A while back, I received an email from a reader who is going back to school for an engineering degree. He asked me to write a detailed post on why I gave up my engineering career. Engineering is a great field to get into. These STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers pay well and the world demands more engineers every day. However, an engineering career might not be a good fit for everyone. I enjoyed being an engineer, but I quit my job in 2012 to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger. Why did I make such a drastic change? I’ll share my experience with you today.
*This post was originally written in 2013. I’ve updated and expanded it to be more useful. I added my experience since I left the field and my hope for our son at the end. The comments on this post are excellent too. Check them out after the main post. I hope you enjoy this one.
Computers fascinated me when I was young. The first computer I interacted with was my uncle’s monochrome PC clone. (I don’t even know what it was.) He set me up with a Defender like game and I was hooked. Prior to that, I only have watched shows on TV. Even a TV was rare in Thailand when I was a kid. My aunt had a TV and the whole neighborhood would cram into the living room to watch the single available channel. It’s a different world today for kids with their tablets and smartphones. That’s lifestyle inflation for ya. Anyway, I tried to learn more about computers at every opportunity. I liked it because it was all about logic. You put something in and you consistently get the same thing out.
When I graduated high school, I decided to major in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE.) Studying engineering was an ordeal. Many students couldn’t get through the first year. The increase in difficulty between high school and the university was too much for lots of people. One of my college roommates was the smartest kid at his high school and he really struggled in college. (Granted, it was a high school in South Central LA, but still…) Once we got through that difficult freshman year, everyone was able to complete their Bachelor’s degree.
Luckily, my alma mater offered a 5 year BS/MS program. Students could take graduate-level courses during their senior year and shorten the time to complete the Master’s degree. I did this and also received some credits for being a Teaching Assistant. The upshot is I got an MS in just one more year and was able to find a job relatively easily. I think this MS/BS combo program was a great idea. It only took one additional year and I stood out from all the other new grads with just a BS degree.
My first job
I got a job right out of college with Intel, a great tech company. The dot-com boom was on the upswing and computer engineers were in high demand. I studied VLSI (chip design) so working for Intel was a dream came true. I worked on the memory (DRAM) interface and learned a ton about how the computer chips were made.
The first 7-8 years at Intel was great for me. I excelled at the technical side of the job and was promoted every few years. The workload was pretty crazy and young engineers routinely worked 50-60 hours per week. Occasionally, we’d work long stretches of 80+ hour weeks when the chips came back from the Fab. The job was still fun because I was learning a ton of stuff and had many friends at work. To me, this was the best period as an engineer. I enjoyed solving technical problems and didn’t have to worry about any of the corporate politics. If I could have stayed at this level, I probably would still be an engineer. Ah, good times.
After 10+ years as an engineer, the expectation changed drastically. The company expected the senior engineers to contribute a lot more. At the entry and midlevel, it was enough to excel at the technical side. However, the company wants their senior engineers to lead and work through others. You have to be a multiplier when you’re a senior-level engineer.
Being good technically was no longer enough. I was a terrible leader and things just didn’t work out well when I tried to be a manager. I was too laid back and I hated telling people what to do. Do your damn job. Why are you asking me what to do? As I said, I’m terrible at managing people. The job was not a good fit for me anymore. That ’s the biggest reason why I left engineering. I am not a good multiplier. There were other factors as well.
More reasons why I quit engineering
- I got married and didn’t want to work long hours very often. Once we had a kid, I rarely worked late or weekends unless I really had to. This didn’t compare favorably with single engineers who enjoy working until 10 pm. Those Putzes need to read this blog! Engineers need to plan for early retirement.
- More and more time was spent on technical writing, planning, presentations, meetings, calling people, classes, etc… I liked the technical side of engineering and I loved working in the lab. The other stuff wasn’t important to me. Consequently, I didn’t put much effort into them. That’s the wrong move if you want to stay employed.
- I felt the work was inconsequential. I was just a cog in the wheel and anyone can replace me. Most people don’t really care how fast a computer runs these days. Computers will keep improving with or without me. The job was not meaningful to me anymore.
- I lost interest in the job/career. I’m not sure why, but I’m not really interested in computers anymore. My $400 laptop works well enough and I, like most regular people, don’t really care about the next snazzy upgrade. I don’t even play video games anymore. The paycheck was the only thing that motivated me to go to work. That’s not enough when you’re financially independent.
- My area of expertise (DRAM) moved to a different site, and we did not want to relocate just for this. I had to learn a new expertise and it was difficult. Also, I loved debugging and working with logic analyzers. Once that part of the job went away, the job wasn’t much fun for me anymore. (I changed jobs a few times, but stayed within the same expertise until about 3 years before I retired.)
- My physical and mental health deteriorated due to the sedentary lifestyle and stress.
- Many of my friends left the company or were laid off. My old boss was fired a few days before Christmas in 2009. That made him ineligible for the year-end bonus because you have to be on the payroll through December 31st. I thought that was pretty heartless. Corporations only care about the bottom line. Employee well being is the least of their concerns. I knew it was only a matter of time then.
- Senior engineers will be targeted for layoffs at the first whiff of an economic downturn. They make too much money and don’t work as hard as young engineers. It is also difficult to find a job as a senior engineer. Lots of senior engineers will be laid off around the same time and everyone will be looking for a job. You need to get out while the economy is good. Waiting until a recession is a bad move.
- Lastly, I wanted to try something new. Being a SAHD/blogger is a big departure from being an engineer. I figured if it didn’t work, I’d go back to work within a year. Fortunately, it worked out even better than I imagined. Life is way better for me after 7 years of early retirement.
I don’t think there is any way to know if an engineering career is right for you unless you try it out. Most of my engineer friends from college are still working for a corporation, but none of them are doing the technical work. One of my friend’s husband is still working in chip design and loves his job. He works for a small company, though. I think that makes a big difference. In a big company, anyone is replaceable and they don’t really appreciate you. Employees are just resources. I believe the camaraderie and the tighter community make engineering much better in a small company.
I’m sure some senior level engineers are happy with their jobs and still enjoy their time at work. Also, lots of people successfully made the transition from engineering to marketing, managing, training, or other peripheral jobs. However, engineering was not the right fit for me anymore. Luckily, I saved and invested diligently since I started working. Financial independence enabled me to become a stay-at-home dad and take care of our son when he was a baby. I may rejoin the workforce someday, but I’m 100% sure I will never go back to engineering. It’s too late anyway. My technical skills are outdated now.
7+ Years after leaving engineering
It’s been over 7 years since I quit my engineering career. Life has been incredibly good for me. I spent a ton of time with our son when he was young. I’ll always be grateful for that. Now that he’s going to school full time, I can spend more time on Retire by 40. I really enjoyed that time with my son, but I’m glad he’s growing up too.
Did I miss engineering? Not at all! I haven’t done anything related to engineering since I left in 2012. I don’t miss programming, designing, debugging, or any other engineering tasks. These days, my plate is full with being a dad and a personal finance blogger. Personal finance is still fascinating to me. It might lose its luster at some point, but I’m enjoying it right now. There are some new challenges ahead, though. My mom is struggling with dementia. It’s a stressful time for us. We’ll just have to stay positive and deal with it the best we can. Actually, it’s a good thing that I’m not an engineer anymore. I couldn’t work full-time and take care of my mom.
*Starting a blog is a great way to save money on your therapy bill, build your brand, and generate some extra income. Check out my handy tutorial if you’re thinking about blogging – How to Start A Blog and Why You Should.
RB40Jr and STEM
Our son, RB40Jr, is only in 3rd grade, but it looks like he’ll be good with math. He’s ahead of the class in math and reading. His writing is atrocious, though. This is very similar to my development curve when I was young. If he continues to excel at math, he’ll probably be steered into STEM at some point.
Would I encourage him to pursue a career in STEM? Yes, I think it’s a better idea than being a full-time blogger. The world needs more engineers in the future. If he likes it, then he should go for it. I’d make him read this post and the comments, though. It’s a cautionary tale. An engineer needs to evolve. It isn’t enough to excel on the technical side of engineering. Eventually, an engineer will need to adapt and take on a different role. The key is to save and invest as soon as you can. Financial independence will give you more choices.
I’m also teaching him about FIRE. It’s a good alternative if engineering doesn’t work out. The good thing about engineering is that the income is good right from the start. If you save and invest diligently, you’ll have enough to retire early or switch careers. Lots of people moved on to something else. You don’t have to be an engineer for 40 years.
I hope this answers some questions for readers with aspirations in engineering. A big company like Intel is overflowing with corporate BS. I probably should have left 5 years earlier to join a small company. However, the timing just was never right. Anyway, let me know if I can answer any questions. Don’t forget to check out the comments to see more diverse views. I’m not the only one that thinks this way.
If you are a senior-level engineer, do you still enjoy your job and will you continue with it until full retirement age?
*Sign up for a free account at Personal Capital to help manage your net worth and investment accounts. I log in almost every day to check on our accounts. It’s a great site for DIY investors.
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Everyone who is thinking about quitting their job should read Financial Samurai’s book: How to engineer your layoff.
Why engineers should plan for an early retirement. I would have saved myself a lot of grief if I read this at the beginning of my engineer career.
Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!
Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.
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347 thoughts on “Why I Gave Up My Engineering Career”
My career seems to be following roughly the same trajectory that yours did. I’m 39 now and have worked in energy storage since graduating with my masters back in 2008. Like you I really enjoy the technical aspects of work and I don’t have any aptitude for management. This wasn’t an issue up until a couple years ago when my supervisor promoted me from “engineer” to “senior engineer” without consulting with me first. Since then there has been a LOT of pressure to lead others’ work rather than do the actual work, and I’m not really good at that. At this point I have a little over $700k to my name and hope to eke out another few years until retirement. It’s good to know that my experience has not been unique.
Reading this makes me feel like I am not alone in a way. I studied Electrical and Computer Engineering and I graduated during the recession. I did not get into my field directly and took a side job as manager in a food industry. Time flied and decade later thought of about getting back to my field. I was surprised how behind I am and many time I told myself ” I don’t think I enjoy engineering anymore, so why do I need to go through all these certifications and licensing to do something I dislike”.
There are so many good points in your article like family vs pay check. I have family now and that is the new priority. The industry changed so much that in order to compete you got to have all the new ‘certifications’ and even with that you are not guaranteed to have a stable job. After all that consideration, I went back to own my own business in the food industry.
I wrote my first program on a Commodore 64 in 1983 and am now a 25 year veteran of bit slinging. It was fun for a while, but the last 6 or 7 years have been miserable. The good, fun jobs are gone. Everything is Agile stories and automated deployments. I haven’t touched a piece of hardware in 10 years. I pity anyone getting into the software field now. Engineers used to be respected and treasured…now we’re just cogs in a wheel being spun by MBA’s. I have steered both of my children away from software development. I am not yet in a position to retire early, but I know I won’t survive the next recession and then I may have no choice. If you’re currently studying computer science, read all these comments and give your pla s a second thought.
Engineering SUX unless U R in the top 10 programs & 25% class. 1. Long HRs 2. No respect 3. BURNOUT 4. no career future 5. easily replaceable.
First, congrats on getting rid of your engineering career!
I’m also in the same field as you once were and I definitely resonate with getting rid of the job due to the sedentary lifestyle.
If you sit still for 8 hours a day, it won’t ruin your health, but doing it for years and years and years can completely ruin you. Even if you try and take breaks and exercise and stuff, there’ll always be politics and managers and other stuff that’ll try to squeeze as much juice as you as possible and if you’re not constantly glued to your desk, you’ll get “feedback” and micromanaged.
It’s quite unhealthy and I feel like engineering isn’t a good career to be in given what it’s like – but all the issues above might just be strictly for the company I’m working at though.
I’m currently a manufacturing engineer. According to my step counter, I walk on average 4 miles a day. I have the freedom to be more lazy some days and sit more at my desk instead of being out on the floor. It’s a field to consider for those afraid of being too sedentary.
I’m also a Professional Engineer and was in the Oil and Gas + Chemicals industries in the last 12 years. I took Electrical Eng for undergrad and specialized in Biomedical. Turns out to get a good job in the Biomed field, I needed to get at least my Masters degree but I wasn’t interesting in school anymore. I decided to start my career in the Oil and Gas industry. I quickly realized that specializing in an engineering field is also not for me. In the 12 years I did Electrical, Instrumentation, Reliability, Maintenance, Project Management, and Supervisory roles and I spent about 2 years in each role. Some roles were promotions and others were lateral moves just because I thought the scope was interesting.
In 2020, I was lucky enough to be in a position were I didn’t have direct reports but I had oversight of site budget, manpower, organizational issues, etc — things I never got exposed to in the past. I often think about the future and sitting in those meetings, I realized that the future of engineering jobs in Canada (at least for International companies) is very bleak. There has been a shift in resource allocation for design and technical jobs. An engineer from India in the same company cost the company 3-5x less than an engineer in Canada. This allows international companies to really reduce operational costs by reallocating resources and taking advantage of cheaper market elsewhere.
I asked myself, do I really want to be an engineer and fight for a job in any industry? I looked back and I realized that over the years even though my salary has increased, the hours I’ve devoted to work also increased. I’ve worked for many companies and all of them seem to expect more hours from you the more senior you are. However, the older I got, the more I needed time away from work for my dog, family, friends, hobbies, Netflix (lol that was a joke). My personal needs as I got older conflicted with the expectations working for a corporation.
I quit my career 6 months ago and have never been happier about any of my life decisions. I’m working towards building up my passive income and for now it’s just enough for what I need.
If I can do it all over again, would I still do engineering and get into the jobs I did? A big YES. I enjoyed the technical aspect and also growing my leadership and soft skills. I’ve worked and met so many great people, some have remained close friends over the years. I’m using what I’ve learned (except for the technical work) in my new venture. The bonus is that Engineering provided me a good means to build my wealth and allowed me to do what I’m doing now. I would say for any engineer who doesn’t know what they want to do yet, stick with engineering for personal development while you look for your next venture.
Hello again, it’s Randy, the Denny Downer of engineering careers.
Here’s my latest anecdote … a prior colleague, who’d been let go from full time work some 5 years ago, did a few IT contracts here and there to pay the bills, after his senior engineering position was sent abroad.
Well, as of now, he’s starting in his third year at proprietary trading firm, working entirely out of his home. Here’s what’s surprised me … after having passed his first year, which was a real struggle, he’s basically making over $200K/yr working 50 hours per week. And there’s still more to go if he’s able to sustain his performance long term.
As an engineer, he was nowhere close to that net income nor was he able to sustain anything less than a 55-60 hour work week.
So here we have it: electricians, plumbers, dental hygienists, physician assistants, proprietary traders, and just about anyone else has a better life/career than an engineer.
And here’s the difference, if this person burns out, he can shrink his work load, and still bring in some $70K/yr or heck, if he’s truly lazy (& doesn’t want to read charts & indicators every again), he could even get that much, just from AT&T stock dividends after saving his discretionary income for a decade.
Hi! Your retirement and quitting adventure is quite inviting to me.
By the way, may I just share my situation and ask your advice too.
I’m currently based here in Qatar and work for a government operated power and desalination plant. I have BS degree in Mech Engg and I work in the Operations Dept — as a local operator. I’ve been in the same job and/or position through three different companies for about 10 years. In the Operations department, it is basically the lowest rank.
This year, after waiting for opportunity in the last six years, I am given a training for control room operator position. This suddenly happened because many of my seniors are retiring and definitely the company wants us (local operators) to be promoted as we are expected to be well familiar in our system rather than hiring outsiders. You know, I have been relaxed and complacent while I am in the field and doing repetitive jobs.
In my heart and by the influence also of my wife (a civil engineer who also quit her professional/technical job to pursue her love for writing and blogging), I felt that I am more of a creative person than a technical person. For sure you know well the two sides of the brain thing.
But thanks to the company, it sponsors my wife and daughter’s VISA. That’s why I am living a family life here in Qatar.
Going back to my control room operator training — which is a position higher than local or field operator position, the thought and feeling of becoming one already started to indwell. I had to do that to motivate myself during my training. That’s what my senior colleague told me to do so. In that way, training will be easy and fun for me.
But just when I started training, I held back my tears (so that no one in control room would see me) when I felt that my brain was not able to learn and grasp everything in my training. It looks that my brain is empty. Where was my six years experience in the company? I asked myself! So again, I went back to doubting myself if I am really fit for this technical job.
Back in high school, all I knew was that STEM courses in college create better paying jobs in the future. I enrolled for Comp Engg in the first 2 years which I really not liked at all and shifted to Mech Engg on my third year onwards until I graduated. After college, I got job in a local power plant then with 2 years experience I got hired abroad.
Right now, my consideration to stay in the job is the salary and the family benefits it gives. My daughter is under treatment for hyptonia (low-toned muscle) and autism which are caused by some genetic abnormality (we know because we had already DNA test hear). We take advantage of the free treatment from the government hospitals. Initially, I planned to stay here in Qatar until my daughter reaches 5 years old with the hope she will be better. As you know, therapies in my home country Philippines will cost me so much. Atleast here in Qatar, all medical expenses for my daughter are minimal if not free at all.
