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Engineer Career Mentor


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#1 BMKibler12

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 10:19 AM

If I spent as much time on my career as I did on golf... haha


I am a 31 year old engineer. I've got a decent career going, but I can't help but feel like I can do more.

I am looking to develop a more personal relationship with somebody who's been through it and wants to pay it forward.

Let me know if that's you.


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#2 DeNinny

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 10:35 AM

I've been a chemical engineer for 20 years, and I am a firm believer that a lot is learned through interaction with other engineers, whether it be peer to peer or a mentorship relationship.

I don't know if I'm who you are looking for, but I too am interested in this topic.

What is it that you want to "do more"?  Learn more technically or interpersonal skills?
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#3 SixtySomePing

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 10:49 AM

You need to go no further than post #2...
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#4 BMKibler12

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 12:04 PM

I'll send you a PM with more details. Thanks for reaching out. We'll see if any others are interested, too.

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#5 pschmitt712

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 02:07 PM

I'm a 34 year old engineer and am very much in this camp as well. Decent career going but wondering things like "is this it?" Or "now what?"

I feel ya


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#6 highergr0und

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 03:01 PM

I'm not an engineer, but it feels like mentoring is tremendously underrated.  Over the last year I've been working with a boss who's kind of taken on that roll and I've learned way more than all my other years of work!!  Good luck!!

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#7 DeNinny

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 11:00 PM

View Posthighergr0und, on 07 September 2017 - 03:01 PM, said:

I'm not an engineer, but it feels like mentoring is tremendously underrated.  Over the last year I've been working with a boss who's kind of taken on that roll and I've learned way more than all my other years of work!!  Good luck!!

Whether or not it is formally recognized at your company, I think it is very important and regardless of your experience level to seek out other engineers that are more senior and experienced than you and then strive to work with them directly and also develop a relationship with them where you can at least consult with them on technical problems to solve and also career development.  Anytime you come across an engineer that knows more than you and has more responsibility than you, you should be seeking to learn from them and work with them as much as possible.  Solve engineering problems WITH them and always strive to be their peer.  Experience goes a long way in engineering.  Battle scars can teach you more than books.  And LOL it is better to learn from another's mistakes than to repeat them yourself.

(And yeah, this isn't exclusive to engineers.)
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#8 cbrwn425

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 07:35 AM

31 year old engineer. Unfortunately I work in the auto industry and the companies I've been with tend to have a pretty high turnover (40+ engineers in 2 years at my current company) so I haven't had a lot of time with more senior engineers. My boss for the last year at my first company was really good in his own way, definitely wouldn't work for everone. My next and current bosses not so much. Second boss tried his best but was very new to being a supervisor so he was still figuring it out as best he could, current boss takes almost a completely hands off approach and is new enough with the company that he doesn't understand what my job is. All 3 companies everyone has usually been around the same age and same experience when I come in.

I do try to take newer guys under my wing though because even though I didn't get much mentoring in my career so far I know how big of an impact it can be to have someone show you the ropes instead of just telling you to go do something and letting you fail. From my experience I know how discouraging it can be to come in as the new guy and just be expected to know what to do right off the bat.

I've also had a lot of times where I find myself thinking that this really isn't the industry I want to be in but I've found it next to impossible to get interviews in non manufacturing fields now that all my experience is in it. I think the biggest issue I've had personally is that 2 out of my 3 employers have treated it's employees as a body to fill a chair and not an asset that needs to be kept.

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#9 DeNinny

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 02:08 AM

View Postcbrwn425, on 19 September 2017 - 07:35 AM, said:

31 year old engineer. Unfortunately I work in the auto industry and the companies I've been with tend to have a pretty high turnover (40+ engineers in 2 years at my current company) so I haven't had a lot of time with more senior engineers. My boss for the last year at my first company was really good in his own way, definitely wouldn't work for everone. My next and current bosses not so much. Second boss tried his best but was very new to being a supervisor so he was still figuring it out as best he could, current boss takes almost a completely hands off approach and is new enough with the company that he doesn't understand what my job is. All 3 companies everyone has usually been around the same age and same experience when I come in.

