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Career Path for a Stress Engineer

Career Path for a Stress Engineer

Career Path for a Stress Engineer

(OP)
Hi All,

I'm currently working as a stress engineer for a large aerospace company in the UK (10,000+ employees). I have around one year of post-university experience, and will be doing an MSc over the next couple of years. I really enjoy this area of engineering, and my aim is to become very skilled in static stress, F&DT, FEA and vibration analysis. I enjoy working at my current company, but I feel that I'm not able to "look behind the curtain" at how things actually work, and am simply a small cog in a very big machine.

It seems that it is impossible to be involved in the analysis process end-to-end, as we have so many different groups that take care of different stages of the analysis. For example, there is a loads group that calculates the loads, a FEM group that builds the FEM, and a methods group that develops the analysis methods. We also have lots of proprietary software that allows you to perform calculations without necessarily fully understanding how it works, as long as you are able to justify your assumptions and spot if a result doesn't look right.

It also seems that a lot of work is building on things done previously - for example, factoring stresses or RFs based on an increase in loads, or a reduction in area - without necessarily having to do a full analysis from the ground up.

Is this likely to improve as I progress in my career and am trusted with some more interesting work? Or is this simply the reality of working in such a big company - where labour is divided to such an extent that you will only ever work on a small part of the overall process and just develop specialised knowledge of one area?

I have toyed with the idea of getting 3-5 years of experience at this company, getting as much training and development as possible, and then moving to an engineering consultancy that works on a variety of projects in several industries, in order to be able to work on more of the process, and gain more varied experience than just analysing the same structures over and over again.

Is this a good idea? I would be quite hesitant to leave such a good company, and it seems that the more interesting work that we have here is done by permanent staff, rather than contractors.

I'm just looking to hear from people who have mainly done the same thing - either stayed at a large firm/firms for their whole career, or who have made the jump to doing consulting/contracting work.

Thanks,

allabright

RE: Career Path for a Stress Engineer

yeah, that is the problem. work in a large company, get to work on large projects, but you're a little cog in a vast machine.
or work in a small company, smaller projects, but a much wider view of things ... analysis, design support, liaison, manuals, etc.

One thing I would say is I think you need to focus ... "very skilled in static stress, F&DT, FEA and vibration analysis.". Any one of these fields would take something like 10 years to become "very skilled".

If you want to become a bigger cog, then you'll probably need to go into project engineering. The best of these guys can flit into a room, understand the problem (not at any vast depth of course), understand the solutions being investigated, maybe offer something new, and flit out to tell higher ups what the team is doing. The worst are "gannets" ... flit into the room, shit of everything, and flit out.

Another thing you have to understand about yourself ... is it airplanes that gets you up in the morning or could it be any engineering problem ?

For myself, I would have an intermediate step ... before setting up my own shop, I'd work with a small group of consultants

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: Career Path for a Stress Engineer

(OP)

Quote (rb1957)

One thing I would say is I think you need to focus ... "very skilled in static stress, F&DT, FEA and vibration analysis.". Any one of these fields would take something like 10 years to become "very skilled".

Thank you for the reply. Yes, I agree, but I would like to get to a good base level in at least static, F&DT, and FEA before choosing to specialise further. Vibration is not as high a priority.

Quote (rb1957)

Another thing you have to understand about yourself ... is it airplanes that gets you up in the morning or could it be any engineering problem ?

I think for me it's the engineering, I'm not necessarily married to the aerospace industry and actually only went into it by chance, rather than civil or some other area of mechanical.

Quote (rb1957)

For myself, I would have an intermediate step ... before setting up my own shop, I'd work with a small group of consultants

This was my thinking, I have noticed that there are a few companies in my area with 10-15 engineers who complete smaller structural analysis work packages for other companies. I'm just worried that I would end up working with less skilled engineers, have less opportunity for development, and be involved in less interesting projects than if I stayed where I am or moved to another large corporation. I've only ever worked at my current company so I have no idea what it's like to work for a small engineering consultancy.

RE: Career Path for a Stress Engineer

Quote:

I've only ever worked at my current company so I have no idea what it's like to work for a small engineering consultancy.

Well, there's only one way to find out, is there?

I've worked in very small (3-5) and medium companies (100-200) so far in my career. I get enough variety and I really don't want to be a small cog in a machine. I am of the (somewhat prejudiced) belief that anyone who has spent more than 10 years in a large (1000+) company and has no other experience will have a very difficult time adjusting to any other size of company if they get hired on elsewhere. I've hired people out of large companies and they really only have a small package of skills to bring to any problem.

When you speak of being a stress analyst, by definition that is a specialized role; one that only suits medium to large companies. If you want to prepare for a move into a consultancy or become a contractor, then you had better learn to do 100 other things somehow. Draw in CAD, write a proposal, brew coffee, discipline a subordinate, negotiate a project scope change with a customer, payroll... it's a very long list. Knowing how to do some of it before you leap out of the big organization will make it easier to adjust.

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