Engineering Careers Blog

Engineering Careers

The Engineering Careers blog features news and information about job placement, personal and professional development, and industries and locations that offer opportunity.

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Engineering Careers: What's Your Story?

Posted July 26, 2009 10:00 AM by KER_Recruiter

You've heard my stories and listened to my advice. So in this blog entry, I'd like to hear from you. Specifically, I'd like to learn more about your own engineering career and how you reached the position that you hold today.

I'd also like to know why you left the company that you once worked for. Was it money, internal politics, business ethics (or lack thereof), limited upward mobility, poor tools or resources to do your job, or just plain boredom? Was there a specific incident or situation that served as a catalyst for changing jobs? Or was the change a long time coming?

I look forward to your replies!

Editor's Note: Jake Briggs (KER_Recruiter) is a Technical Direct Hire Recruiter for Kelly Engineering Resources in Amherst, New York. His territory includes the northeastern U.S. as well as the mid-Atlantic states.


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Location: Harlow England
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Re: Engineering Careers: What's Your Story?

07/27/2009 10:49 AM

Left uni' after 2 yrs, over qualified and under experienced, with a wife to be and kid on the way. (Mrs Cat) I had to put bread on the table so I worked in a Hi-Fi and electronic components shop in Soho (the real one in London UK) did hoby Hi-Fi Electronics and also learned a lot from the radio hams I worked with.
A regular customer told me of an instrumentation company looking for production test eng's. Got that job, about a year later I was offered a job in Harlow new town, Cossor (now Raytheon) were looking for prod' test guys, working there for a year also landed me with a council house (had a wife and son by then).
An old training officer guy there sent me off to get my HNC on day release, I then moved to Development test, and found I was helping the designers debug their stuff. I was pushed into a QA role...all paperwork..not me, so I left to become electronics designer at a Medical electronics company, becoming Chief designer.(Job advertised in local press)
Left that job due to politics (power crazed HR woman who was persecuting my staff)... moved to my present position (local press again) and after 5 or so years wound down to a 3 days a week.
Basically I've had 3 main jobs each lasting about 12 years, but the first production test job set me on my way.

health warning: These posts may contain traces of nut.

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Re: Engineering Careers: What's Your Story?

07/27/2009 11:04 PM

Worked my way through college at major Steel company, started as laborer, promoted to furnace clerk and maintenance expeditor. Transfered as hourly employee when looked like my plant was closing, and started shoveling (again) on iron ore dock. Work ethic got me clerical job. performance got me request for resume, resume got me job as environment tester, where i was part of team that created method of stage charging coke batteries and sealing oven tops sequentially to get visible emissions in compliance.all of our team got promotions- I went to the lab. Finally they recognized my degree.Three years later, company cut management to three layers, by sawing off the bottom two rungs of the ladder. Time at company, 10.92 years.

started immediately with a small mill as plant metallurgist, (Referred to them by former boss ) implementing Statistical Process control. Ended up running new mill, until company was bought out by wall street bank as part of plan to get hostile control over major auto company. Managed business development and quality there until Merged into another steel company. (13 years) After merger #2 spent a few months in marketing, then back into quality and development for major division of the new company. 35 direct reports, all engineers and metallurgists. I headed up quality and business development function.

two bankruptcies later, About 6 years, i was down to three direct reports, and told to get down to two...

I left to join trade association, where i help entire industry with sensemaking in todays crazy mixed up world... This was only time "i took the initiative to leave."

Having served my apprenticeship is was critical to my continued effectiveness. When youve worked in both Bof's and Electric furnace shops and all other mill departments and lab, you learn it. You know what it smells like. tastes like, does to your clothes and your sinuses. I learned more from bad bosses than the good ones. And I learned to not speak negatively of competitors. (I was taught to 'heap faint praise') at competitors, because in my experience,in a few short years My company owned them...

thanks for asking.


People say between two opposed opinions the truth lies in the middle. Not at all! Between them lies the problem, what is unseeable,eternally active life, contemplated in repose. Goethe

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Re: Engineering Careers: What's Your Story?