I do try to take newer guys under my wing though because even though I didn't get much mentoring in my career so far I know how big of an impact it can be to have someone show you the ropes instead of just telling you to go do something and letting you fail. From my experience I know how discouraging it can be to come in as the new guy and just be expected to know what to do right off the bat.

I've also had a lot of times where I find myself thinking that this really isn't the industry I want to be in but I've found it next to impossible to get interviews in non manufacturing fields now that all my experience is in it. I think the biggest issue I've had personally is that 2 out of my 3 employers have treated it's employees as a body to fill a chair and not an asset that needs to be kept.

In my experience having your boss as your mentor is hit and miss.  It depends on the manager.  I think it is better if a mentorship is unbiased by a manager-subordinate relationship.  It is simply a relationship between an experienced and less experienced engineer with open lines of communication and consultation.  Adding manager role to the relationship can complicate things.  

I think that the corporate hiring process and the plethora of available engineers in any industry isn't conducive to hiring one outside of his experience base, and so an engineer can find himself stuck in whatever industry that he has worked within.  I have been in facilities engineering for semiconductor processes for all my career and I have tried to apply for jobs in the chemical manufacturing industry with very limited success.  It can be done, but you need to have contacts and a network in the new industry that you are pursuing so that you can get that first interview.  Otherwise, it is likely that your resume won't pass muster simply because that "experience" base box can't be checked by the person screening it.
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#10 cbrwn425

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 07:20 AM

View PostDeNinny, on 20 September 2017 - 02:08 AM, said:

View Postcbrwn425, on 19 September 2017 - 07:35 AM, said:

31 year old engineer. Unfortunately I work in the auto industry and the companies I've been with tend to have a pretty high turnover (40+ engineers in 2 years at my current company) so I haven't had a lot of time with more senior engineers. My boss for the last year at my first company was really good in his own way, definitely wouldn't work for everone. My next and current bosses not so much. Second boss tried his best but was very new to being a supervisor so he was still figuring it out as best he could, current boss takes almost a completely hands off approach and is new enough with the company that he doesn't understand what my job is. All 3 companies everyone has usually been around the same age and same experience when I come in.

I do try to take newer guys under my wing though because even though I didn't get much mentoring in my career so far I know how big of an impact it can be to have someone show you the ropes instead of just telling you to go do something and letting you fail. From my experience I know how discouraging it can be to come in as the new guy and just be expected to know what to do right off the bat.

I've also had a lot of times where I find myself thinking that this really isn't the industry I want to be in but I've found it next to impossible to get interviews in non manufacturing fields now that all my experience is in it. I think the biggest issue I've had personally is that 2 out of my 3 employers have treated it's employees as a body to fill a chair and not an asset that needs to be kept.

In my experience having your boss as your mentor is hit and miss.  It depends on the manager.  I think it is better if a mentorship is unbiased by a manager-subordinate relationship.  It is simply a relationship between an experienced and less experienced engineer with open lines of communication and consultation.  Adding manager role to the relationship can complicate things.  

I think that the corporate hiring process and the plethora of available engineers in any industry isn't conducive to hiring one outside of his experience base, and so an engineer can find himself stuck in whatever industry that he has worked within.  I have been in facilities engineering for semiconductor processes for all my career and I have tried to apply for jobs in the chemical manufacturing industry with very limited success.  It can be done, but you need to have contacts and a network in the new industry that you are pursuing so that you can get that first interview.  Otherwise, it is likely that your resume won't pass muster simply because that "experience" base box can't be checked by the person screening it.