When my daughter was born, my wife resigned from her online technical job with her boss in the USA who pays her hourly rate and free of taxes. She is currently pursuing her passion for writing but practically not giving her income for now.
I had a feeling of quitting my engineering job now and go back home to start anew. What particular thing will I be doing….still I don’t know. All I know since then, I have passion in cooking. I engaged also in stock market few years back but didn’t really improve from there. Right now my portfolio is stagnant.
I don’t know what is the best decision to take now. Considering pandemic crisis, I could not afford to be jobless. What can you suggest?
Thanks in advance. I hope too you didn’t get bored on my story. God bless!
Hi Chris! I mean, I’m not any field Engineer or something, but I’m currently pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering; I’m 23. Regardless of all that, I’m already thinking about quitting my degree and pursuing my other passions. Well, guess what? We both seem to share similar passions! Writing and cooking. My story may be going backwards, but I definitely do see the left/right brain thing going on here(as you mentioned). One side of our brain may prefer creativity and the other technicality, but just know that there are more people like you, thinking and contemplating about the same decisions. Any how, all I wanna say is to make sure you really think things through before you make a decision. You could still pursue your passions while doing your job. Just need to make some time for it. I wish you all the best Chris!
This post is definitely resonating with me right now and I’m not even an actual EIT yet. I thought I’d comment considering I’ve seen some fairly recent replies and I’d be interested if anyone here with more life experience has any advice…
Essentially, I’ve gone through quite a difficult early life with a broken family, poor mental health, etc. Of course, not the most difficult life by far compared to some, but still difficult for me nonetheless. Anyway, I took a couple of years off after high school to work at a music store (I did semi-professional music work for some years in high school and whilst working at the music store) and kind of became disillusioned with my passion which was/is music. Essentially, what I gleaned from life at that time was that a sustainable life in music was going to be far from realizable (especially the kind of music I would like to make) unless I had financial security. I suppose I came out of school somewhat influenced by the “do what you love and don’t worry about money” mentality pushed by many of my teachers at the time, and this eroded quite quickly.
I was good at math and science and adored guitar pedals and synths, so after looking around I kind of settled on electrical engineering as the best investment at the time I could make given my interest in electrical devices, physics, and the need for better income for music. But now I’ve just completed my last few courses to officially finish my electrical eng BSc. and I’ve got a sizable student loan under my belt to chip away at. I’m currently finishing up some research under a professor while looking for my first real engineering job and at this point in my life, I feel like I’m having another little crisis.
I don’t really enjoy what I’m doing now, and I don’t really have a clear idea of what I want to do for work moving forward with electrical engineering. Obviously, things are harder on almost everyone right now with the pandemic and job prospects are fewer as well, but people around me (professors and students alike) typically see me as (or at least tell me so) well-rounded and capable with the material and technical sides of electrical engineering at this stage of my “career.” I just don’t really know what I want to focus on within the field right now (job-wise) and I kind of feel like I don’t really enjoy any of it enough for a long-term career, honestly. I like a lot of the material; I like the people; I like some of the work I’ve done (especially working on small embedded systems and working on cloning vintage synthesizers in my own time)… but I’m at a crossroads in life again and am worried that I’ve made a mistake with this degree considering I’m not exactly keen on the engineering life described by this article and by many of the people in the comments.
The dream was, and still remains, to eventually become financially independent to play music and work on musical gear with my mates of (going on) 10 years. But I’ve got money to worry about now, as I did before the degree, and now have the added confusion of having completed a degree concerning material and work I’m apparently quite capable of, but which deviates considerably from the life I envisioned prior to doing the degree.
I guess the loose plan in my mind for the next few years is to find work, keep my head down in a sense to pay off student debt and work towards financial investments to get me towards financial independence and grind outside of work towards my music and music tech dreams. I’m just sort of exhausted physically and emotionally after finishing the degree and it’s compounded even more with the fear that I’ve made a mistake pursuing a degree for a career I don’t think I really want to move forwards in.
I guess I’m just really looking for any thoughts from those of you out there who have gained the work experience and potentially have made the switch of careers. I know nobody can tell me how to live my life and what to do, but it helps to talk to those who have been through similar situations in life. I’m in Canada if that’s pertinent at all for any of your advice and whatnot, and I’m just 24 years of age, so I’m nowhere near being sunk deep into the career.
I look forward to any responses and hope if there are any that this would also serve to help anyone else at a similar point in life who stumbles across this page. Stay well, everyone.
I’ll tell my son to follow his talent. If you’re good at something, try to make a career out of that. You do passion projects on the weekend and after FIRE.
At this point, you’re in a great position to secure your financial future. Try different jobs and different companies and see if you can find the right fit. Don’t hesitate to move on. If you find that engineering isn’t a good fit, then you can move on to some other career. All of my friends from school are not engineers anymore. They are managers, technical marketing, training, investors, and more. You don’t have to be an engineer forever.
Just save and invest while you’re young. That will give you a lot more choices later.
Good luck! I hope you find a good fit. Maybe you take a few months off to unwind before starting a new job.
Hi Sheldon! Somehow I connect to you when I was starting then. I was fully motivated to finish my mech engg course within 5 years because I could not afford to waste anytime. I am a breadwinner-in-the-making during my college years. I came from a poor family and in fact I am the only one among my siblings who were able to go to atleast government college (state univ in particular).
My advice, I hope this is applicable to you and could help in anyway, is to finish your elec engg course. I believe you are near the finish line. After graduating, try applying for EE job and allow yourself to explore. I’m sure there are many opportunities ahead of you, not only about job but even people influences that may change your current situation. However, continue to hone your love for music ( I love music too but maybe in a different way) and try to be more creative. If you want to do music business in the future, for sure you will need some capital. So challenge for you is to make the most of your future income and/or job.
Few years more, you will have a different mindset and feelings towards yourself and all the things you wanted to do. My advice as well, regarding your student loan or loan in any reason, is that you progress or succeed more when you are debt-free. You know the feeling of baggage free.
Anyhow, focus on the possibilities now and be hopeful always! You are young so don’t get burdened already by loads of responsibilities.
At the ripe age of 50 (12 months ago) I decided to shift out of engineering. I had many different technical roles in my time, but construction industry was the longest stretch by far. Being at one company for for decades is good for securing your financial future but ultimately became unfullfilling. It’s time to do something else. Let me explain.
All engineers ultimately in their senior years are heavily encouraged to distance themselves from the technical aspect and are pushed into people or systems managerial positions. It’s rare to find engineers in their 40s who are still head town in the technical design. They do exist but are in the vast minority. Almost all end up in managerial positions. The reality is these roles can be orders of magnitude removed from why you probably wanted to become an engineer in the first place. Older seniors who try to hang on to the technical aspect are at higher risk of being moved on. Younger engineers that grow in experience that are paid less are the more attractive outlay for any organisation.
Calling all engineers who are looking for a change….we have an exciting new high school in the Austin, TX area and are looking for someone to teach intro to engineering classes…please reach out via email if you are interested in changing students lives for the better and sharing your wealth of knowledge with our youth!
This resonates. I just hit 8 years with the company I hired on with directly from college. I’m making low 6 figures and have plenty of reasons to enjoy the work and opportunities I’ve been given. Over the last 2 years work has dominated my life. Stressed beyond measure and unable to disconnect when not at the office. I feel guilty for my ongoing lack of engagement. However over the 8 years since graduation I’ve lost my grandparents, mother, and best friend from the age of 7 to various tragedies. Also experienced my own autoimmune issues that aren’t going anywhere. My entire outlook on life seems to have changed…
I’ve saved and invested well. I’m 32 in August and have a net worth that just breached 7 figures. But I feel trapped in my job to retain health insurance as a single bad day could bankrupt me if I was without. I know I’m blessed to be sitting on this nest egg and job but it’s becoming an untenable juggling act. Health insurance costs quickly rule me out of being close to retirement.
I can see similar trend in my engineering career. I am working for last 7 years and seems like I am stagnant with only 3% raise each year… only way up is taking business consultant position with 50% of travel time. But I m not big fan of being on the road for client site visit. Or be a section manager we’re only job is to make schedule for others..
Also not feeling adventurous to switch company as never know what’s there, what’s politics waiting.. hhaah
So just thinking to stay this job for 5 more years so have some decent investment with dividend earning. Then just find a part time to cover monthly cost as I won’t have to invest anymore.
Hi, I have been out of my EE microchip layout/ CAD job for over 18yrs after 12yrs working with my husband. I found that I loved working on problem solving in my cubby by myself moreso than tooting my horn for management or colleagues to hear in hallways. My boss told me I’m order to progress more on the tech ladder and get more raises, and being a young woman in the ’90’s, I had to let everyone know how awesome I was! I finally got my raises! But you have to be political too. Engineering is great to enable you to have the freedom to retire when you desire! I may go back to work in some fashion just for medical benefits so my hubby can retire before 60 and we can pay less for our college kids and ourselves until Medicare kicks in. I am 5yrs younger! But everything has been paid off 4 yrs. It’s all going to savings and kids now. My husband’s great European job in the US pays better though than Intel and freescale and is more reasonable with hrs and not letting ppl go! American companies need to treat our employees much better!!! And I am a native Arizonan.
And as I tell my young adult kids, work sucks. Even if you have a job in something you love, you don’t get to do the fun parts all the time. There are meetings, bosses, ppl who fund the work, paperwork, planning, and any job that is 40+ hrs a week feels more like a job than fun after years. So do something you don’t hate, you at least like, but realize you are doing it for a paycheck and benefits. Your real passions happen in your free time! And try to carve out time for yourself. Say you are working on a problem to your boss while you go see a movie with your spouse. Make time for life, and save money, even though you think you can’t, from Day One! Good luck! From one Engineering Mom whose raised kids and took care of elders.
I have been an engineer for 11 years now, have a PE stamp, and am entering this senior engineer role. I agree with most everything stated here, and I cannot stand the management/corporate side of the business. Once upon a time I was naive and felt a loyalty to an employer, but now I know the truth; your employment only represents a credit/debit on a balance sheet and you are expendable. So many useless meetings, corporate culture, irritable people, and the persistent project deadlines that remain on your mind at work and on your free time. It is a high stress job with little flexibility and constant demand for after hours work that is not sustainable. I have decided that this year will be my last year in engineering – coronavirus or no coronavirus!
Fortunately, I have been striving for financial independence for many years now. I have a paid for home, no debt, savings, and have been living way below my means for a long time. My wife makes a decent income to support this decision, and we are about to start a family so not bringing home this stress will be a big positive. I have also been learning investing/trading for about 6 months now and have taken the plunge into attempting to make money with it – I found that I have a passion for trading and have been profitable. I am so excited about the future without engineering!
If given an opportunity, would I have studied engineering again? Probably not, its very inflexible and very demanding on your time that is not adequately compensated for. Sure I get to be creative through math and engineering through my work, but that pleasure only lasts a few years before the results are repetitive and anticipated. Make sure you understand the compensation and flexibility of any career investment. Sitting at a desk from 8-5, and an occasional unpaid weekend (benefits of salary exempt) are no longer appealing to me. Add in the fact that I can be sued for errors and omissions, and certainly its an easy decision so choose wisely.
Hey, I’m a senior in HS debating what major to pick. I’ve always been good at math so engineering was a first round pick but I’ve never been interested with the common fields. As a zoomer I was more attracted with programming and code.
I was debating whether to choose computer engineering or computer science (hardware vs software). I’m more incline towards cs but taking some hardware classes will definitely help me in my career. Seeking for some expidiendo advice
You should try both and see which you like better. Usually, you take general classes in the freshman year anyway. Good luck!
I just came across this article and it spoke to me on a very relatable and granular level. I complete my Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering in 2017 and singled out Digital Design and Verification and VLSI as my sole passionate field. I joined a prominent company, in my chosen field of ASIC Design Verification (I work on Memory subsystems which is just what I thought I wanted), start of 2018 and now by 2020, I am already feeling dead at my job. Yes the salary is good (for a beginner) and so are the benefits I have been given. There is a fair amount of pressure but not constantly (only close to release deadlines) and my team (and boss) do not expect me to clock in hours on weekend so ideally I shouldn’t have anything to complain about and should be thankful for where I am at. But the truth and bottom line is I don’t feel fulfilled. I do not feel that engineering is unfulfilling in its own, but that I don’t get the feeling that I am contributing greatly to society. Sure computers are working fast and are more compact and stuff but like someone said previously this contribution is a community effect and not as much an individual contribution. And I can’t shake off the feeling that anyone, literally ANYONE, can replace me. I don’t feel appreciated at work and frankly I am kind of sick having to do repetitive debug work.
I come from a family of doctors and sometimes I feel very inconsequential compared to them. Its like for tech doubts, they can ask anyone about the problem – they can literally turn to anyone (or google) to solve their issues or clear their doubts on how to use or operate something. But if I am not well and fall sick, I can’t ask just about anyone (or self medicate) to prescribe me a pill or take medicine (Sometimes even the medicine on goggle isnt listed correctly because a doc will prescribe you meds very specific to your case history and biochemical levels and condition ).
More and more on a daily basis it feels like I took the wrong turn 8years ago when I had to chose between Medicine and Engineering.
Nonetheless, since it is easier to play the cards I have been dealt with rather than wonder about the life that may have been, I am planning towards pursuing my master’s next year while doing a thesis so I can taste the Research domain (my job right now comes under the R&D vertical but i seriously doubt I am remotely doing any “research”.). And I can only hope that that can help me witness what I am able to contribute to the technology world.
Despite this if things don’t work out for me, I think changing to a majorly research oriented BioMed engineering field would be a more likely option for me.
I worked with the Memory subsystem for 16 years. It’s not a good place to be unless you’re doing analog design.
That memory interface is important, but it can be outsourced pretty easily. New engineers can learn it quickly. Well, most ASIC stuff, you can pick up pretty quickly. But memory is one of the easiest subsystems to understand. If you don’t like design & debug, you probably won’t like architecture either. IMO, it’s not that much different.
You’re still young. You can pivot and change your career right now without losing much. Don’t worry about the sunk cost. The longer you wait, the harder it’ll be to change. Good luck!
I pretty much agree with the author – engineering appears to have a “shelf life” as a profession if we are talking about the corporate world. You start your career in “resource mode”, frantically learning how to execute on the technical end but without having to “manage work” per se. Your future as an engineer seems boundless in the sense that you don’t see the endpoint to your learning – you just want to get better at your job and reach some sort of summit. It gets hard to plan the future – your head is down, working, and you go home to relax. When the weekend is up, you do it again. After a couple of years you have gotten better at what you do, and you are asked to “manage” as well as execute. You wear both hats, which makes the job tougher. The more you progress, the less actual engineering you do; ironically, it’s the natural evolution process for an engineer that the reward for becoming good at your job is to steer you away from doing the things that you do better than the others. You will now rarely have the “luxury” of focusing on the execution work.
The trouble with riding incremental career changes into middle age is that your “value proposition” starts to diminish at a certain point, contrary to what you might think inside about yourself. You think, “Man I know my stuff – I am at the top of my game.” And you think that this translates to your value on the market. But it doesn’t work that way. This may be why almost everybody in a technical role gets laid off eventually, if they stay long enough; mall companies, big companies – it doesn’t matter. It seems to happen to a lot of guys in their 40’s. Not to everybody, but to a lot. The stories always sound the same.
The thing is, even if you are really good at what you do, you are invariably a lot less marketable as a middle aged guy with highly polished skills than a 30 year old with lesser skills who will be allowed to learn the rest of it on the job. You will discover that salary does in fact plateau and your value does not go up and up as you get older and more experienced. Unless you are a real Type-A .1% blue-chipper that is more accomplished than almost every other engineer around, you would be better served abandoning the technical toolset and craft that you painstakingly developed in favor of a 100% commitment to project management or other type of job where you are not competing with younger and cheaper labor. I am not trying to be negative – this is simply a survival strategy.
If you really love the technical aspect and want to somehow continue down that path, one option is to start your own company as somebody else suggested. But you need to be passionate and extremely dedicated about this in order to succeed at this. Initially, it will surely be less lucrative and more time consuming than a “regular job”. You will need to build your client base and learn how to be profitable with limited resources. Then, at some point, you will likely be compelled to grow your company so that you can reduce your workload and hire your own engineers to do the execution aspect. Otherwise, you will be subject to the ebbs and flows of consulting work and it will be hard to get into a so-called comfort zone. Again – you’ve got to really have the desire to do this kind of thing in order to make it work.
From what I’ve seen, the guys who don’t shift gears either way end up as “journeymen” who go from contract to contract, hoping to latch on for the same salary they had a decade ago while struggling to adapt to the ever-changing technical tools that the software companies push. These are smart guys, but become victims of ageism in some respects.
To summarize, I would advise the 30 somethings not to let your 40’s sneak up on you, especially if the last few years of your career have been in cruise control as an engineer. Be prepared to make that gear shift, or else somebody will do it for you when you’re not prepared…
I’m a product design engineer. In my experience, engineering sucks because as soon as the economy slows or the company isn’t doing well, the first thing that companies do is stop all new product development and lay off the designers and engineers. I’ve experienced this over and over. Then, when you’re looking for another job, prospective employers see your work history and think you can’t hold a job because you’re not lucky enough to have found a steady job.