07/28/2009 4:53 AM

I graduated from New Mexico State University in May 1984, into a market much like today's, no jobs and unemployment rising. I did not have a real job offer on graduation.

My grades were not that great, so I drove a truck and waited for the fall to start a Masters. In the mean time I started sending resumes and cover letters to company's that interested me. In early August I interviewed with Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio Texas. They did not mind my grades, and liked the leadership I had shown by holding every office possible in the ASME student chapter, along with being a teaching assistant for a couple different professors. I have now been an ASME member for 28 years. ASME got me that first job.

At Southwest Research Institute I was doing NDT inspections at nuclear plants, and I did that for a couple years and even managed ASNT Level III certification. I then moved to the Applied Physics division at SwRI and did pulsation/vibration studies, both in the field and on the analog. That was truly the beginning of my machinery career. Total time at SwRI was 5 years.

From there I moved to Bently Nevada in Houston where I was the regional field service manager for the machinery diagnostics group. I had been visiting my sister in Houston, and on Sunday morning I was going through the paper and saw an add for them. Seemed interesting and they doubled my salary. I then traveled all over the world solving machinery dynamics problems with Bently and did so for 9 years.

After that I went to the central engineering group at Lyondell Chemical where I was a rotating machinery engineer supporting 23 plants in the US and in Europe. I moved primarily because I was really tired of traveling. I also felt that working in an operating company would be good experience. I had always been a consultant. I worked for Lyondell seven years. I had it in my head that I might go be a Christian pastor, so I took a Master of Divinity degree part time over the course of 4 years.

In the middle of that a recruiter called me out of the blue. Someone I had talked to years earlier, and she asked if I would like to talk to Shell. I did and here I am. I finished the MDiv degree, but instead of pastoring a church, I fly helicopters to offshore platforms, where I hope I am a blessing to the people I work with. I work in the KL office, I have five engineers working for me, and we support oil production facilities throughout Asia. I have been with Shell for four years now. I hope to retire from Shell in about 15 more years.

I am a PE in Texas and Delaware, a Category 4 vibration analyst per ISO, as I said I used to be a Level III NDT engineer certified in UT, MT, and PT. I let that expire...

I have also published 12 papers at a variety of symposium, especially the Texas A&M Turbomachinery Symposium.

All those certifications and papers were the qualifications that got Shell and Lyondell interested in me. (BTW, most of this is copied from my online bio)...


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Re: Engineering Careers: What's Your Story?

07/28/2009 6:24 PM

After leaving the military where I received my electronics training, I got a job (via paper ad) as a field service engineer in Columbus Ohio. It was a 4 man branch, and after a year they transfered me to Cincinnati, which was a 1 man branch at the time. The previous person there apparently was not a big believer in doing PM, so when I took over I was getting 4-5 break-down calls a day. I worked my buns off getting the equipment back up to spec, and instituted PM procedures. After 6 months I was down to 1-2 break-down calls a week. In the meantime the company had installed a lot more equipment in Dayton, hired another guy, and put him under me. All the people at the Columbus office had either quit, or had nervous breakdowns, so the 2 of us had to cover the territory of 6 people. Needless to say, the regional manager was impressed, and offered me the position of semi-regional manager, with the addition of the Cleveland branch with 3 more people. Since I had only been saving up enough money to move back to the Southwest desert, I asked him if I could think about it overnight. I went home figured up how much I had in the bank vs how much I owed. The next day I turned in my resignation. I don't think that was the response he was expecting. After a certain point, money and ego strokes just won't do it anymore; you have to have enough people to do the job.

After moving to Tucson, I got a job (via paper ad) at a small family owned electronics firm. Unfortunately, changing electronics and poor family management eventually killed the company. I saw an ad in the paper for a copper company that needed a person in their "Electronics R&D" lab. I called them up, and they said they would send me an application. Being out of work prompted me to get their address, drive up there, and stake the place out until I got an interview (my resume was already done). I got hired, and found out later that the interviewer had already decided on a person to hire, and was closing interviews that day. If I had waited for the application I would never have got the job. I spent 8 years there, and learned how to design analog input & output boards, digital input & output boards, programming, and process control.