I can agree that it heavily depends on your boss and would have much preferred to have a mentor that was a more experienced engineer. Unfortunately that just hasn't been an option in the places I've worked. I got lucky in my second job that the work was similar enough to my first that I could just jump right in and really only needed to learn the product and that company's systems. My current job however has been completely new and I was basically told good luck when I started and pretty much had to stumble my way through my first program with no real training or guidance since everyone started within 2-3 months of me so they also didn't know what they were doing.

You are dead on with being stuck in the industry. I've had a couple of screenings for jobs in a new field but they've never gone further than that but probably once a month I'll get a call from a recruiter for an auto parts supplier that is looking for someone.


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#11 hokiegolf09

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 09:19 AM

From my limited experience (31 year-old with 8 years in chemical engineering), you have few paths.  Your progression path is primarily driven by what you want to do.  If maximizing income is your motive, you're pretty much forced into management.  If you're focused on technical path, you reach the pinnacle mid-career, which is really a disservice with the way industry is setup.

I've just accepted management and enjoy the pay but dislike the headache of managing people.

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#12 chickenpotpie

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 04:44 PM

View Posthokiegolf09, on 20 September 2017 - 09:19 AM, said:

From my limited experience (31 year-old with 8 years in chemical engineering), you have few paths.  Your progression path is primarily driven by what you want to do.  If maximizing income is your motive, you're pretty much forced into management.  If you're focused on technical path, you reach the pinnacle mid-career, which is really a disservice with the way industry is setup.

I've just accepted management and enjoy the pay but dislike the headache of managing people.

This....

Anymore, I see people who are great at what they do as engineers getting pigeonholed around year 15 or 20.  If they are lucky, the company leaves them alone and let's them do their thing.  But 8 out of 10 times, I've seen these folks get labeled as poor performers because they aren't moving around.  Expertise seems non valued anymore....generalists are much more valuable.

For me, I left the technical path once I realized this.  There was only so far I could go.  I ended up moving to marketing/business development.  This allows for more advancement and pay opportunities but you aren't solving the worlds problems anymore.  Pressure to deliver also goes up, as you need to deliver actual business results!
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#13 DeNinny

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 08:57 PM

View Postchickenpotpie, on 20 September 2017 - 04:44 PM, said:

View Posthokiegolf09, on 20 September 2017 - 09:19 AM, said:

From my limited experience (31 year-old with 8 years in chemical engineering), you have few paths.  Your progression path is primarily driven by what you want to do.  If maximizing income is your motive, you're pretty much forced into management.  If you're focused on technical path, you reach the pinnacle mid-career, which is really a disservice with the way industry is setup.

I've just accepted management and enjoy the pay but dislike the headache of managing people.

This....

Anymore, I see people who are great at what they do as engineers getting pigeonholed around year 15 or 20.  If they are lucky, the company leaves them alone and let's them do their thing.  But 8 out of 10 times, I've seen these folks get labeled as poor performers because they aren't moving around.  Expertise seems non valued anymore....generalists are much more valuable.

For me, I left the technical path once I realized this.  There was only so far I could go.  I ended up moving to marketing/business development.  This allows for more advancement and pay opportunities but you aren't solving the worlds problems anymore.  Pressure to deliver also goes up, as you need to deliver actual business results!

I can attest to all this as one who stayed on the technical path.  I stayed at the same company for 17 years and eventually, at around year 15, hit that crossroads where I had to decide on more opportunities as a manager or take the risk of less opportunity as an 'individual contributor' and continue to rise as a senior engineer.  I took the engineer path because I'm really not interested in being a manager.  I never was since I went to school to be an engineer in the first place!  And to further the point, I had other engineering peers that took the management route earlier and I ended up reporting to them (and making less!).  I got lucky in that just about the same time I felt I needed to change up my career because I was stagnating in my engineering role, my company offered pretty sweet severance packages to all employees that had been there a long time and I was able to leave (with 7 months of pay and full benefits) and find another senior engineering job at a smaller company (in 6 months of job searching).  And now at my new job I am better off since I'm the only engineer running the facilities and am expected to lead all the future site expansion/retrofit projects.  Plus I now have to get involved in engineering all the systems so I am broadening my expertise.  But LOL all this said, I am still making sure that my boss (and mentor) is helping me to continue to develop management skills and opportunities just because there are more of them in the market.  