You say you quit your engineering job and became a blogger? Is blogging immediately profitable or something? How does blogging pay the bills?
Blogging doesn’t make much money unless you’re really lucky. I saved and invested for 16 years before I left engineering.
We live frugally so our passive income covers our expenses.
Also, my wife still works. She’s planning to retire soon, though.
Wondering what do you do for health insurance? That is one of the biggest concerns for me.
Really good article. Nowadays everything is depending on technology. It’s mean more opportunities have for the engineering graduates. They have best future in technology.
I am feeling very happy about going through this article. Thank You for sharing with us.
The ultimate goal of an engineering career should be innovation and creativity; not financial independence through a pension plan.
I went through a similar career impasse in my mid forties; I’ve got laid off from my senior engineering position in the automotive industry; as such, I truly understand your career story — Yet, there is one major flaw in your perception about the engineering careers; you are totally neglecting the creative and entrepreneurial aspects of an engineering careers which could be emotionally and financially very satisfying, especially, in the late years of an engineering career.
Your perception of engineering career is that of a typical “Employee Engineer” who is just receiving his fat pay cheques, perks and bonuses etc — with such poor perception you might have as well worked for the public sector, an administrative boring job with a government agency – counting your days to your publicly funded government pension plan.
Yet, engineering is essentially about innovation and creativity, that’s what makes it exciting and relevant to our daily life – in that sense, it’s like an Art where engineer is the Artist, that could only be achieved by creative approach to engineering and through an entrepreneurial venture; the excitement of running your own engineering venture, employing other people who become your friends and teammates, where success of the venture depends on your leadership and ingenuity – tapping in every bit of your academic knowledge and challenging your intellectual abilities on daily basis, such challenge is what makes life worthy of living, not financial independence through government or private pension plans.
The ultimate goal of an engineering career should be innovation and creativity, making life easier in the society and hence better for the humanity; as a self-employed engineer — a wealthy entrepreneur; you could have spent as much as time you wanted at home with your son while enjoying the pride of your technical achievements.
I agree with you 100%. The ultimate goal should be innovation.
It sounds like you accomplished that goal so congratulations.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it. I suspect only a few people can become a successful entrepreneur in tech. It’s not easy.
How many wealthy entrepreneur engineers can you name? Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban, Zuckerburg. Only a few people can make that kind of transition.
Agree on creative. But not limited by moneytizing it. Has it to be valueable, or what others think of it (https://www.ted.com/talks/mark_applebaum_the_mad_scientist_of_music/discussion)?
I left the job too, and be exactly great-full to be with my kids. Difference though : I miss my talents working for the rest fro the world. The perfect invention is not something big complex, but finding how to make something work by just a simple idea, a little tweak that nobody thought about, because the do not think out of the box. That’s creativity and fun, but difficult to obtain as soon as management tries to stearing you. You should leave then, and not waiting for things to go wrong. In my case : stress and heart failure, beacuse you try to keep everyone happy but yourself.
Now today : I love to work with simple things, I could enjouy myself to my death with an AVR : creativity never ends. But I miss the opportunity to make it worth for the world : the relevance for a better world. But first we have to get rid of companies who have other ideas about us engineers, I still hope I will find that opportunity to make a better world. I would be creative for no money as long as my kids get their minimum life standard. Tyhe depend on me, cant let them down for just my fun of it. Its a twisted world today.
Hi, it’s Randy again with more anti-corporate America stuff.
Here’s Harvard Business Review’s insight on mentoring …
“How can leaders be better mentors-of-the-moment and create a mentoring culture? Here are several recommendations to get started:
Use simple mentor-of-the-moment conversation starters. For instance:
“I noticed that you’ve been working on/doing great things in ____. Well done!”
“I wonder if I could get your take on something I’m working on. I’d value your perspective.”
“The hiring committee sure got it right bringing you on board. Now, how can we keep you here?”
“In a perfect world, what would you be doing in 10 years? How can I help make it happen? Drop by if you’d like a sounding board.”
Deliberately check in with junior colleagues, too, who are starting new roles. See how things are going and offer support or resources as appropriate.”
As I read this article, I’m trying to understand this … I’ve been doing all of the above, for the ALL of my life (not just for work, but also for school and extracurriculars) but yet, a bunch of senior executive MBAs need a memo on what I believe to be common sense, once you’ve been around for a while?
This is why I have no hope for work, outside of professions which require a licensing strategy, ala electrician or physician assistant.
I simply do not have any faith in MBA-types to achieve anything, which resembles anything more than a dog-eat-dog cage match with periodic headcount reduction exercises over the corporate spectrum.
I am 49 and have been an engineer for 20 years now and want to change professions. I started invested in rental properties about 10 years ago and I have 30 renters now. I am planning to continue growing my rentals but I want a new challenge in life.
I was contacted by Edwards Jones last year to join them as a financial adviser but I really didn’t want to do door to door sales. But I just don’t want to do engineering anymore.
I like helping people and I think that i might be in a better position to do it as a FA but not sure if it is a right move. It is scary to leave $100k+ job and start from scratch…….
Not sure what to do………………
You have a safety net – those rentals. You really should think about doing what you want. Don’t get tied down to your engineering career. You’ll regret it later if you don’t give it a try.
Hi, I know this is an old blog but wanted to comment on this regardless. My husband and I are in a similar boat. He is an engineer and I am in accounting/finance. We both work long hours however thankfully my current job is a little flexible. We are in our 30s and we have ok savings but it has not panned out as we expected.
We also are expecting our first baby in Jan so we cannot quit our jobs. However, I see my husband’s mental health being affected(works 14 hours somedays) because the stress is over the charts at this company!! He cannot quit his job right now, since I will be on maternity leave. I have started chronicling my pregnancy journey in my blog but I was wondering what steps people are taking(supplementary income esp for new moms etc-i want to support my husband so he can take a break eventually) to secure their finances? Our goal is to retire by 45 years at least. I admire what you are doing, i hope one day hubby and I can get there too!
It’d be tough to make supplemental income as a new mom.
I made some income from blogging. That’s hard, though.
If you’re working full time and being a mom, you’ll be too tired to do anything else.
You probably need to just hang on for a few years. Once your baby is older, you can try to do more.
MC4H have you considered teaching accounting, while on maternity leave? Seems like you’ve put in a lot of time in your education and experience, and I’m sure there are other’s who’d pay for your knowledge.
More or less same for me.
Working as an developer for an ERP company, new boss arrived about 1-2 year aago from an bigger three letter ERP company.
Now all development is more or less outsourced to Asia and senior developers (not in Asia) do less and less development and more and more documentation, sitting in skype meetings and doing all kind of booring midless work.
Joe, sorry to hear about the outsourcing at your job. What are you plans? Are you looking or will you stay where you are for now?
It was the same for me. After being at the top of my game in software development, they had me manage the work for a team. It was something I enjoyed doing, but over time it got boring. I wasn’t sad when they laid me off and gave me a severance. There are better things in life than working at a boring job. I love hanging out with my 2 year-old daughter every morning.
I finally have my own blog but it’s about the environment! Stop by! But I’ve also been a long time reader and have thought about what you and a lot of others go through in their late 30s and early 40s after being promoted to management. I’m an MD and Asst Chief of my dept. I think that good managers who thrive are those that have mental health /counseling /psychiatry training. One of my friends told me that one of the best managers he ever had , had been a therapist in a former career. Anyway it’s not a skill that comes naturally for me either, but I have learned it and am getting better. They probably should have trained you in it and not put you in that position. But I’m glad you got out because nothing is worth your health. I used to get headaches too for the first time in my life as a manager and it took me 2 years to figure out how to reorganize my brain around these new HR tasks. Just something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been following your blog!
There are so many parallels between becoming an engineer or a physician. Seems like long hours in the beginning are the norm for both.
It is a shame that you were promoted into something less enjoyable and thus hastened your departure. Seems like burnout was inevitable.
I too contemplate my daughter following my footsteps. She already has expressed desire to be a physician but I am not sure if it is because of the financial benefits she sees me receiving or not. Medicine is rapidly changing and a lot of docs think not for the better
Hi, I initially wanted to be a psychologist but my parents refused to let me pursue that “scam” career especially with my super high maths and science grades so off I went and studied engineering.
After graduation I was employed as a Mechanical Engineer in the Oil and Gas industry but got thrown straight into project management. I was pretty much thrown in the deep end because my technical experience was non-existent (there is really not much you can learn in the short span of vacation work). I hit the ground running, put in a lotttt of hours and I actually enjoyed it because I was fresh, inexperienced and tried to learn as much as I can technically as well as management. I also had my fair share of work politics and yes being a female in a male dominated profession has its challenges but hey my goal was just to gain experience. I realized though that I was getting more exposure to management (and the politics was going to make me stagnate in a very junior management position for a long while) so I decided to look for something else where I can gain more technical exposure. I started working in the Marine Engineering industry and the company actually had exactly what I wanted; extensive on-the-job hands on technical training. I went through it and can now say I thoroughly understand the systems and machinery. I am currently the Engineering Maintenance Manager andddd I hate it (strong word but yes).
I am bored and lost complete interest in engineering. I used to enjoy breakdowns but at this stage problem solving no longer pique my attention because I have experienced enough breakdowns and there’s only so much that can go wrong. Right now I am so much more of a counselor at work than an engineering manager. I think the hype of “not knowing” and being inexperienced has worn off (not that I know it all, I acknowledge the fact that engineering is an ever growing field). As much as I enjoyed it then, I am not willing to go back to a fast paced high pressured environment like my first job nor am I willing to shift and try out a different engineering industry because I am sure 1 – 2 years down the line I will reach exactly the same state.
So after a total of 7 years in the engineering field, my resignation letter is in and not so shocking my replacement has already been identified. Next year I will be studying psychology. My parents still disapprove but hey it’s from my pocket. I am still relatively young, single and debt free and although I have to scale down quite a bit I have a few investments to carry me through. This all sounds so nice and dandy but I must admit I am scared out of my brains for this big shift because of all of the time and energy I have already invested in a career thus far. But hey let me follow my original passion 🙂 I do not regret anything though.
T, I just wanted to check-in. Do you have an update? Have you started school? Have you transitioned from your last job? Just curious.
I have been working as a techie for the last 7 years now but I just don’t seem to enjoy it anymore. Sitting behind the screen, ensuring the numbers are good enough to be presented to management. It all just seems so meaningless to me now. Something which I used to enjoy about a year ago, does not please me anymore. I think of quitting my job sometimes and take some time to actually decide what I really want to do. But I get told and scared by the people that how can you leave such a good amount of money that you are getting at the end of each month. But what’s the point of having such good money at the cost of your mental peace? I am still confused though about what should I do? I have interest in creative stuff, I like drawing and colors stuff. Sometimes I feel like quitting and learning Interior designing but have not been able to come up with a plan yet.
I’m sorry to hear that. My advice is to save as much as you can. It will give you some cushion when you need to change.
You should try to find a different job in the same field. Sometimes, you get stuck in a rut. I changed job and it helped for 3-4 years. Meanwhile, develop some skills on the things you’re interested in. See if you can turn it into a side hustle somehow. Good luck!
I made a leap from engineering to interior design a few years ago. Every path has its struggles. Short term, finding a new job may solve some problems but it won’t necessarily solve the root (only you will know). My question is: why did you like your job at first? What changed? Do you miss arts or being creative? Are you creative at home? I suggest trying to incorporate creative projects in your personal life, start small. Maybe you will find that it’s enough and your passion for your original job is rekindled. Or maybe you will find that you must have design or arts in your career. In the meantime, research interior design: residential or commercial? Avoid watching HGTV for career advice (but keep watching for personal enjoyment) as these shows only focus on some residential jobs. Its actually more technical than people realize with building codes and construction drawings. Overall, have control of your life outside of work and refuel your spirit and determine a course of action. One quote I love is: be the leading actor of your own life.
Spot on. I’m considering leaving engineering entirely too. It’s a terrible career field. I’m at that point in my engineering career (I just hit 13 years) in aerospace where I need to be a lead or manager, and I have the skills and have led some small projects. But, I can’t get those positions because no one will retire and the companies are reluctant to bring in senior types. Aviation is sinking in general, and the in the engineering there is no ‘middle.’ Everyone is 25+ year career or an intern/entry level. Like you said in the article, I can’t compete with the hungry single kid crushing those hours for peanuts. Then those entry level guys hit the 2 to 5 year wall where they aren’t entry level anymore, and they end up becoming contractors going gig to gig. The 25+ year career guys are just the ones lucky enough to survive and perform as project engineers/managers. Technical only carries you so far. The big problem in aerospace I see I when the 25+ year career guy retires no will replace him. Companies aren’t building up leaders anymore. I’ve seen companies in this position of having their key engineers retire and then those companies literally burn through leads and managers trying to find one. That causes major disruption in the departments. Quality at Boeing, Airbus, Textron, and completion centers is in the toilet. This whole gig based engineering thing aerospace is killing the industry. That might work for you techie guys at can work at home, but the fight in aviation is the new school management idea to save money by paying for what you need when you need it doesn’t work very well for airplanes. After you get an engineering degree enroll to get a MBA as soon as you can. I see even guys with PE licenses not getting work because they can’t manage. Stay out of aerospace. Civil is the most secure from what I see. Or go to the union and take up a trade. I wish I did that.
Thank you for your input. That’s the problem with engineering. You can’t keep working on the things you love.
I think engineering is still a good field to go into. Kids just have to be prepared to transition to something else.
Outsourcing safety sounds like a terrible idea in aviation.
I also work in the aerospace industry and feel super lucky right now to be on the defense side. I also was super lucky in that I left the previous company I worked for when I did. So many good people (both at their jobs and in general) were laid off. I can’t believe how well I timed changing jobs.
Anyways, I think this blog post is spot on. When I first graduated from college, I was single, super motivated and interested in everything I was doing. I am an ME, so it was designing and I loved it. But, that quickly turned into more of a leadership type of job (with promotions and such). However, I became super burned out and frustrated by the politics, bureaucracy and management games. Essentially, I moved more into a senior engineer/project manager. Thinking it was the company, I switched jobs. I only found things to be the same here but my pay is substantially higher. However, I feel worthless and burned out still. It is all about saving every penny and the bottom line. I know if I was on the commercial side right now I would be in trouble. But, it doesn’t do anything for my motivation. I hate my job and am saving as much as I can so that I can retire early. I can’t imagine doing this the rest of my life… Blogging doesn’t seem like it would be for me… And I can’t imagine working for someone else in any large way. I see some have mentioned the trades but, what other options are there? Anyone have any good suggestions? I constantly dream of part time work -especially when I start to have kids. I am 30 years old and am married, just getting ready to start a family. I already know this engineering in industry isn’t for me much longer.
I think you’ll have to try different things and see what sticks. Save up as much as you can now and invest to generate passive income.
Even if it covers 50% of your expenses, it will help a ton. There are a lot of options out there.
Here are a few.
– graphic design. Dave at Accidental FIRE design t-shirts and other stuff. It took a few years, but his business is making a nice supplemental income now.
– gig work. Find something you like to do. Although, most of these gigs are pretty tedious.
– Painting, installations, and other artworks. One of my old neighbors installs big mobiles in corporate offices. That sounds interesting to me.
It just depends on your interest and how much income you need. If you don’t need a lot of income, the world is wide open.
I’m a similar field and considering leaving engineering as well. I’ve been at megacorp for 18 years and am now a manager. While I generally enjoy my work, I believe I will enjoy FIRE even more. Haha. I’m only mid 40s so I’m trying to decide on a semi-retirement path that will keep me engaged/active beyond just doing volunteer work.
“This whole gig based engineering thing aerospace ”
What is the motivation behind this? Why full time senior positions, especially individual contributor roles are not available in this industry? Defense is probably close to aerospace on this one. I noticed at Collins, that one unit of work has to be done with one lead designer plus 3 juniors, instead of one individual contributor. Why? The person who knows how to do things and the person who does things are separated into different individuals. Is it some MBA consulting ideology?
I’m a Mechanical Engineering student in my first semester of my third year. I agree that the freshmen year courses to weed out the people that really weren’t suited for it were very difficult freshmen year. I’m having an issue now where my classes now are still as difficult if not even harder with difficult concepts such as statics as well as computer programming stuff which I have never had a strong aptitude in. I have performed poorly in the first exams in these classes after studying almost full days for each one. These classes take up lots of my personal time with homework, assignments, projects, and labs and I feel discouraged and unhappy with it right now since I can’t really seem to fully understand this stuff even with hours of studying. I am unsure of what to do, whether I should keep sticking it out with the classes and power through in hopes to get a job/internship in engineering that I’m not even sure I would enjoy or drop out for the semester and recompose myself and change my major. It’s difficult because the main reason I got into engineering is because in high school I took multiple electives working with 3-D modeling using SolidWorks and I liked doing it and was good at it. I’m concerned I only got into engineering in hopes of doing stuff like that, but I have only briefly done stuff with that in college and everything else I don’t enjoy very much and struggle with at times. Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions? I do have certain aptitudes in, as I said earlier in 3-D modeling with SolidWorks, some proficient math skills (I have taken Calc 1-3 and linear algebra and done fairly well in all of them), and some science skills such as physics but not an extensive understanding. I have been thinking about switching over to statistics or accounting or something with numbers and not too much science. I know engineering is very applicable in getting many different jobs in the real world, but my main fear is that these other majors I have mentioned don’t have as much applicability or opportunities in the job market. I am also going back and forth on this too because I’m not sure I would like a sedentary job as he mentioned, I would like to be able to work with my hands too and work on stuff with physical results I can see. I know this has been a really long rant and cry for help, but please any suggestions or comments to help guide me are much appreciated
Do you have a good counselor or professor you can talk to? They might be able to help.