The copper company eventually installed a DCS, and one of the people I went to school with worked for an engineering firm in Alabama. About 3 months later he called and offered me a job at 35% more than I was currently making. Having just recently married, we decided to take the offer. That is the only time I have changed jobs for the money. I figured when I started that I would be there 5-10 years to get my career in high gear; it ended up being 6 years, so that was a good guess. The reason I left? I spent 5 of those 6 years out of state. After coming home from a year long startup, the neighbors called me in as a burglar. I almost got shot in my own home by the police. I figured it was time to stay in one place for awhile.

I have worked jobs in the copper mining & processing, gold mining & processing, pulp & paper, water, and wastewater industries. Overall I would have to say that social networking (co-workers and customers I have worked with) have been my biggest way of getting jobs.

As far as leaving: I was layed off once (the small elec firm), found another job twice when I was put in a supervisory position, the rest was for where I wanted or needed to be at that time in my life.

TANSTAAFL (If you don't know what that means, Google it - yourself)

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Re: Engineering Careers: What's Your Story?

11/30/2009 4:58 PM

A long time ago I wanted to join the USAF and be a mechanic, but my father convinced me to give drafting a try instead. My first job as a drafter was a real drag, I revised ink-on-linen and ink-on-mylar drawings at a local sweat shop, but it only lasted 3 months. I was hired by a large electronics company to work as a CAD Technician, that is, a drafter who knew how to use a Computer Aided Drafting system. I digitized printed circuit board designs on a Calma GDSII system.

After I completed my AA in Drafting (1980) I decided I wanted to move on to bigger and better things so I started working on a BS in Computational Mathematics. [Computational Mathematics is the field of developing computer software to model large events like global warming or picking the winning horse at the local track]. It took me 16 years to get my degree (1996) and I found out soon after that an MS or Phd was needed to actually get work in that area. I ran out of money and had to get back to work. I knew enough about computer programming that I was able to land a job in IT at the same company.

It took me all of about a week of working in IT to know it wasn't what I wanted, but I had bills to pay so I was stuck in that job for several years. In the end, the company I was working for outsourced its IT department to another company and let's just say IT was never fun work for me and the new management made it even less fun.

All in all I worked for that large electronics company for 23 years. It was a great place to work.

During the last 2 years of my IT career I decided to learn about manufacturing engineering. I pretty much neglected my IT work (the management didn't care anyway) and focused on going to school full-time, regardless of when my classes were scheduled. I used a lot of personal business time those two years. Then I finally decided enough was a enough, quit work and went to school full-time until I completed my program of study in 2006.

Uhmmm... Let me tell you! A female manufacturing engineer is pretty rare. I think I got my first job simply because I was female. The job didn't last long; about 2 years. The first year as an intern, the 2nd year as an engineer. The company I worked for had some serious problems in keeping people. When I was there, my manufacturing unit went through 4 Mfg Engs, 4 QEs, 3 BUMs, and 3 Scheduler/Planners. The management was unsupportive and, on more than one occasion, downright hostile not only to me but to a couple of other engineers as well. I was one of the first to be laid off when the company moved its manufacturing to Mexico. I'm glad I don't work there anymore, but the experience and early job loss didn't help me get my career started!

My second job as an engineer was contract work. I was actually doing more technical writing than engineering, but the work environment was great. The company wanted to hire me direct, but the economy killed that idea. That was October 2008.

I have been out of work for over a year. I keep applying when something interesting comes up, but I think for the most part I'm just fulfilling HR diversity quotas. I'm not getting any work experience, but I am getting pretty good at interviewing!

At the beginning of 2009 I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to be able to find work any time soon, so I decided to go back to school to learn something about automation. I also wanted to keep up on my metalworking skills.

Last month I applied and was accepted into graduate school at Arizona State University so I can learn more about automation and robotics. It took me a couple years of looking at various degree programs and career paths where I could "blend" my mathematics, computer science, manufacturing engineering, and metalworking skills. My goal is to learn about flexible manufacturing centers that use a combination of robotics, CNC machining, assembly, and packaging.

So right now I'm an unemployed engineer and a full-time college student.

- Linda
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