On being an expert vs generalist, I think market demand can drive up the value of an expert.  During the semiconductor boom at the turn of the century, there were a lot of chip companies expanding and growing and it was a great time to be an expert at anything that had to do with the semiconductor manufacturing process or computer programming.  Engineers were being hired left and right and if you had experience it was even better.  Even now, with ultrapure water treatment as my strongest area of expertise, I continue (a few times a year) to get recruiters contacting me to apply for jobs at various semiconductor companies that are doing expansions and/or hiring replacement senior engineers.  So to me if you are going to stay on the technical path and be an expert, you need to keep your eyes open for where the future engineering needs are and develop your expertise in those industries.
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#14 chickenpotpie

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 08:46 AM

 DeNinny, on 20 September 2017 - 08:57 PM, said:

 chickenpotpie, on 20 September 2017 - 04:44 PM, said:

 hokiegolf09, on 20 September 2017 - 09:19 AM, said:

From my limited experience (31 year-old with 8 years in chemical engineering), you have few paths.  Your progression path is primarily driven by what you want to do.  If maximizing income is your motive, you're pretty much forced into management.  If you're focused on technical path, you reach the pinnacle mid-career, which is really a disservice with the way industry is setup.

I've just accepted management and enjoy the pay but dislike the headache of managing people.

This....

Anymore, I see people who are great at what they do as engineers getting pigeonholed around year 15 or 20.  If they are lucky, the company leaves them alone and let's them do their thing.  But 8 out of 10 times, I've seen these folks get labeled as poor performers because they aren't moving around.  Expertise seems non valued anymore....generalists are much more valuable.

For me, I left the technical path once I realized this.  There was only so far I could go.  I ended up moving to marketing/business development.  This allows for more advancement and pay opportunities but you aren't solving the worlds problems anymore.  Pressure to deliver also goes up, as you need to deliver actual business results!

I can attest to all this as one who stayed on the technical path.  I stayed at the same company for 17 years and eventually, at around year 15, hit that crossroads where I had to decide on more opportunities as a manager or take the risk of less opportunity as an 'individual contributor' and continue to rise as a senior engineer.  I took the engineer path because I'm really not interested in being a manager.  I never was since I went to school to be an engineer in the first place!  And to further the point, I had other engineering peers that took the management route earlier and I ended up reporting to them (and making less!).  I got lucky in that just about the same time I felt I needed to change up my career because I was stagnating in my engineering role, my company offered pretty sweet severance packages to all employees that had been there a long time and I was able to leave (with 7 months of pay and full benefits) and find another senior engineering job at a smaller company (in 6 months of job searching).  And now at my new job I am better off since I'm the only engineer running the facilities and am expected to lead all the future site expansion/retrofit projects.  Plus I now have to get involved in engineering all the systems so I am broadening my expertise.  But LOL all this said, I am still making sure that my boss (and mentor) is helping me to continue to develop management skills and opportunities just because there are more of them in the market.  

On being an expert vs generalist, I think market demand can drive up the value of an expert.  During the semiconductor boom at the turn of the century, there were a lot of chip companies expanding and growing and it was a great time to be an expert at anything that had to do with the semiconductor manufacturing process or computer programming.  Engineers were being hired left and right and if you had experience it was even better.  Even now, with ultrapure water treatment as my strongest area of expertise, I continue (a few times a year) to get recruiters contacting me to apply for jobs at various semiconductor companies that are doing expansions and/or hiring replacement senior engineers.  So to me if you are going to stay on the technical path and be an expert, you need to keep your eyes open for where the future engineering needs are and develop your expertise in those industries.

Great feedback....agree, companies will pay for expertise, but it may just not be the company you are at today.
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