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Seeking Career Advice
2

Seeking Career Advice

Seeking Career Advice

(OP)
I'm a mechanical engineer doing some machine design, some project management. I've recently received my P.Eng designation in Ontario (Canada).

Between my current job being slow and none of my previous jobs being that interesting to me, I am seriously questioning my desire to stay in the mechanical engineering field. Am I crazy to want to switch career paths at this stage of my life (30 years old, kid on the way)? Should I stick it out? I'm interested in the software career path that a lot of my classmates have taken. Has anyone here made the switch from mechanical to software?

Any advice or input is appreciated!

RE: Seeking Career Advice

Definitely not too old to switch career paths.
But you need to sort out the family, financial, and location issues and implications.
Having a kid completely changes your life and priorities and available time, and for a while can be very stressful on you and your spouse.
Can you ease into a change? Take some software classes. Do some programming at your current job?

RE: Seeking Career Advice

(OP)
Thanks for the response. I have been looking into night classes at a local college and will probably pursue that further.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

It wouldn't be unheard of; I had an ophthalmologist who started as EE. Kid on the way limits your time horizon for extra-curricular activities like actual classes.

I would definitely recommend testing the waters with classes and home projects and possibly shadowing someone before making the leap, though. The grass always looks greener somewhere else; but you might be pleasantly surprised.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Seeking Career Advice

What interests you in the software field? More $?
Would you really like software programming full time?
Suggest looking into programming for the machine types that you are familiar with. Maybe don't completely change fields but pivot into a different aspect of Mech Eng combined with software/programming.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

(OP)
IRstuff - thanks for the feedback. I've certainly experienced the grass not being greener...

SWComposites - fair questions. I thoroughly enjoyed the programming courses we did in university. Hard to know if I would enjoy it as a full time job. I enjoy being given a challenge to work through on my own. Certainly the potential for more money is appealing. I think one of the biggest factors for me is the flexibility that a lot of these positions seem to advertise. Maybe someone in the field can correct me if I'm wrong, but there seems to be more opportunity for flexible hours, work from home, etc. as long as projects are getting completed. Good point about pivoting.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

Quote:

Certainly the potential for more money is appealing.

Bear in mind that this is the "hot" job, so EVERYONE, and their MOTHERS, are literally chasing the same jobs. UC Berkeley c. 2016, as an example, added an entire extra department, along with adding more than double the slots, to accommodate purely CS students in addition to their original EE/CS graduates. Note also, some relatively mediocre programmers can boost their performance using Chat-GPT, etc., so there's a lot of competition out there.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Seeking Career Advice

And keep in mind that a lot of programming is being sent off to "cheap labor" places outside of North America.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

I've pivoted my career several times and always encourage following your interests once rational consideration of the costs/consequences has been made. That said, if the primary drivers for wanting to pivot are income, benefits, or perks then you're likely going to fail miserably bc those are mostly a function of your employer, not your niche. If you're not a top earner with the best benefits and perks in one field then you're probably not going to suddenly become one in another nor see noticeable change otherwise. If you want to earn more, work from home, have more vacation, etc then find an employer offering more. OTOH, if you're truly interested in CS then go for it.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

I'm a mechanical engineer working as a structural analyst. In our department, mechanical or civil engineers with programming skills are highly sought after. My assumption was that this was true for most engineering fields, as the utility of programming becomes more and more obvious.

Maybe I'm reading too much into your posts, but my sense from your posts is that maybe you're bored with less technical, more project management focused work? If that's true, I would recommend considering 1. Seeking a job at a large company where you'll have the opportunity to try a couple of different types of engineering without having to switch companies, and 2. Staying technical as long as you can. I have found that the longer I have stayed technical, the more valuable I have become to my company, and the more freedom I have been given to select the work that I have wanted to do.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

Never too late. When I was 30 I worked in a chemical plant. Now (56) I earn a great living as a consulting engineer in the commercial real estate market.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

Regarding software, be careful. That is an offshore-able field.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

(OP)
Thanks for the insight everyone. Always interested in how others careers have progressed/evolved.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

I think UT law school has night school.

Combine law & engineering?

RE: Seeking Career Advice

Quote (SWComposites)

And keep in mind that a lot of programming is being sent off to "cheap labor" places outside of North America.

And that if the programming is used on machines here in North America, there will be demand to quickly identify/fix the bugs and interface issues here.

Generally I'll say that having engineering skills and finding a niche for them outside of a traditional engineering role is very powerful and marketable. Most engineers simply don't make that jump.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

Whether folks realize it or not, every engineering niche is commonly worked in low-cost countries today. Licenses, cost/availability of technology overseas, and working small local projects used to be big barriers to foreign competition but those no longer apply thanks to modern technology. Our next custom home design will likely be sealed by a SE in Asia after I complete the initial design.

I concur with gessaman.d about the value of having engineering experience outside of traditional engineering and project management. My most recent career pivot was from large corporate design to a regulatory agency where most of my value is simply knowing industry standard practice and process. There are many engineering degree holders in the legal and regulatory realms but few with significant engineering experience in agencies/law firms/etc where that experience is critical.

RE: Seeking Career Advice

From a purely career perspective, probably a good move. The big "but" is that its more a life question once you take family and personal commitments into the equation. I was in somewhat a similar situation at about a similar age, and the thing that helped me was doing a "life planning" exercise. **Warning there's a rabbit hole to go down here**. But in effect the key question becomes... at your funeral, what do you want people to say about you? Then go through the process of breaking this into groups of people (family, friends, children etc), and in effect work backwards from the end to your current situation. Everyone who does this will have different answers, but it can help you ground yourself and what really matters in your life.

It's a bit full on, but I can highly recommend doing something like this, and then sharing it with your spouse.

Andrew O'Neill
Specialist Mechanical Engineer
Australia

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