001 I and my wife passed an interview and security check in the USA embassy in Sofia and in 07/15/2001 we landed in NY, La Guardia. A few hours later-in Boston. We did not know where we are heading, only we knew our guarantees will meet us and help us to get an accommodation. Moving to a fourth country in 2-3 years was a shock for me.
A newspaper in NY wrote-when you move to The USA-if you have thoughts about washing dishes-you will do so, if you dream about something more-you will achieve something more- you will get what you dream for. I got my first full time job one week after 9/11., in a steel fabrication plant in Hyannis. Living in Burlington, MA and going to Hyannis 5 days a week. After witnessing what happened with 4,500 people on one day in Varna Shipyard, I was the happiest man on earth having a full time job in The USA.
The company in Hyannis offered me a relocation package and I moved closer, to Marshfield. My skin was very sensitive then not to move straight to the Cape. My employer went to bankruptcy in 2003. In 2003-2005 I was employed with another steel fabricator, who closed his office in Holbrook, MA, In 2005 I was employed with a steel fabricator in Boston, for 8 full years. Another large company bankruptcy… Company was renamed and I was employed by 2013.
In 2012 I passed a National test for Structural Steel Detailers with the highest score in The USA. A few weeks later I received a call from a very prestigious company if I want to move to Florida. Yes, we have harsh winters, weather sometimes can change every 15 minutes, and the streets in Boston are as nowhere else looking at the map, but we liked the Boston area, we did not move.
In 2012 I went to a bank and applied for a loan to be able to buy equipment and software. Then I did feel I can earn more and to be independent. Taking the loan was the easiest thing to do having a perfect credit history. In order to pay my loan and a solid mortgage (I am a typical immigrant with no house paid by my father), I had to wake up at 3:30 in the morning, start working as a contractor at 4:30 to 8.a.m. After that 8 -5 I worked as employee, 3D modeling and preparation of construction documents, and after 5 p.m. to 7-7:30 p.m. I worked again as a contractor, 3D modeling and detailing.
The company I was employed with, did not have enough work for me. And here is the hardest part-going to work knowing I do not have a project to work on, call supervisor-sometimes nothing. I gave my 2 weeks’ notice in November 2013.
I will never forget my first day as self-employed. I closed the door behind in the office and have told myself-Ilko, now it is just you, your knowledge, and desire to work. In one year I had 4.5 days without work. Next year I had no days without work, and I started refusing work. The motto-treat customers the best possible way, the way we want to be treated, be responsive and willing to negotiate.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Learning English spoken in The USA. Despite of some 8-10,000 words I knew before coming to The USA, I could not understand the news on TV for the first few months.
ACBS Structural Steel detailing – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I specialize in 3D modeling and preparation of construction documents for structural steel fabricators for buildings and bridges. BIM (Building Information Modeling), BrIM (Bridge Information Modeling)
What sets me apart is the flexibility of my software to be an excellent tool for both buildings and bridges. In general modeling bridges unloaded or in loaded position, and representing them unloaded for fabrication is the labor intensive part. Most detailers specialize either in buildings or bridges. Advance Steel, the software I am using, is good with both buildings and bridges and I am flexible to handle different type of work.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
When my customer tells me-“Ilko, your drawings are second to none. Thank you for your service”
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