Maybe you can enroll in more classes that are interesting to you.
We all have to push through these phases with the required classes. Try to get through the semester and evaluate the situation again over winter break.
Don’t quit now because you never know how it’s going to turn out. I was convinced I failed Chemistry, but I got a C. If it’s hard for you, it’s probably hard for your classmates too.
A sedentary job is the norm now. You’ll have to be creative to do something else. Maybe work on a wind generator or something like that?
Anyway, I really think you should talk to a counselor. Hopefully, they can help.
Good luck. I know it’s tough.
Here’s the thing though, I don’t want to waste my time and money doing these classes this semester that I don’t enjoy. I’ve heard from engineers to only do it if you actually enjoy the work you are doing at least to some degree. I’m more than unhappy right now with my current situation, even on the verge of having mental issues that are starting to affect my health. I don’t think it would be wise to keep this up for two more months with my current pace. You also said that if its hard for me its probably difficult for others too, well the fact is that in one of my classes our prof said the class average was pretty good (like high 70s) while mine was far below very much in the failing range, I even get the feeling that I got the lowest grade in the entire class based off of other student’s scores. The other exam everyone did do bad, but that was because the prof didn’t design the test in the best way he could’ve done it. Even with that too I also got the impression that I had the lowest grade in the class for that exam too. I have been doing a lot of soul searching about this subject this past week and I feel like this is the best thing for me mentally right now. I have looked tirelessly for skills and traits that make for being a good engineer and being successful at it and I believe I don’t possess enough of these to be a good engineer and enjoy being one. I do possess some skills such as an aptitude in math and some in sciences, but my motivation and attitude toward engineering I have discovered have not been enough for me to continue pursuing this degree path.
Well, you gotta do what you gotta do. If you really can’t handle it, then take some time off.
Lots of people change majors. I still think you should talk to your professor. See if you’re really near the bottom.
From my experience, there are some classes that are harder to get through than others.
Once you get through them, then you can focus on other classes you have more aptitude for.
Anyway, if you can get a C, then stick with it. You already paid for the class. 2 months isn’t that long in the grand scheme of thing. If you can’t get a C, then might as well take the time off to figure out what to do next.
I forgot to mention that I’ve looked at classes I will have to take in the future for the program and judging by what I have read I don’t think I will enjoy them very much, a lot of them seem reliant on physics which I’m not very well suited in. Also based on what you have wrote it sounds like you enjoyed at least some of your studies. Engineers should enjoy their studies. I feel like I haven’t enjoyed anything so far except SolidWorks which was a very brief part of the introductory courses. So it feels hard to be motivated to finish this degree when I don’t enjoy any of it so far and don’t think I will enjoy it in the future except only when I do SolidWorks or 3-D modeling which I find very unlikely to happen. But I am taking some of your advice to meet with an adviser in my program to see what the best course of action is.
I would encourage you to seek out internships or research opportunities that can demonstrate the real-world applications of your engineering curriculum. Textbooks present problems to demonstrate basic principles, but rarely will a future employer ask you to perform an outright estimate of the friction coefficient for a rubber ball rolling down a fictitious driveway. Similarly, your employer will not outright ask you to create a 3-D model of a mechanical part that cannot reasonably be fabricated. It’s important to keep in mind that engineering school teaches you a methodology for solving complex problems. Contrary to what professors will tell you, the long-term benefit from engineering school is the journey, not the correct answer to a specified number of significant figures.
Internships and research will expose you to sample sets of the tasks you may encounter as an engineering professional. Not all engineering tasks will ignite a passionate fire in you, as I’m sure not all of Joe’s SAHD tasks have him in a constant state of bliss. As a young engineer, strive to be a sponge and learn as much as you can about your chosen technical area. Be strong in your convictions early on and determine what kind of work-life balance you want to achieve. Protect our time based on those convictions and let them guide you in the decision-making process as you rise through the ranks. I have been very successful in my chosen engineering field without having to work significant overtime or sacrifice my personal life. Each employer may be slightly different, but I believe there are examples of success in each that demonstrate a reasonable work-life balance can be achieved at even the highest ranks.
Joe has done a great job of explaining why he left the engineering field, but it should not be overlooked or taken for granted that he enacted a plan to make that a reality. He continued to work long after he made a decision to leave because he understood that simply making a decision does not will it into existence. Long-term rewards often require careful planning and/or sacrifice in another area.
Do what you need to for your health, but one thing I haven’t seen in this advice is something you absolutely need to know: being an engineer is nothing like being an engineering student.
Being a student for most of us is just about managing the firehouse of information pointed at us. Being an engineer is … different. Entry-level at a good organization, they give you tasks and you do them. If you have questions you ask for help. Not every org is like this – by far – but a fair number are.
also, i’d say that the junior year is the hardest academically, if that helps.
This comment is right on. Being an entry-level engineer is a lot more fun than being a student. It’s more manageable.
Hey, it’s Denny Downer again.
I’ve just met with a friend’s son who has an associates degree (AS) in Radiology Tech (yes, it’s not even a bachelors program in biology or chemistry) and he’s already earning $55K at a Massachusetts clinic with time & half for overtime. In other words, if he picks up an additional shift, here and there, he’s clearing $70K.
And we all had a huge discussion about chemical engineers and this guy couldn’t even fathom passing thermodynamics & fluid dynamics, never mind getting the B+’s to A’s needed to even land an internship in the field
Also, if one specializes in areas like mixing radiological solutions for diagnostics, that salary can easily bump up to $70K on 40 hours alone w/o the overtime.
So once again, why are ppl still studying engineering?
Without engineers designing diagnostic medical equipment, there would be no need for radiology technicians to operate machinery or mix solutions.
Not all engineering fields offer low starting salaries and minimal benefits. Similarly, not all engineering employers are located in Silicon Valley or along the West Coast where the average cost of living pushes even a modest salary to near the poverty line. One of my high school teachers gave his graduating class the same advice year after year. “In most cases, you will have to choose between living in your dream location and working on your dream job. Choose wisely because each action has a consequence.” More than 15 years later, I can say this advice rings true for myself and most of those I have encountered in the professional workforce. I have both worked dream jobs and lived in dream locations, but never at the same time. However, dreams change and often do so with major life events (e.g. birth of children, health scares).
At some point, there has to be acknowledgement that work is either a means to an end, or the end itself. To those for whom work is the end, success is often found in working longer and harder than those around you. Such success may come with significant financial compensation and personal recognition, but those rewards have to be something the individual wants or they will not find happiness. To those for whom work is a means to an end, long-term success is often found when “personal life” goals are achieved and there is some level of happiness, contentment, or simply acceptance with professional responsibilities. I fall into the latter category, where work is what enables me to find success in my personal life. I will always prioritize my personal life and that means I have sometimes had to work jobs that I did not enjoy for 40 hours each week. Each person must choose what they prioritize, but it has been my observation that those who want it all rarely find happiness in even one.
I have had some twists and turns in my career. I graduated in 2010 in electrical (digital) engineer. Had a hard time getting a job with no experience so had to go overseas for cheap but rigorous engineering labor. I came back to the states in 2012 and worked for companies in both startups and mid-large companies. I worked for a big pharma in robotics until 2016 and moved onto starting my own engineering project. I was getting tired of the corporate scene where your contributions are looked over and politics win over.
After a while I started doubting my interest in Engineering and decided to take some management classes to see if it even made sense. It does, but since 2016 I haven’t had any conventional experience, other than working on software projects I have been working on and personal project all but abandoned after 2 years. I was frugal and saved enough to last 2 years working on a passion project but realized later it wasn’t feasible, especially when software is not something I enjoy much, I do it because it comes with the territory of engineering.
Out of necessity, I’m trying to get back into the corporate scene. So far 2 months looking and little interest from the job market so far. Been emphasizing my publications and the few patents I have, yet no dice. I guess I am in a limbo and getting frustrated, while still not sure what I should do with Engineering anymore.
I don’t think your experience is all too uncommon. The person it takes to excel in the technical side and in the management side of things is a rare person indeed. Many engineers pursuit their career for the love of technicality and get lost in the management side. I still like to believe people can always transition their skill sets too but its not for everyone and those that love technicality will eventually feel intellectually suppressed. I think at that point for some that are inclined so, it can be good to forge your own path and go down the inventor route.
Oh boy!! I am an engineer and your story is so relatable. I am in the oilfield, not as fast to evolve as ee/computer but when i as a newly minted manager @ 26 saw my amazing 50 years old boss being walked out due to commodities prices collapse, I knew right there and then..this is a transient business, save, invest, prepare and be ready to check out as fast as i can. 10 years after i am pursuing fat fire…
“The guys in my level who landed the jobs weren’t necessarily the cream the crop academically but tended to be more outgoing socially and thrived in team projects. ”
This part sounds familiar.
If anything, meritocracy perhaps only applies to careers at the NSA or some National Laboratory, if one’s technical. Otherwise, you’re either an MBA type or on the list to be downsized someday in the future.
The best thing for a young person to do today is to try for careers in health care and forget about technology because eventually, everyone ages and a person with a few white hairs, imparts trust/confidence, especially at a clinic. In the corporate world, if that person isn’t an executive, then he’s probably on the way out.
I graduated with honours after doing a chemical engineering degree and found that I just couldn’t break into the industry. During my final year, the University arranged some guest speakers from the industry to come and talk to our cohort about working as Engineers in the field . One of them told us that about 80 % of us wouldn’t get jobs as engineers and I knew then that I would be in that 80%. I eventually got a job as an industrial chemist which is where most of the chemical engineers ended up – I’ve met many along the way working as chemists like myself. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being a chemist but I do feel a bit jaded about not getting the chance to do an engineering job. Good problem solving skills was what drove me to engineering but I knew even during my Uni days that to really make it as an engineer is more about the soft skills. The guys in my level who landed the jobs weren’t necessarily the cream the crop academically but tended to be more outgoing socially and thrived in team projects. I think this applies as a general rule in terms of progressing the corporate ladder – it’s becomes more about building relationships and rapport and less about the technical aspects. I feel I’m getting better at this although it doesn’t come naturally …. I’m from Australia btw !
The theme of ‘Good Will Hunting’ has proven itself to be a bit of a sham.
In it, Matt Damon & Ben Affleck made a point that Will Hunting was wasting his life by doing menial jobs like custodial support, construction work, etc, because he was a math genius with a photographic memory.
In reality, technical brilliance is not rewarded unless it’s directly tied to royalties. Just being able to get an interview for a tech job, paying ~$70K/yr (according to the film), isn’t a great reward for being Issac Newton’s clone. In Boston, many construction workers, electricians, and pipe fitters are unionized and make that kind of money (esp with O/T) with better health insurance than many non-unionized white collar employees.
So sure, if Matt Damon, Robin Williams, and the MIT professor started a hedge fund and Damon’s algos generated millions of dollars then sure, it’s a real win and he and Minnie Driver could live happily ever after, whether or not she attends Stanford Med in Cali, since having money makes plane trips rather cheap.
Aside from this theme, sure, the movie’s a great depiction of what happens to a kid, after growing up in an abusive the foster system but in reality, that’s a story for a lot of people, not just some random genius from South Boston.
Well, it would have worked in the 90s. Now, not so much.
An engineering career isn’t as good as it once was. Now, you have to be flexible and look out for number 1.
RB40, you are correct. I am an engineer (civil) and I work for the government. My work is very boring and I have learned nothing useful in the past 14 years. This has prevented me from finding another (maybe more interesting) government job. The private sector is just a nightmare as I have had a few part time jobs in that relm. The worst thing about the private sector engineering jobs is that you are salaried and are expected to put in 50-60 hours a week. All of the sudden that $90K job is a pile of crap! I make $90K plus right now at 40 hrs per week. I would love to just quit right now and not look back but I am not financially independent at age 37. According to my planning when I was 22, I should have been retired and pulling in 100K in interest/dividends by the time I was 35! Bad investments and 2008 really killed that plan! So anyways, I’ve been looking at a total career change, possibly a blue collar job. My beef with all this STEM crap is that it resulted in TOO MANY ENGINEERS IN THE WORKFORCE. It has completely devalued a once lucrative profession. Most skilled blue collar jobs pay equal to or more than most engineering jobs. WTF. Why is the guy who engineers the solutions making less money than the mechanic he is instructing??!! I would rather be the mechanic and actually do something useful.
“My beef with all this STEM crap is that it resulted in TOO MANY ENGINEERS IN THE WORKFORCE. It has completely devalued a once lucrative profession. Most skilled blue collar jobs pay equal to or more than most engineering jobs. WTF.”
In all honesty, I don’t think engineering has been lucrative since the 70s.
IMHO, that last oil patch bust of circa 1980, followed by the hollowing out of the midwest, a.k.a Rust Belt, was the beginning of the end of engineering as a profession. Since I was a kid back then, I only know of the horror stories from other adults who were carrying a mortgage in Houston while searching the entire country for STEM work. The ability to negotiate for a high salary, dissipated since those times.
And then, the EEs who were making good salaries back then were in the defense sector like Honeywell, Lockheed, Raytheon, etc, but not in the private ones as Japan (plus Korea) Inc were eating the US’s lunch in consumer electronics. And right now, the owner of a liquor store nearby, who was once an engineer for Raytheon, told me that of his entire cohort, only one was in tech after the age of 55.
What you have today is the humming of the drum of ‘STEM shortage’ because a certain percentage of programmers are earning $150K+ but yet, working 70-80 hours per week for that salary which is then really $35-$45/hour. So the idea is for the market to be flooded with STEM graduates so that even the star programmers can no longer command a decent salary. And BTW, every physician assistant, working a 70 hour work week, can easily clear $150K. And chances are, that person will probably have a job for life, even if a few clinics shutdown.
A consistent thread seems to be that engineering should be abandoned as a career field. What’s ironic about that is without engineering, there would be minimal need for tradespersons. Both careers go hand in hand and while someone may be better suited for one, but not the other, the baby can’t be thrown out with the bath water. As a discipline, engineering has been around for as long as tradecraft. In fact, in many instances, it probably grew out of tradespersons (who we may have called themselves engineers had the word been around at the time). Should it disappear tomorrow in favor of tradescraft, it would eventually evolve again as tradespersons grow to fill the now vacant role of engineers. The functions performed will still need to be performed, regardless of what you title the person in that position. Engineering is not a novelty profession that could be done without any more than modern medicine is a novelty compared to herbal medicine.
I’m graduating in computer engineering pretty soon with a great gpa and looking for jobs. However, after doing two embedded software internships I’ve found that even though I loved learning engineering and computer science theory, I really don’t think I can sit at a computer 8+ hours a day. Lack of interaction with people, no physical movement, and a mentally taxing job feels like I’m just selling my soul.
I almost think I should just find something outside of engineering for my first job and veer into something else for a career where I could utilize my engineering skills but in a different way. Unfortunately I do not know what that career would be.
I became an engineer due to my fascination with airplanes and Legos literally!
So far so good on my front. The early years in my career were tough as it was hard to find a job I enjoyed, but after four career switches (different companies, and different positions in engineering), I think I am in a pretty good place. I work for a pretty good company, the work is enjoyable, and my boss is awesome. Let’s see how this works out for now!
“I think I am in a pretty good place. I work for a pretty good company, the work is enjoyable, and my boss is awesome. Let’s see how this works out for now!”
Hey, it’s Randy, the *Denny Downer* of engineering careers.
Here’s my advice to you … since you’re in a decent career track now, start to research jobs in the government. I’m pretty sure there’s something which could match your background. This process may take several years but it’s well worth it in the long run.
In time, your private company will get bought/sold, followed by endless reorganizations and layoffs. Think about Bell Labs (a.k.a Lucent Technologies) prior to 1995, where they were dubbed the ‘best industrial R&D center outside of a being at a prestigious national lab’, and then a decade later … where 70% were right-sized by layouts and then, reorganized (plus added layoffs) by Alcatel. MBAs rule the private sector, engineers are merely headcount for them, not assets.
If you plan correctly, you may be able to find govt work in the FAA, State Public Works, DoT, etc, where in effect, you can survive till near retirement age and work 35-40 hours per week. I know ppl working in all of the aforementioned places in a technical capacity and none of them complain about stress and constant free (but expected) overtime.
This is a great idea. I’ll tell my brother to look into it. Working for the government might be the ticket for senior engineers. It sounds less stressful. Thanks for your comment.
Good for you I say. You clearly didn’t find any meaning in the work that you were doing other than collecting the paycheck. Sounds like you made the right move. However, some people may enjoy engineering/enjoy the career path.
“The difference in difficulty between high school and the university was too much for lots of people.”
This was so true for my engineering program too. It was a huge shift going from high school to university.
My reasons for going into engineering as different from yours. I have zero interest in computers, hated programming, but was pretty decent at math. In hindsight, I probably would’ve made a better accountant than computer engineer. But I was after the money. My parents couldn’t afford for me to make any mistakes in choosing careers since they weren’t rich and still had our extended family to support back home, so I picked the safest, highest in demand career I could find. I paid off, but like you, I’m SO glad I no longer have to do it. I enjoy being a writer way more.
Thank you for updating this. This is my first time reading it and I knew you were an engineer, but I didn’t know you were ECE. I’m also ECE. That’s what I’ll be graduating in next year and it’s refreshing to get a wise perspective from you on priorities and how it is out there.
I’m hoping to work and save for 10 years as an engineer (until I’m 35), and then from there I’m not sure. I do not like the prospect of working 60-80 hours/week with a family but my family comes before work and I would end up quitting like you did in that case as well. This will be my main income stream over the next 5 years as I work on building up my passive income. Thank you again for sharing – this is valuable.
Good luck! It’s good to save and invest right from the start. That will give you more options later on.
You might be able to adapt better than I did, you never know. It really wasn’t too bad to work long hours in my 20s.
The topic seems to be as fresh as back than when the original postings were done.
And still it´s a miracle what the deeper cause behind the problem is.
I´vew been in the semiconductorindustry since ´98 and can verify most of the points made here, even in an environment being not as much cutthroat as reported . One of the main obersavations nevertheless is, that things go down the hill when more bureaucrats and accountants are taking over .
If you read about the “golden times” of the chip industry, they also had problems back then. But it seems they simply said FYS and founded a new conmpany like Shockley Labs-> Fairchild Semiconductor-> Intel
There is a huge collection of video material in the Stanford libary featuring interviews with a lot of famous guys and company founders from the older times and most of them look super happy regarding their work. One guy from Analog Devices said he is enjoying to come into the company still in his 70s for a day a week to do some funny design and programming, just because he likes it.
It used to be like this for us as well, but it feels as if a solar flare has hit semiconductor corporations around the year 2010 making their management and financial controlling idiots transfer into a zombie mode.
On the other hand, maybe it is our age or it´s just a natural process. Older Nasa guys always tell the story, that the real fun was during the Gemini times. Starting with Apollo and the missions after that, more controlling came in and the funny part was taken out of the equation.
Perhaps it is just the way of life.
As someone who also left a similar industry, with a similar layoff pattern I can totally sympathize. A family and children are not conducive to 12 hour days and going into the office 7 days a week.
You only had one employer after graduating?
Yes, one and done. 😉
I interviewed externally a few times but didn’t find the right fit. I changed job internally a few times too. Changing job improved the situation temporarily. Eventually, I figured I’d better try something else.
Companies will continue losing great employees because they fail to realize that everyone has something they are passionate about and if they are moved to another department, the passion and drive to work fades.
My husband has been an engineer since graduating in 1991. He has had a few long stints, both about 12-14 years, each ending with a layoff… The last layoff was last October and he found another job at a start-up type foundry that was a spin-off of another larger company, but where all the systems had been mostly stripped-away. He has taken a pretty substantial pay cut and the new job is extremely stressful as they took him out of the position he was hired for and made him responsible for many, many tasks (including failure analysis for the whole fab on all shifts) . The place is very disorganized with very limited systems and no training..and the person that used to do the failure analysis job is only minimally interested in helping..he is just probably happy to be not the responsible party anymore… So, my husband, who is 50 and all ready pretty shaken from the last layoff last year, has very low morale; very high stress; and the said he just feels pretty numb at this point, but can’t handle the stress much longer. He has physical issues that have manifested in the last few weeks that are signs that is really bothering him.
I think we will be OK if he quits..it is not ideal..but we will survive.
I have asked him to at least talk to his current manager and see if he can get back on track to what he was hired for, or at least a workload that is somewhat doable where he can feel like he is making some head-way.
Another idea was for him to look for other jobs where he could do something different and interesting while still using his engineer/analysis skills..He is a great people person and was told he was the best communicator in his group and the best project manager (because he is very good at working to bring together groups of people to a common goal) . He was told this and given great reviews at his last company before they layoff a bunch of senior level folks as a cost-saving measure to prepare for selling the company, his boss didn’t even know about it until he saw him being lead out the door by security.
All this has been very hard – but I wish he could find something he enjoyed so he can get in another 5-8 years of an actual enjoyable working experience where his skills are valued..I just don’t know if that exist anymore..it is very sad the human tool all this corporate cost-savings has had!
I’m sorry to hear that. I hope your husband can figure something out. The industry is pretty heartless nowadays.
Maybe your husband can find a different job while the economy is good. Thanks for sharing and best wishes.
hey joe. i’m not an engineer but a chemist (only BS level). i used to have responsibilities and problems to solve at a couple of smaller companies. then i went to a huge company like intel but with chemicals and became more of a technician with higher pay than i ever made before. i think a lot has to do with big company culture. i’ve seen many engineers quit the past 2 years and a bunch in their 50’s get let go. these were capable people and the whole thing is heartless. it’s been good to just do the technician level work and keep cashing the checks. my 2 good friends (husband and wife team) still work at an intel portland campus and work their tails off. i don’t envy that.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I cut back on the hours during my last few years too. It didn’t look good when others worked more, though. The industry needs to find a better way to keep their engineers. There are always new engineers so the employers have more power at this point.
Hi Joe. I feel so similar as a former ME and now stay-at-home dad. I performed well and liked coworkers in my 20’s (prior to management), but even then unfortunately in my case there still wasn’t enough technical challenge – when advisors say to take control of your career, they are not kidding. Also, though not sure if as true anymore, but it’s a sad irony that more business travel is usually expected of the more senior level folks, so instead of doing trips when young and single, they are expected of employees when they have kids and need work/life balance.
I’m just not as sure about STEM/Engineering anymore…granted, good starting salaries, but I feel like many corporate careers are becoming like pro football – one had better maximize during ages 21-35, because afterward is iffy. Plus, future generations may face a world where creativity is rewarded more than logic. Maybe you are on to something with the small firm vs. large company though…
Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope your SAHD experience is as positive as mine.
Maximizing your pay from 21-35 is not a bad idea. Most young engineers should learn about this option.
Save up and move on to something else.
I concur with this. Being an engineer for over 23 year I no longer enjoy this type of work. Being a senior engineer most of all the work load falls on my shoulders. I was unable to escape this even when switch jobs multiple times. I finally retired and I and a year later I still haven’t looked back.
Another footnote on health care … DO NOT GO TO PHARMACY SCHOOL!
On the surface, it may appear that pharmacy is another adjunct health care field, kinda like the ‘pill dispensing’ version of a nurse but it isn’t. What it is … is the equivalent of the back office engineer, whose job is about to become automated.
The reason for this is two fold, for one, too many PharmD programs came up during the past decade but more so, as in long term trends, robotics can replicate the pharmacist’s work while in tandem, the pharmacist isn’t able to bill himself out, as a health care ‘provider’, to outset the rise of the machines taking over his job.
You see, a nurse or a PA gets paid to see patients. Govt licensing boards have given them ‘provider’ status whereas a pharmacist is only paid for giving out pills. If they were given ‘provider’ status, they could consult with patients and earn compensation for it, letting the future machines do the drudgery work of dispensing pills.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case and thus, the pharmacist will going the way of the engineer, a powerless tool in the world of corporate America. Right now, due to the pharmacist glut, ~20% can’t get jobs after graduation. Sure, it’s less than that for let’s say electrical engineers but within a decade, that number could bloom to 40% and others in the field may be facing layoffs and downsizing, since they can’t provide other health care services for patients.
I think you’re right about pharmacist. I’ve always wondered why they get paid so much. It seems like an easy thing for a computer to do.
“It seems like an easy thing for a computer to do”
UCSF medical center spearheaded that movement, several years ago.
So far, no errors in all those years of operations.
This is basically an inevitable trend but unlike STEM, no one is predicting a shortage of pharmacists anymore. That clarion call ended circa 2012.
For some reason, in healthcare, when 1 in 5 graduates can’t find a job, it gets reported whereas for engineers, even though millions have historically left engineering for other careers in business, finance, health care, etc, there’s always a so-called ‘shortage’ of scientists and engineers out there.
Seriously, how many engineers who’re not dean’s list with a relevant internship/CO-OP find a job anyways? That’s normally more than 1 out of 5 graduates for STEM students. Even so-called ‘sales’ requires a pre-existing CO-OP nowadays,
I never fully understood this false advertising for engineering careers. It’s as if corporate & academic America control the press/media and the ppl actually working in the field have no say on what gets reported to the general public.
As a pharmacist I can tell you your work experiences are very relatable. I question what the future for our kids will be like. The terms meaningful work or fair work for a fair wage no longer exist.
I struggle on how to advise my 16 year old getting to prepare for the working world .
“I struggle on how to advise my 16 year old getting to prepare for the working world”
I’d say, stick with the trades for now, like being a license plumber or electrician. Right now, I’ve seen numerous licensed plumbers earning over $80K in my state and w/ OT, etc, six figures is very doable w/o spending years in school.
And one can still pursue an undergraduate degree part-time, just in case, a white collar/management track opens up in the construction (or infrastructure) industry, though I imagine it’s probably a better lifestyle just to be in a union, than to spend time in management just to tell others that one’s white collar.
Thanks for perspectives.
I kind of got thrust into considering early retirement after 25+ years as a software engineer. My employer, a small defense contractor that is actually a branch of a holding company is having hard times. I got put on a layoff list mainly due to politics. I finished my final project that high visibility with flying colors.
The politics, stress, corporate silos(90 employees down from over 200), managers who did not really understand the technology and were afraid answering questions without consulting with a team of other managers kind of drug me down. I discovered that I was developing a health issue.
I started looking for a new job, but I am exhausted bet getting better. I looked at savings, assets, etc and on paper at least, I am at FI. The next few years might be a little risky. With SS down the road, FireCalc says that I am there with 0 failures.
House is paid for and I have no debts. I was not plannining on early retirement, but it is kind of nice to start off each day with a long walk or a swim at a nearby health club.
I know that I’m now becoming a broken record on the whole health care (specifically physician assistant [PA]) vs engineering careers but here’s another factoid … do a job search and look for part-time PA jobs. You’ll find plenty of opportunities.
If you were an engineer, chances are, outside of a handful of contracting positions, most jobs (including 1099 ones), are on a full time basis. And you know what that means … uncompensated overtime for the full timer.
You see, one can work as an engineer into one’s forties and still be a wage slave. A PA, on the other hand, can burn the midnight oil with extra shifts, from let’s say ages 25 to 45 but then, cut back the hours to let’s say ~24 hours/week, and still be able to enjoy those fruitful years between ages 45 and 65. There’s no need “to retire” when one can have a part-time but long term career which provides some intellectual & interpersonal stimulation while not having to drip into one’s retirement portfolio.
In the end, that’s what all of us wanted originally out of engineering, until the MBAs turned the entire profession (if you can even call it a profession) into a white collar sweat shop.
Randy, that is such a fabulous point that so many of us ex-Engineers beyond 40 are frustrated by, and as younger students we didn’t think about. Other jobs can seemingly be scaled – Nurse, PA, Lawyer, Accountant, Trades. I suppose some engineers with a PE license might be able to hang out a shingle and go on their own, but for those of us with only corporate background, it seems one must go all out (if still having a job), ignoring family, or nothing.
Being a technical leader is not a problem for a number of engineers. I love to both work on the details and then lead others, doing them for me. In a way, having that two way communication was a great aspect of my career.
The problem is that one’s higher ups, the so-called MBA-types, have no clue and force arbitrary deadlines and do everything in their power to sideline senior engineering tech leads. This is a fact of corporate life. If you can put up with that BS, then engineering is for you.
If not, become a physician’s assistant and enjoy a 7AM-3PM job with a $100K/yr salary with no expected overtime.
I think it’s great that you can handle both the technical and leadership aspect. Some people are just better at it than others.
Yeah, I agree with you about the arbitrary deadlines and power plays. It’s ridiculous. I don’t think you would want to put up with it forever unless you like playing games – like our president…
“I think it’s great that you can handle both the technical and leadership aspect. ”
Believe it or not but having that skill is actually a detriment to one’s corporate engineering career, if one doesn’t pursue the MBA-like tracks.
Here’s why … no “empty” suit wants a person who can out-powerpoint/out-explain things in front of higher C-level execs. In fact, they’re rather have those kinds of ppl fired (sorry, my bad … make that rightsized) . Ask yourself why so many *Senior* Business Systems Analysts know practically nothing? It’s because some MBA clique pushed these guys around, stealing credit for other ppl’s work, and thus, formed a protection layer between technical leads and the executive suites.
If one’s a physician assistant (PA) then that very combination of skills can win over the doctors/nurses, administrators, as well as the patient population. And thus, no clinic would want to see such a person go away. We all know the rules of the game in medicine, a PA is not independent. That’s the doctor’s role in the delivery of health care and thus, given the sheer volume of expected diagnosis per day for the regular internal medicine physician, a good PA (technical plus communication skills) is worth a heck of a lot more to a clinic than a mediocre one.
And it’s an ~8 hour shift. You have to get OT, if the clinic needs you and you have a salaried ~$90K/yr income, thus not hourly (for PAs, hourly workers have no time and a half for OT). So with one added shift, 48 hour work week, that’s $127K/yr, which a lot less work than many senior engineers out there and w/o the headaches of corporate America. And BTW, in my state, that’s practically entry level for PAs. Many earn $110K and that’s on salary.
Oh man, it sounds like you work for one of the Megacorp. This kind of skill will be much more appreciated in a smaller company.
It’s crazy that politic is such an integral part of engineering. That’s too bad because most of us hates politic.
Engineering is a great career, but it doesn’t last long anymore. Or you need to find a really great company to work for.
I heard small companies are better overall.
PA sounds like a good career too.
“I heard small companies are better overall.”
IMHO, you need to be among the 1st one or two dozen in a startup firm. Afterwards, many companies develop into the CYA-kind of organizations, run by MBA-types. Once this occurs (and it doesn’t take long), the engineering career paths in those firms goes downhill fast. Many engineers will fall into the latter situation. A majority of engineers can’t be among Wall Street’s Silicon Valley’s darlings.
“PA sounds like a good career too.”
Health care is the most solid hiring sectors in the economy and I suspect … the PA’s role is possibly the most important one long term. Think about it, a PA has nearly all the tasks of a general internal medicine (GP) doctor but w/o the rigged, overpay structure of the M.D. system. Despite all the automation (think IBM Watson/Deep Mind) in areas like radiology or pathology, someone needs to interface with the patient, on a one-on-one, day-to-day basis. On the other hand, if one’s a doctor, one needs to specialize, to stay employable at his/her expected rate of compensation. Doctors are also dealing with the fact that the system doesn’t want to maintain their current rates of compensation w/o that level of specialization.
In contrast, PAs don’t have to worry about that. They can be generalists and make a living. They earn *just enough* not to be knocked off by the cost cutting strategies of the hospital & urgent care conglomerates out there.
Thanks for sharing this post. I fee exactly as you did. Loved computers as a kid, so I worked hard through my engineering degrees and got a good job. I am 33 now and a electrical design engineer at a Fortune 500 company. I have three kids, 5 and under, and taking care of them is my favorite thing to do. I am the only America in my group, one of the few who design. I feel like the others are willing to compromise their family to make management happy. Now that I have three kids, I struggle with 40 hours! I also feel easily replaced now by the younger folk and my skills could be a little better if I hadn’t been in the grind the last 10 years. I feel like I’ve been putting out fires rather than really taking all my engineering knowledge, putting it together, refining it, and growing. I also hate fighting computer design software everyday ( and mixed signal simulators); it removes my motivation.
I cannot move up the technical ladder because they will want me to lead projects (again) and work insane hours which I want to be done with now that I have 3 kids. I’m hoping if I move to a defense contractor it will be a little better. I don’t think I can retire until I’m 55.
I am a senior Hardware Engineer – and I have a rather eclectic background. My masters degree is in music – organ performance, church music, and choral conducting. I don’t do music anymore (a career I have had since high school – mostly on the side but full time for 5 years), but after 6 years of engineering in different companies, it was just not satisfying. 8 years after I left engineering, I came back in.
Ohm’s law had not been repealed, I became a PE for awhile (I gave that up after a cross country move – I don’t really need it for the work I do), and the C language is still in use and even taught to EE students at my alma mater. Processors gave way to microcontrollers and hardware logic gave way to FPGA’s.
Bottom Line: There is not one thing I learned in college that has been superseded. OK, so I don’t use FORTRAN anymore. FORTRAN did teach me basic programming principles.
Also, a music degree made me a better engineer as music develops the mind. I gave up music because having a church gig and a full time engineering job took too much time (churches of all types are terrible employers – and while I had the music expertise, big donors would tell me how to do my job – church politics is another topic I won’t get into, but it makes the worst corporate stuff I have seen look like child’s play – no wonder more people spend Sunday mornings drinking lattes! I miss the music, and a real pipe organ in a stone church – thrilling! I even learned a little French and German along the way, and the German is very handy now since I get to go to Germany often).
In my previous 2 jobs, I was working solonor duo on systems that required my ability to do hardware, software, analog, RF/microwave, and power.
How does one do all this? Learn, learn, learn, ask questions – and I use the internet and the library often. In my current job, I was hired for my analog background. I even came across some books left over by a retired engineer on analog circuits. I kept those! Yes, they are still useful 50 years later (many digital books from 10 years ago did not apply, however).
Needless to say, my background has helped – out mechanical engineer built an automated test fixture, and I wrote a windows based program in C# – I had one of our software engineers help me set up the IDE, but after that I went to town.
I am 52, and there is no way I can retire any time soon. On the other hand I am having too much fun. I grew up building circuits, repairing television sets (many with tubes), and dealing with high voltage.
At this point, I am doing more leadership in design – and it is what I want to be doing. If you can get a comprehensive background, that can be golden.
I work for a company that is an iconic brand and very old. Monday I have a phone interview from someone at another iconic brand. They contacted me – I did not contact them. While I expect that phone interview, which I had to reschedule, to go nowhere, I am nonetheless preparing for it. Even so, it would mean 60 to 80 hour weeks, so I am not sure I want that, but like I said, it probably will not happen.
Engineers are creative. We build new things. We solve problems. By the way, if you have eaten at Panda Express lately, know that eatery was started by an electrical engineer. We are the problem solvers.
I am a sophomore in college studying civil engineering. I am also enrolled in the 5 year program in my university and I plan to go into aviation engineering for designing and renovating airports. I understand that you worked at Intel for a long time but were there any drawbacks when you were thinking about retiring at early age? How were you so sure that you would still provide a stable life financially for your family especially when your kid is in college? What other things do you do now as a home-stay father? I just never really thought of anything much to do after figured out which discipline of civil engineering I wanted to pursue in. Of course I want to earn and save enough money but I want to see my kids grow when I get married and have kids. I would like to graduate school and have a full time job. However, I don’t know what to do after that. I don’t know how long I should wait until I plan other things in life such as marriage, having children, retiring, and etc. Can you please give me some advice on possible options I can consider? I’m not really sure if I can be an engineer my whole life.
At this point in your life, you should focus on finishing college and finding a good job that you like.
Once you have a good job, then you can figure out the next step.
Just save and invest as much as you can when you’re young. It will give you more options as you get older.
Early retirement is great, but it’s just one option. Lots of people change career, find a different job, and do other things with their life.
I was pretty sure we’d be fine financially because I did the calculation. And my wife is still working. Hopefully, she will retire in 1-2 years. Our finance is in great shape at this point.
Small companies have BS too.
I majored in Electrical Engineering at Purdue and worked for Intel as a Process Engineer for about 5 years. After about 3 or so years I had already lost interest in everything…I used to read up on the latest computer/tech news and now I honestly just don’t care about engineering or tech or any of it. I took a basic Vehicle Operator job with Uber’s self-driving group but it pays much less. I’m thinking about returning to an engineering career but I didn’t really gain much in the way of transferable skills at Intel and I’m usually getting screened out by HR for entry level engineering jobs because they say I graduated too long ago. I honestly don’t know what to do with my career at this point.
Some of these big corporations really sucks the life out of you. I worked with some PE when I was there. Personally, I think it’s one of the better job. At least you get to move around a little.
If you really want to get back into engineering, it might be best to get an MS or something like that. It will refresh your skill. Or just try a different career that interest you more. If you’re not interested in computer, then going back into engineering doesn’t make much sense. Good luck.
i thought i was alone….at 44.
here.thanks for your insights and honesty.
was afraid of that box for now…need the money.
Engineering career, especially in big companies is an endless fight up the company ladder…engineering does not matter at all. It is all about how you fit in the internal company politics schemes and opposing forces in the management.
You might be the expert in any field but if your manager is incompetent so you will be in the eyes of the higher management guys. If your team fails you will be under scrutiny even if you didn’t had any influence on the bad decisions made by your team leaders. If you come every day on time for 10 years and then management suddenly realizes people are late to work you will be among everyone when they give you the hard time and lecture you about timing. Nobody will say Hey, you were always on time, great job! No, punishments are always global while promotions and rewards are on personal level.
Surely, there are exceptions but in my pretty long experience all companies are same when it comes to handling people and competency. Nobody cares about you and your good work, you are small part of a big machine, and you spend your life trying to figure out where is that engineering discovery thrill you hoped for while studying.
I love engineering and the different aspects of working on a team. I’m 40 right now and can definitely see myself writing code until i’m dead. However, that’s b/c i’m working with a solid company right now that respects my time, but at the same time tries to do innovate things.
What I would say about your situation is that you’ve tied your specific company experience to your job. There are companies out there that will give you the time you need to live your life but also do engineering in a 40 hr work week. It just takes time to find those roles.
I think it’s great that you like your work. Hopefully, it will continue for a long time. Good luck!
I hope it’s not too personal, out of curiosity, what would you like your kid to study at college/university? Engineering?!
He can study what he likes. I’d encourage engineer if he likes it, but I would also tell him to plan for an early exit or mid life career change.
Medicine and finance are great careers too.
I’m right there with you. I’m not quite senior since I don’t feel like I’m the sharpest tool in the box. As such, I could hardly be called an SMS (Subject Matter Expert). But being about 10 years into my field, I will say that I have had my fair share of burnout since there is always something new to learn, to the point where your job is literally an endless parade of people showing you what you are doing wrong, and never getting anything fully correct. That being the case, I myself am looking for another field of work to branch out. Something not so technical. I know that probably makes me sound like an anti-engineer but that’s the situation I’m in now.
As many of my fellow Civil engineers, I got to the point of regretting my career choice, after 10 years our niche is less respected than ever. I am harassed by managers who have zero knowledge in the field and making double or triple money than we do, yet we are the first to go when the company is ”shedding fat”. Working in big companies since graduation, I am now at the point in career where I feel stuck with no progress in sight, technical or managerial, and all I am doing is same stuff over and over again, with incompetent people being promoted ahead of guys who do the work in the office.
I lost all interest in my work, and really care only about the paycheck and getting back to see my family. After all these years working overtime and stressful project deadlines, I think engineering is a wrong choice for anyone who wishes to have a family life and some respect as a professional. Being best in this job will just get you depressed as only award you will get from higher management is to finish other people work since you were too fast, and less bullshit you are…deeper you will go in to the pit.
Thinking of changing my career, will happen soon I hope, feel like I lost so much time learning such demanding degree, and yet being paid like I have no education at all.
Good luck with changing your career. We picked our careers so early in our lives and we change as we get older. What’s fun in our 20s, sometime is unbearable when we’re older. Engineering is tough these days because the corporations have so much power and they don’t value the employee…
Check out Root of Good if you haven’t read that blog. He’s a civil engineer who retired in his 30s. He’s doing very well.
I went through the same exact scenario. Over 12 years of working in a governmental organization, I as asked to apply for positions. I was moving up the ladder. When asked to apply, I would get the position. Until the last position they sent their house mouse/gossipper in to bother me over five times to apply for a job I did not want. I was pressured and intimidated into applying, so I did. Then they offered the job to me with no pay increase, with double the work. The pay increase took 6 months because I had to prove to them I was worthy. Later I found out they wanted to make me work for it. When they granted me a pay increase, they held on to my paperwork for four months so I didn’t get a pay increase for five months after it was granted. They told me I was no longer technically savvy, although there are upper management that are less technical than I am. I was tired of the abuse. I obligated numerous projects and helped their HSIP thrive. I’m so happy I am free now and I do what I want, when I want because they don’t deserve another minute of my time.
Amazing post, finally found time to read it.
I totally understand your situation, I’m in a similar one (less stressful though).
Thanks a lot for sharing your experience 🙂
I am a Chemical Engineer your story is pretty much a parallel for where I am now. Except we have not invested in a way I could retire at 45 and still eat, not to mention raise the kids for about 12 more years and put them through college. My wife has been the stay at home mom and her fulltime earning potential is only 1/5th my current salary. I still love engineering things, but I have hated actually working as an engineer for at least the past 12 years. One of my biggest problems has been travel and 24/7 expectations. Working as a plant engineer you can expect 10-12 hr days with the chance of being called in again, and weekends and all holidays are for supervising project work. Working in central engineering you get 50-80% travel as normal, and I don’t mean on a 5 day week basis but 7 days. I have left jobs 4 times in my career, for not just zero work life balance but having zero life. My current job is with a big multinational. I came to it 7 yrs ago with a personal goal of either getting into engineering management or leaving for a related job internally. Why management, in my area of work I never see or have seen managers travel more than 10% of the time on a 5 day basis. After 3 years, I was in the office so little that I had no chance to make the political connections or relationships with the right people required for management consideration. I did make connections in supply chain that got me out of enginnering for the next 3 years and reduced my travel to about one five-day week per month. Unfortunately they outsourced my new job. I was offered severance or a position back in engineering. …and now that I am back in engineering I am more miserable, angry, and bitter than ever. It has been getting noticed by just about everyone I interact with…
Thank you for sharing your experience. It sounds like a tough spot to be in. I hope you can improve it somehow. Maybe find a new employer? All that traveling sounds terrible. Good luck!
Chemical Engineer here, 7+ years of experience. Fun at first but now is just a drag… I am obsessed with early retirement. Every boring meeting I attend I fantasize with retirement. who cares how gasoline is made anyway? Well, my question is about finances. I rely just on myself (no wife, no kids, no parents or siblings) and have probably a portfolio of 200K invested in two rental units. what is a suggested asset allocation (you mention dividends, any examples of companies you currently invest in) and what amount do you think is enough for retirement at 40? I am currently 35.
Regarding rental units I don’t see them as a vehicle for retirement. what do you think? very bad experience with tenants so far..
You can see my dividend portfolio here – Dividend Portfolio.
I suggest big blue chip companies that has a good track record of dividend growth.
I think rentals are great. A lot of people retire early with rentals. They can be a lot of work, though. You need to screen the tenants very well.
Not sure if you can retire in 5 years. You will need much more than 200k. Save and invest as much as you could. Good luck!
Hi I am working as software developer from last 8 years but i am not passionate for coding even i don’t take much interest in growth in same career.Still I am working from long time in this career even if i don’t have interest. I feel very much stressed as i don’t try to get promotions and it is impacting my health and career.My main interest is in naturapathy course or any other similar type of course in medical line.Please suggest can i change career in this field as i have done 12th in non medical and then i did BCA,MCA.Any scope in naturapathy course.
I’m a Structural Engineer , have been doing this for 13 years and I have the same feelings but the biggest downside in my opinion is the poor social life. Seeing how my high school friends who have done finance , law, or even just opened a restaurant have much better social network , happier and most of them have more money than me. In Engineering you are dealing with computers most of the time, limited people and very few females .
I worked in many big and great companies , was known as one of the best engineers , I worked also 50-60 hrs a week for many years and was often back home doing research and try to fix problems but later on I discovered that effort is meaningless for my boss, client and architect , they only care about job and drawings are done on time. I found making drawings is very boring and time consuming process and killing the fun I’m doing in calculation and analysis . No one cared about the quality of engineering , also computers these days become more advanced and can replace a lot of what engineers do .
Money was good most of the time but I got sacked twice in 2008 and again in 2011 so I was jobless for about 1.5 years , I always hear some friend got sacked because no work or client not paying …etc . competition between companies are increasing so everyone trying to reduce the fee to get the job and that gave high pressure to finish complicated tasks in very short period and sometime clients even don’t pay for it because their financial situation changed .
Hi, I loved the way you highlighted all the points. I am in similar boat. In fact you might will understand the field of Design/Analog Verification of ICs, which I am currently in and have been working in this field for 4 years now. I have got a good job offer in a new good company but its all the way across country from where we live. (Not knowing culture and area/people is huge con, plus my husband is getting new better role in his current company)So I am having second thoughts on whether to even pursue this field further? Honestly, I love my work but I can already foresee what would it take in terms of mental stress as nature of the work is very demanding regardless of a company. Me and my husband has quite successfully have settled in our house and area that we love and would love to raise family. I am still in my late 20’s and financially we are in much better shape. And I truly enjoy work which is mentally rewarding and not stressful where you connect with people at human level, which I think this field that I am, in is only getting harder and more stressful. I would like to get some advice or thoughts from different perspective?
This was an interesting read. I am a senior level civil engineering student that got into engineering because I enjoyed math and physics. I stopped really liking the coursework last semester and felt that I really did not have a passion for it but being Indian, I didn’t want to disappoint my parents and I was doing decently, so I kept going. This semester I ended up taking 19 credits of senior level design courses and the projects were time consuming and intense. I reached a point where I just became so apathetic it started to scare me. I ended up switching major and taking courses in sociology and family psychology and I am happier than I have ever been, both mentally and emotionally. I realized engineering just wasn’t for me, it helps to know that there are people out there that have experienced that in the workplace.
Sloka I am going to throw something past you: Consider completing the BS in engineering. Why? I have had managers state, “You studied engineering? You will understand what we do here.”
As you can see from the 90% of people who dropped out around you, most people cannot get the degree. That is a reason to have it, even if you do not become an engineer.
If you changed mid-semester and did not complete those 19 credits, I understand you may be done. If you did complete those 19 credits, it sounds like you are very close. If yes, go do what you can to complete the degree. That piece of paper can be a significant feather in our caps.
I agree! FINISH the engineering degree.
You might be happier in sociology because, well, it is fluff compared to that really moves the world – medicine, engineering, law. I am not saying you should realized you were destined to be an engineer and have no other recourse.
No. But the engineering degree would be like starting at the top. You may simply be burned out and will later have a rekindled interest in problem solving using math and other tools.
If not, you can work using engineering skills at a number of jobs – teaching, etc.
I am trying to help and not confuse you!
Clearly Jake & Jason haven’t experienced engineering.
Hi, just discover your blog.
Im also a Msc engineer, quite young and from other country where engineer is not so well payed. My actual salary after more than 3 years experience is around 30k$ before taxes thats makes around 18k$ after taxes. I decided to invest in the stock market cause I see that for all companies I worked you are just a number and the only thing that matter is the money… that thing that happen to your boss is shit, but its how companies work… money money money.
Hope one day I will also have my freedom to choose if I want quit my job
Regards from Spain
I am a structural engineer and generally enjoy it but the pay is not commensurate with the responsibility and liability. There are too many people who are doing things for $200 that should cost $1000. The hourly rate for a senior engineer is only about $150-$175 per hour. A junior engineer is billed out at about $75-$125 per hour. In my estimation it should be double that for both levels. And a principal should be charging $500 per hour or more.
But engineers are notoriously bad business people (there are some exceptions as you can see in the ENR top firms) and enjoy the technical side much more. I am guilty of that myself. I would rather figure out a problem than pay attention to the finances. I just have a small shop so I don’t have a lot of BS to deal with. And anyway the ass you want to kiss is much better than the ass you have to kiss.
I’ve been working 3 years as an engineer in computer hardware (servers) and see the writing on the wall. Since beginning my short career I’ve seen 4 layoffs hit our organization and they’ve only gone after senior engineers/individual contributors, one with 25 years at our company. Our middle management and executives continually miss the mark and we’ve yet to let them go. The politics create a huge gap between engineering and management, and the only growth in our field is in Program Management, and that seems to be an occupation focused on outsourcing all these EE, CE, and ME jobs. It seems like my choices now as a software engineer (in my area) is to go write GUI’s for incredibly boring applications or work in the Web/Front End/Back End cloud, something I’m not all that interested in. I wanted to learn how the machines worked and sadly the industry/manufacturing trends in America put my potential interests in China. There’s really no longer an incentive to stay in this field, other than the good salary, which really isn’t all that good if you think about it. I earn $60k and work 60 hours a week (this isn’t including travel and all that crap). Hourly, that comes out to a $19.23 wage. After taxes, that’s $15 even. I used to love the work, but my new interests coupled with what I’ve experienced first hand can not justify my output at that wage. And even if you love what you do and don’t mind sacrificing your personal life for the work, remember SOME FAT CAT UPSTAIRS IS MAKING UNGODLY AMOUNTS OF MONEY OFF YOUR FREE LABOR! And often enough, these fat cats have no interest in computing (or whatever your field is) or making the world a better place, just money. And yes, I get insurance, but our new Affordable Health program and my young age make that less of a concern. Especially when it’s the sedentary life, stress, and my unhealthy coping mechanisms related to the job that are adversely affecting my health anyway.
I’ve got my exit plan, I’ve got a dream to make my hobby, photography, into a profession. But I can’t strongly assert enough that potential engineers entering college really study their potential industry, the trade offs of being an engineer (good pay and benefits, fascinating work and problems, bad job security in some fields, and definitely bad environments for your health overall). My fear is growing complacent and wasting 10 more years only to wake up one day and be let go because they’ve hired an inexperienced college grad to replace me, which is how I got this job anyway…
Thanks for your thoughtful comment. At least you figure it out relatively early and you’re proactively trying to get out. Save as much money as you can now. Good luck!
Does the problem lie in this particular CSE field? I have been working too in an IT company for past 2 years 10 months..yes not long time as yours..but i had started to feel the shiver 1 year back itself. I pursued engineering with high hopes.loved coding but after joining the company ,interests have started to vanish. 50 hrs of work week,solving customer issues,no personal life. I can’t imagine doing this job,dealing with monotonous routine even for next five years down the line..The work doesn’t excites me anymore. Life is too precious.I cannot afford to waste it in doing lifeless job. I read your blog and felt like sharing my feelings too. I want to switch my line but still puzzled as to where. Experienced people out here ,please do suggest some ideas how to get out of this loop.
You should try getting a different job with a different company. Don’t stay in a situation that you don’t like. It will fester. If you find the right company and culture, you might last a bit longer and have a chance to build your wealth. Save and invest as much as you can in the meanwhile. Also try to find different ways to make extra money on the side if possible. Good luck!
I am in almost the exact same position as you with almost the same amount of time in the work force. Ask how you got into this field in the first place, which I assume was because you liked computers/coding and wanted to turn an interest into an occupation. Now that you’ve realized that’s the wrong choice, maybe you should consider what you’d realistically like to see yourself doing and pursue that. Measure the pros and the cons. I think we choose coding/engineering because we’re talented people who want to earn a living off that. Inept managers, overtly demanding obligations, and just the general bull shit laden corporate atmosphere probably kills the interest for all but the most hardcore geeks out there.
I’m going to major in ECE this upcoming fall and after reading your article and other things online I’m starting to get worried. I do like computers, but 50-60 hour work weeks is a ton of hours. Are all engineer fields like this? that require you to learn new things every single day. I love to learn, but I worry that I might get apathetic and get laid off. ECE engineers are being laid off or outsourced, I do not want to be unemployed. What should I do? in the next four years I hopefully would get a degree and a little while that after a job. Is this field a field that I should not go into, regardless how much I like computers because it seems to me that the future is not to bright for ECEs.
I think ECE and CS are like this. I’m not sure about the other fields. They are probably not as bad.
From what I understand, there are still a lot of jobs for ECE and CS engineers. You just need to work a lot at the beginning. I’d say go for it if you like it. You can be an engineer for 10-15 years and evaluate your position again. Some people can make the transition to senior engineer and manager, and some have a hard time with it. Just save a lot and have an exit strategy in case it doesn’t work out.
No need to be worried. It’s a great career and there are many different options within the field. I’ve hardly ever worked more than 40 hours per week as an engineer unless I was just really engaged in a project that I wanted to make sure didn’t slip schedule. I don’t think it would have affected my career that much to be less ambitious. Enjoy the first several years in engineering. Just take this article to heart when planning your finances. Be prepared for the career to lose its luster eventually so that you can change careers or retire without drama. I think that is good advice for any career since you won’t be the same person at 40 that you are at 25.
You were exceptionally lucky to never have been forced into involuntary overtime.
I can relate. I have been working professionally for 20 years (this May 2015). I still enjoy tinkering with things a little bit, or trying to improve existing designs, but I thoroughly hate the daily grind. On most days I wish I could be doing something else. It seems like more and more companies simply want you to wear a dozen hats. They want you to travel. They want you to run meetings. Most engineers are not social beings and like to be left alone to think (at least I do). I used to really be good at one or two things and was very successful at my last company doing just that. I can actually say that my sole efforts generated 20+ million in sales for my last company. But, most engineers don’t do well when they have to jump back and forth between daily tasks…but that is the life of an engineer now. If anyone out there has any ideas of good non-engineering jobs out there I’d like to know because I want to change my career. I don’t think I will push my sons to take this career path either.
Well, I jumped between construction engineering, physics, commercial law and pharmacy. I’ll garantee that you will have a much happier life with law and pharmacy.
I have been in Engineering all my working life, over 30 years. Since turning 40, I have begun to realise I hate every living second of my life as a Engineer. It does not surprise me there are “shortages” and fewer students studying it…I did Mechanical Engineering in University and went on to work on automotive engines. At at 47, I quit my last job. I have wasted enough of my life. What now? Who knows. But I am breathing.there are a lot of sociopathic people working in engineering.
I feel your pain my friend, I too feel I’ve wasted so much of my life and I feel I made some really bad decisions when I was younger, I often think about some of the other options I had such as starting my own business as a young 20 something instead of going to school. But I believe it’s never too late, I believe the only time it’s too late is when you completely give up. I’ve seen people do that and they accept their lot in life then go back to the job they hate and just accept it as life. For me I’d rather die than continue doing the mind numbing work I do now, sitting at a computer for 8 hours and being in 20-25 meetings and conference calls a week is not for me and never will be. Humans weren’t designed to work like that, no matter how attractive the salary is. Stay strong!!!
I am a young engineer working in the semiconductor industry. I’ve been here for about 8 months now as a test engineer. I know you could probably say that, for me, it’s way too early to start complaining about what I do, and that my lack of experience could be the leading factor to some of my disengagement. Although I told myself I did not want to program out of college, it seems to be the only task that aligns with my company’s priorities. However, this seems to be the only thing in my job that allows me to create on my own. (one of the reason’s I became an engineer) I always saw myself being an engineer who could work with a team of other individuals to accomplish a goal and develop a novel product from the ground up. I know I am smart, but I am also more creative than the average engineer. At my job, there’s the same old men, writing programs and eating the same leftover lunch every day. I don’t want to end up like this. I know that the role is something that I could be great at , but it’s not what I want to do. I feel that you are similar to me, in that, I love the technical side of things, but I have way too much of a relaxed demeanor to know if I’d ever be good at being a boss. As someone who gave up such a technical career, what advice would you give to someone that just wants to be more on the B to C side of things? I want to reach out and experience that things that a young 20 something year old should be (creating awesome products, working on collaborative teams, enjoying work/life), instead of grinding out code all day on test equipment. Work life out of college is not what they said it would be, I have no mentor, no goals, no achievements that I want to strive for, simply because I do not know how to acquire them. What enabled you to finally do something about your monotony? Any advice would be appreciated.
I quit my job as a lead web dev’r recently. I’m still on retainer for a very minimal amount of consulting each month, but out of the full-time grind.
I quit for different reasons. When I was employed, I was healthier than I’ve ever been in my life (before now), I was working less than 30 hours a week (even though I was considered full-time), and I had a substantial amount of freedom.
But now I have substantially more freedom. I choose what projects to work on and let the market decide what my time is worth. The market is way kinder to people who automate work than people who get their work automated, so I think this will prove to be a good decision. When you’re an outlier in terms of productivity, which most engineers are, your pay will get dragged down closer to the mean unless you go your own way.
At least that’s what I think. If I’m wrong, I might be looking for a job in a couple years :p
Your points echo what I have been feeling for the last couple of years. When I was single and without children, I was able to be focused on tasks for hours on end and found myself attaining higher positions and salaries. Now that my son is 2, I have noticed I don’t know the latest and greatest applications that are being used in production, learning about security vulnerabilities days after they come out rather than being a first adopter, etc. I have been in IT for over 14 years now and have an engineer title but have to spend most of my time with budgets, presentations, meetings, and trying to convince coworkers to do work required for a project, when I am not even a manager or their boss. I have worked for some of the largest and most successful companies in the US, like IBM, Apple, Netapp, Amazon, and unfortunately, felt like I was not valued at any of them and was never happy with the positions I had at these companies, but knew they would open other doors for me if I was patient. I noticed what happened to senior engineers at IBM, and felt disgusted at how they were treated — they would train young/fresh engineers who are usually contractors, the senior would be laid-off, and the new engineer would have to be a contractor for years and years before even being considered for full time hire. THIS practice at IBM made me quite unhappy with the career choice I made, but I knew not every company was like this, and found refuge at a company that actually valued their employee’s shortly after this job. I honestly never imagined, even two years ago, that I would have fallen out of love with technology, but I have — the company I work for now doesn’t do “bleeding edge” technology, although that is what the people that are hired for(including myself) projects know and are comfortable with. These days, I contend with systems and applications that are dated and have much newer and better alternatives, but we have to continue to make the “old stuff” work everyday, and it’s frustrating that I don’t get to learn anything new these days, merely just reworking budgets to get them cheap enough for the higher ups to approve for the quarter, 2 quarters later(usually never ordered). The company I work acquired the branch I work with 7 years ago, and isn’t happy that the engineers under this branch work from home and would much rather have us in their stuffy office under micro management.
At the end of the day, this is all I have seen; you find a company that is small/medium and has a niche in a market that seems sustainable for your path. You work your ass off for them. you see your customers are increasing and also revenue, and then bam – the company is sold, the project is acquired by another entity, etc. At this point, management will lie to your face and say that nothing will be changing and it will help the company progress to the goals they are trying to attain. You will now notice some new faces, as you will have a new manager installed between you and your current manager, the negative changes to your benefits package, stagnant wage, even more meetings and reports to make sure your doing your job, as if the last reports and meetings weren’t enough to justify your position.
If you are young and reading this, I wish you luck – I wouldn’t advise youth to go into tech, as this is all you will be seeing for the majority of your career, and after 14 years of it and no end in sight, I have begun to look for skills that I have gained that can help me to get out of technology and on to something that makes me happy. The only folks that make it out of IT with something to show for it are the Jobs, Gates, and Zuckerburgs of the world, as you will work your fingers to the bone to make the shareholders rich, and at the end of the day, be tossed to the side as a non-producer(remember all those reports and budgets they want you to do).
Thanks for sharing. That’s why I’m hesitant to advise my kid to go into tech. It’s a good field, but the corporations are not a nurturing environment. I think it’s best to work for small companies and shoot for the moon. If you don’t make it in 15 years, then get out and find something else to do.
I can totally relate to getting out of engineering. I was a software engineer for quite awhile, and I used to enjoy doing it. Unfortunately, a lot of factors really turned me against it.
* The long hours that companies expect the employees to work, and the expectation that the employees must be available 24/7. If the employee doesn’t put in the hours, management performs subtle tricks on that person (micromanaging, nitpicking) so they end up quitting. If that doesn’t work, they get laid off due to “rightsizing”.
* The deterioration of wages due to outsourcing and H1-B workers. I remember interviewing for a software engineering job in 2010, and the company offered me the same salary that I was making back in 2002.
* In larger companies, the demotivating performance evaluations where only X amount of the workers are allowed to get an “outstanding” rating, even if the entire team goes above and beyond the call of duty.
* The lack of opportunities to move up the corporate ladder because of misconceptions about techies and engineers – engineers liked to go in a room by themselves and just code or build things.
* The feeling of being the “hamster on the wheel” – you keep running to keep the wheel going (constantly learning new technologies to remain relevant and in your job), but you go nowhere (you basically stay where you are career-wise).
* Companies not hiring IT personnel and using contractors for their IT work. Despite the misconceptions, contractors often make LESS than a regular employee unless the contractor is an independent contractor.
What changed it for me was when I used my experience and education (Masters in business) and formed my own technical services company. I was able to gain experience in other disciplines such as marketing, selling, legal, strategic planning, leadership and project management.
After selling my business, I was able to afford becoming a “slash” in a field that I really enjoy – fashion. I own a jewelry business, write for my own lifestyle blog, and work as a project manager for a fashion company. Granted, it doesn’t pay as much as I made as a technical lead, but I can afford to take the pay cut. Most importantly – even with all the things that I’m doing as a “slash”, I’m STILL working less hours than I did as a technical lead, and I’m much happier and healthier.
Don’t know where to start… I got my EE and after my first gig at a small defense contractor, I went to work at Compaq Computer (later HP) in ’89. For a while, it was a dream job. Long hours yes, but there was an energy, a life to that place that was amazing. The pay and recognition was great! I met some of the smartest people in my life while working there, and to this day I love all (or at the least most) of the engineers there. But as the 90’s progressed, and the company grew larger, it became a marketing company, then finally by the turn of the century it became a supply-chain company. I was eventually promoted to program manager, which in the old days was a VERY prestigious position. I actually liked that job, believe it or not, even though 90+% of the real engineering work was done by our ODM. Yet it was challenging, and I enjoyed the China trips initially.
The real burnout was due to the slow disintegration of benefits, constant layoffs, forced vacations, zero raises, and in one year they actually docked the entire company’s salary 5%…. and after a fantastic and profitable year, the gave the 5% back and called it your “raise”. Not to mention dealing with ignorant, petty marketing people and terrible moral takes it’s toll over a few years. I finally quit when they laid my director off, who by the way is a BRILLIANT man and a great guy to work for. He was a top-shelf engineer, a top-shelf program manager, and a top-shelf director. They simply eliminated his “position”, and he was not allowed to interview for a job elsewhere in the company because of “policy”. What a load of crap! They replaced him with a corporate automaton from another company that they had bought, who knew nothing and wanted to change the entire way we had been doing projects for years. A real moron, who’s only goal was to work there for a year so he could collect his $200,000 retainer. Just recalling the period of life makes me want to retch my guys out.
So, I “retired”, relying solely on my wife’s income, and then 6 months later she was laid off. Joy. So I went to the main Taiwan supplier I had used while I was at HP and became their local FAE to HP, which was kind of bad because now I became the dog they liked to kick. Once they started asking me to travel to China, I quit again in 2010. Now, my wife just lost her latest job, and again, we are both unemployed. Luckily, we have a couple of years worth of money we can siphon off of our IRA’s, but at 51, do I really want to do that?
Now I’m 4 years out of employment, perhaps 10 years out of any real technical work. I thought about making contact with some of my old buds who are still there and try to scrape up some kind of work, but reading this blog and these comments reminded me why I left. I was unhappy, and I really don’t want to go back. Like a dog with his tail between his legs.
I’ll say this… I don’t know if engineering is the big problem, I think engineering is a cool occupation if you like the work and also (very important) when you are in the right environment. I think big corporations are the bigger issue, controlled by millionaire board members driven by the almighty dollar, and they make EVERYONE’S life miserable. Whether your an engineer, supply chain, middle management, or even a corporate lawyer, they feel like they OWN you. And they let you know, in subtle ways and not, that you’re just lucky to be there. And it permeates the entire environment, like a really smelly fart.
My words of wisdom to any reader here is, Beware the Big Corporation. They’re taking over. You are expendable. They don’t care about you. At. All.
Frankly, now that I have to get back into the workforce, I have no idea what I’m going to do. We’ll probably have to sell the dream house we designed and built on 4 acres in the country, something we put our hearts and souls into. It’s just not worth the pressure of having to bring in well into 6 figures just to get by. I’m just about ready to go to Colorado and grow pot for a living, or maybe open up a head shop and sell pipes and bongs. LOL! Seriously, it is very sobering when you realize that you are smarter and harder working than 90+% of the idiots around here driving their $70,000 BMWs, and I probably won’t be able to get even an entry-level engineering salary unless I go back into the hell-hole.
Nope. I guess I gotta figure something out. I wanted to go back to school and get a Physical Therapy Assistant degree, but right now I’ll probably have to take anything I can get, just to minimize the damage to my IRA.
If I’ve learned anything, is live light. Beware the big house, the expensive car, spending money like it grows on trees. Because when you hit my age, if you haven’t saved your money, it can get bad really quick. Wish me luck, and I wish the best of luck to all of you.
I worked for Computer Computer in Singapore from 1989 to 1993 as an Industrial Engineer. When it was downsized in 1993, some departments were merged and my department head was asked to go. My new department head was very demanding and I left shortly after that.
You are right. The problem isn’t engineering per se (or any other profession), but how corporations have turned all work into drudgery. My experience is that smaller companies typically treat employees better, despite lower pay and benefits. And provide more rewarding work.
Here I am reading this years later, but your words are SO on target and experiences so relate-able, having been forced out from the electronics industry myself awhile ago. I find myself quite curious what you are up to now in 2018…
I am glad to read you still stand by your decision almost after 2 years??? and actively blogging. I am in a fairly similar situation as what you mentioned; the biggest problem is dealing with politics in a sunset industry because there is no real upside of raising to management level.
I hope you can share prob some of the regrets or internal struggle you may have to deal with since you retire; besides a drop in income. How do you keep a positive outlook to take you to self employment eventually.
Thanks for visiting! I added the one year and two years after retirement links at the bottom of the article. Check them out. 🙂
I love engineering, I love what I do. I think engineering is the greatest thing in the world. But man, am I envious. Envious of the sales person, who on his slowest month still makes more money than I do. Envious of the receptionist, who spends all her days on the iphone and make still make 95% of my salary. Sometimes a little respect from management is all I ask for… And forget about being envious, it is sad to know that my job can be outsourced to China, while sales people and receptionist are needed here…
And there is a lack of engineers out there. We can not fill any vacant position. There is a high demand for experience engineers willing to work for pennies on the dollar…
Again, I love what I do but if given the chance I would not do this again…
Sorry to hear that. You probably should focus more on yourself and ignore how other people are doing.
Engineers are overworked and under appreciated. I don’t know why they keep trying to make engineers a manager if there is such a shortage. It’s silly.
When I was 48, I quit my engineering job but went back after 2 years off. I consider myself semi-retired because I take 4-6 months off every year. I find it hard to find a 30 hour week job so I tolerate the 50-60 hours/week but take off after 6-8 months. I am now 55 and still working as a contractor for engineering companies. The best part of being seasonal is that I rarely get asked to be a supervisor or a Lead.
I have just completed my 3 years in this IT field and the same kind of insecure feeling i have got. I work in a good reputaed MNC and work life and culture is pretty good here but when i think of my career after 10-15 years i feel worried . I am good at technical side but i know for sure that i wouldn’t like to end up my life by doing this and even i don’t like the manager job. The craze for programming and IT field seems to be gone now for me. What all i want to get a structured growth,peaceful life and less stress. Very soon i will put myself out of this life.
Thanks for sharing your real experience !
Hey just found your site and it’s super helpful!! Anyways I just scrolled past the comments so sorry if I re-ask a question but I was wondering if your could’ve redone your education and major in something different what would it be
.I ask because I’m in high school and I’m tied between being a software engineer or a Dr. in Physical therapy using my programming for apps and websites for my clinic..
I think that programming skills are really important but I don’t want to sit in a chair all day! :(.. I would really appreciate your advice. Thanks!
I would go for Oceanography! You get to spend a lot of time in the ocean and that sounds like fun. I guess you can work for the federal biology department or become a professor with an Oceanography degree. Anyway, that’s just a dream. 🙂
You can try both, right? Take some programming and anatomy classes. You should see what classes is required to get into a PT program. You can get a Computer Science degree and take all the PT requirement classes too. That way you’ll have a choice when you graduate.
I am also an ECE and have about 30 plus years of computer experience ( Software Engineering) and have been on four companies, longest of which was for 18 years. My 2nd company, got bought and I dont want to relocate.
My 3rd company I was with, the job was outsourced to India and new president made a mass layoff. The 4th company, my job was also outsourced to Ireland( Main company based in UK ).
I loved my job coding, debugging and fixing broken codes, re-designing and making enhancement to the product, but after the 4th company, I find it hard to land another job. Most companies hire young ones because the interviewers are much more younger than you are and mostly on their early 30s. My wife already accepted, that I will never get an IT job because of my age. Sometimes, I still miss my busy schedule. I am working part time right now on a retail store ( not IT ), so not to get bored.
hi, I’m a freshman studying computer engineering. I just received my programming grade and got a C-. I need a C+ to pass the course. Do you think I should continue studying engineering? I’m really confused.
How do you like the courses? If it’s not something you enjoy, then maybe it’s time to look for other alternatives. Do you think you can improve with time? Good luck.
Just to share in the ‘what is retirement’ conversation, I retired from the military after thirty-three total years, six of which were as a ‘part-time’ soldier at the same time I was a government employee. The career was long, I made it to Sergeant Major, and I would not have traded a minute of it for anything in the world. Not only did I love the work I did but I felt a strong sense of belonging and doing good. I retired because it was time to go because of age and to make room for others to move up. Also, I promised my wife that we would settle down some day and stay in one place for longer than four years. I now work for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Training Specialist and absolutely love it. While I loved the military, this is zero stress comparitively. I have a good retirement, some money in the bank, and a good new career. When do I plan to really quit working? I’m thinking 66-70. I like to stay moving. By the way, we’ve been in place for eight years no and my wife is starting to talk of moving. Go figure!
Enjoyed reading your blog and found most of your comments to be spot on. I left a mechanical design engineering career nearly 20 years ago. My reasons were similar to those I’ve read here – it’s hard to stay on the technical side and advance your salary so you have to eventually move into management as they hire fresh graduates to take your place. And when you reach your late 40’s or early 50’s the accountants will decide to lay you off with the first hint of an economic downturn and replace you with a lower salary team member that you probably trained/mentored. Nobody in your particular industry will hire you because they’ve just laid off your peers. Nobody will hire you as entry level because they think that you will bolt for the first better paying job that comes along (and they would be quite right in thinking this).
So… you either plan for your early “retirement”, struggle because you didn’t, or change careers altogether. So unfair but that’s life it seems.
FWIW – the grass isn’t always greener in the career alternatives. I found this blog brainstorming for some way of returning to engineering from my current career as a physician. Doesn’t look very promising from what I’ve read here and elsewhere on the internet.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I don’t know if it would be possible to get back into engineering at your age (I assume older than 50.) You’d have to compete with 20 something kids who don’t mind spending 80 hours on the job. It’s not going to be fun. Maybe start your own business or join a consultant? That might be a way to get back into engineering.
Thank you for your thoughts! I am sorry if this question has already been asked, but what are you doing now for work? Do you enjoy it (considerably more)? Are you making more money? Do you get to spend more time with the family?
I’m a stay at home dad/blogger now. I make a little money with my blog. It is much much better than working for a big corporation. I make much less money, but I do get to spend most of my time with the family. Life is short so enjoy it! Cheers.
What an interesting read. I sort of found my self in the same boat. I fell into that whole “pick a career that relates to things you like” theme when I entered college. I was a young guy who liked the outdoors and loved to tinker, weld, paint, innovate, and customize things in my garage. So I suffered 5 years of college to earn a degree in Civil engineering. (Yes suffered, I hated almost every minute of it) Worked at a firm through college, then a contractor afterwards. Turns out that career had nothing to do with me playing in my garage or hiking/hunting the Midwest. Those were just things I liked to do. I found the engineering aspect fascinating, it certainly broadened my ability to solve complex math problems, but that’s really all I got out of it. Now I’m 32 and looking to start over. Quit my job, looking to make up for some lost time. Was it a mistake? I have no idea, quite frankly I don’t care at the moment…. I didn’t know better at the time, I don’t know a lot of young adults that do. If most young adults are certain of there future then consider me one that isn’t. Life is short….. it only becomes more evident every passing year.
Good luck! It’s never too late to start over and create the life that you want. Engineering was fun in the beginning, but it’s not for me anymore.
Hi, I really enjoyed your article.
As an engineering student who is graduating in 3 months, I’m having a difficulty with finding my passion and planning my career path.
I study chemical engineering at one of the best public universities in the US, but I’m not good at it. I was pushed into Engineering by my parents.
Now I’m applying to graduate schools in my country (Korea) from USA. This is mainly due to the fact that Korea is filled with over-educated engineers, so much as I don’t like it, getting a PhD seems necessary to survive the current job market.
I never got to enjoy any of the engineering classes, and my GPA once dropped near the drop-out level. I bounced back (although my GPA is still below 3.0) and started to enjoy part of my major slightly more. However, that part of the major involves mostly research experiences(surface engineering), which means a graduate school diploma will be necessary.
I think getting an advanced diploma could be a good way to “fill up” my near empty resume from the undergrad, but at the same time I am not sure if I want to do this. Graduate schools in Korea offer no financial support, and I find people there to be quite irrationally hierarchical and egoist. Also Korea has a much worse work environment than the US, with crazy work ethics that require “voluntary” overtime work(60~100 hrs a week), not enough salary (50k~ for PhD holders), and other factors. This means even with a PhD, I will probably have to work my ass off everyday, hide my personality, and actually excel at what I do. These criteria do not seem like something I will be able to meet, especially when I have no passion for engineering.
The reason i’m having a hard time turning my back on the field of engineering is because of the financial reasons, mostly its job stability/availability. My parents both studied science/engineering and are professionals in those fields. They see that engineers will always be needed and will have higher chances of getting a relatively well-paying job. But I doubt if I will be able to shine in the field of engineering. This is my 6th year in the undergraduate program because I failed many classes in my 3rd-4th years in college.
My parents also had to spend sh*t load of money for my education, and I believe they even loaned money from the bank. So the guilt I would have from leaving the field of engineering has been holding me. Also I forgot to mention I will have to serve in the military if I give up on the engineering grad school (that’s how it works in Korea.)
What I am good at and interested in is logical thinking–psychology/sociology and English. I reached a high proficiency level in English over a relatively short time period. (6~7 years from nada to very fluent and still improving.) So I’m trying to make a big decision whether I should go to graduate school or just finish my military duty, possible as an interpretation officer, and find out my true passion. (Although I’m scared that I might end up serving as a private and forget my engineering knowledge and English.)
With my background I have a few questions I want to ask.
1. Would I regret going to grad school (MS or PhD) if I do not “truly” enjoy my work? Would it be worth it when engineering job do not fit my lifestyle, interest, and talent?
2. Can money possibly make up for a job that you do not like? If you make, let’s say, $100,000 a dollar/y but have to squeeze your brain out everyday not to get fired and live under constant stress. Would it be something worth studying for. I don’t know what my job as an engineering would be like, but it doesn’t seems like studying 6 more years in grad school and doing research for the rest of my life under tremendous pressure would be the course to bet on.
As I was writing this comment, I realized that my perspective is already extremely negative. My parents now tell me to decide my own future, but they had been telling me what to do with my career path until like 3 months ago when I raged at them for manipulating my life. At the same time, I feel like I’ve become that person that they always wanted me to be because that’s what I had been doing for my entire life. So here comes more questions
3. Am I too scared? or am I being reasonably feared? Would going to a grad school actually pay off after a long period of time of no social life, tremendous workload/pressure, uncertainty of future? and would it pay off in a long run?
Your article seems to imply that engineers are, at the end, nothing more than expendable assets to the companies.
4. What is your plan, or have you been doing after you retired as an engineer?
I know this comment is extremely long, but I found it difficult to wrap up my thoughts short in length. I’d really appreciate your insight on the matters. I’m admittedly in a difficult situation and I hope you have something to say about this with your wisdom and experiences in the field of engineering.
Hey there, sorry to hear you have so much doubt. Can’t you try to get a job here in the US with an undergrad degree? I know it’s tough, but try anyway. You might get lucky.
1. You will probably regret it. If you invest 6 more years into engineering, then you will really feel obligated to be an engineer for a long time. You will have invested so much time in it that it will be extremely difficult to change course. IMO.
2. Money can make up for a job you don’t like for a few years. You can travel, have fun with friends, and do things to lessen the stress. Eventually, I think money won’t matter as much when you get older and more financially secure.
3. Engineers are expendable. The company can always hire more engineers. The flip side is you don’t have to be an engineer forever. Many engineers quit their job and moved on to do something else.
4. I have been a stay at home dad and blogging. Once my kid goes to school full time, then I will probably try other self employment business.
I don’t know enough about the military system. Can you be an engineer in the military? With your degree, they should maximize your usage somehow. If I were you, I would try to get an engineering job with your undergrad degree. Work as an engineer for a few years and see if it’s bearable. Save up and work part time at something you like. Always keep your eyes open for opportunities.
I hope this helps. Feel free to email me or comment more here.
Thank you for your reply.
Unfortunately the Korean military system has no interest in giving people with a diploma a chance to stay on course. It is a big waste of time that will eventually form you into an obedient dog of the system. Basically it’s a place no one would spend their time at. Also finding a job in the US as an international student, especially with the military duty in the way, is nearly impossible. The interpretation officer position is one of few ways to spend the time in the military productive, and I’m probably going to apply for it.
I consulted with graduate students and professors at school and they gave me similar answers that you gave me. I was already leaning towards not going to a grad school for now and I think I just needed assurance and make sure I’m aware of the consequences. I think I will probably give up on graduate school for now and see if I can pursue happiness in something else. (Professional interpreter for an example)
I have been already going over all my options for a long time, but I want you to know that your article helped me with actually making the decision.
Thank you a lot! I hope things go well with you as you will go through many transitions soon.
Good luck with everything. You can always go back to graduate school so I think you made the right decision. If things don’t work out, then you can try graduate school. You won’t regret giving it a shot. Let me know how it turns out in a few years. I’m really glad this is helpful.
Very interesting blog here. Your story caught my eye when “googling” engineering student burnout symptoms. Maybe you never expected to fall into this category, ha!
As for myself, I am a non traditional EE student, age 43. Decided to leave my position 5 years ago and pursue a BSE degree. I am familiar with the power distribution industry as a licensed electrician of 25 years, and previous city electrical inspector of 4 years. I have worked at a university lab over the last 2 years gaining some design experience.
The last few semesters have been extremely challenging and found myself completely sick of the curriculum, subject matter and mental academic gymnastics. I only have two semesters left, but grades are plummeting despite even working harder. Whew, should have done this 20 years ago.
Locally, several energy (utility) companies have been hiring entry level engineers with my range of experience. They do help with tuition reimbursement, too.
What is your opinion on taking a position now, before completing the degree, and finishing it as my schedule allows? I am having a tremendous difficulty leaving school early as it seems like a bad excuse to pursue anything before completion.
Your advice is greatly appreciated!
I was a bit burned out when I was a student too. At least it was only 5 years to get my MS. A career last much longer than that. If you can get a position, I’d say go for it. Then complete your degree later. That can be hard for some people, though. I guess it depends on how much longer you have left. If you only have a year left, maybe it’s better to grind it out.
I have just been recently let go (fired) from my job yesterday-right at the close of the 90 day probationary period. The manager indicated to me that he believed he made a mistake hiring me as he felt my experience level was inadequate for the workload and his expectations (he said he should’ve asked more detailed design questions in the interview. I passed the obligatory “weed out” aptitude test riddled with obscure engineering trivia and trick questions). He said he read my resume and thought he was hiring a 12 year engineer (I was hired through a recruiting firm and the job advertised a “5+ year” candidate; I had 6 years of relevant experience in that particular area of EE).
Needless to say, it’s a very small company (80 employees, 7 engineers) with completely unreal workloads and development schedules. Everyone was drowning in work and juggling their time between multiple projects, being unable to adequately complete them all within budget. The fact that I was a casualty of the 2008 crisis (6 of those eight jobs were in the last 6 years) has made me more cautious and paranoid. I do not see any stability in the future as companies look for all manner of reasons/justifications to can someone (note: I always ace the ridiculous interviews and my technical expertise is never an issue in my first review but something always happens-I’m usually laid back and like to keep out of office politics-to suddenly make me appear incompetent). The hours were painfully long and there were several Saturdays in the office. I’ve only been there three months and it seemed like three years. I woke up two weeks ago with heart palpitations. Two of the engineers are over 70 (one just retired last week) and they have no one in my age bracket (30-40) to keep them going.
The boss (president) is the quintessential workaholic-he lived at that place and demanded the same level of dedication from every employee; salaried employees were mandated to have at least 45 hours in every week (which could easily amount to 55). I’m no slacker (my boss even said so) but I was starting to get fried from all the stress and pressure (every single day was approx 10 hours (lunch not included) since I started there). The defense industry has become highly aggressive (as most defense jobs are immune from competition from H-1B candidates) and the management exploits this fact. Even a 20 year person would be overwhelmed working there.
I really like engineering; I absolutely despise the engineering industry. I’ve worked across a number of industries in different geographic regions and it’s all the same. It’s not about what you know (because they can always claim you’re inferior despite otherwise) but your perceived “value” which is subject to change on a dime. I’m seriously considering getting out altogether because this same scenario has happened to me too many times in a row. This work environment was non-existent prior to 2009.
That job sounds like a nightmare. It’s good that you got out of there. There are always other jobs and there is no need to keep yourself in the pressure cooker. Keep trying different jobs, maybe you’ll find one that’s a good fit. Engineers who left the field still do just fine so there is life after engineering. Good luck!
I’m a civil engineer, master’s degree in structures. Graduated from a state univ summa, and started out with structures in 99. Laid off after 1 year, so I took a 2 week vacation and then started in with another firm across the street. Got tired of working in the downtown area of our metropolis and my wrists were starting to hurt from the constant clicking of the mouse, so I moved to a small town and went to work for the road design branch of my state’s DOT. My salary is public record, less than 60k a year. I’ve applied for promotions 3 times, but have been turned down; not that I desperately want to give up engineering and move into the mind-numbing management world, though the extra money would be nice. I’m considering getting back into the more high stress world of engineering because I have zero stimulation in my job (a monkey could do what I do), and my family’s needs are growing. My wife does not work. We have zero debt. Tough to move out of a home you own and leave your community to chase the idea I had back when I was in college, that I could do something significant with my technical skills. Mostly I’m feeling disillusioned. Any thoughts would be appreciated. I’m 37.
You can try it for a couple of years and see how it works out. Keep up with you contact in the previous job and you’ll be able to go back to it if needed, right? Good luck!
This article described what happened to me…EXACTLY. I just left Intel after 17 years as a design engineer. The first 7 years where challenging and rewarding. Technical individual contributors were left to work the magic, and actually get things done. Between my 1st and 2nd sabbatical things started to change. I became more senior and the expectation was to sit in god awful meetings all day, make slides sets, and influence others. I butted heads with my managers for a 5-7 years over this, telling them I just wanted to design things. “Well, you received such and such promotion and such and such raises.” Well, I never asked for them, you gave them to me! I’m telling you what I’m good at and you aren’t listening.
After my second sabbatical I stuck it out as long as I could, but it just got worse. Evening meetings with Shanghai teams, zero design work, meetings, meetings, meetings. I went to my boss off the month and said “I’m out at the beginning of January.”
The fact that they are putting up the DuPont, WA site for sale helped my decision, and my wife fully supported me. So much less stress now as I forge ahead with new interests.
Sorry to hear that. I think it’s pretty common. They want people that can make more impact. If you like the technical side, it seems your career will be a short one. That’s unfortunate. Best of luck with your next chapter.
I enjoy your blog.
When I was a blue badge employee, I enjoyed two sabbaticals and several grade promotions, but towards the end it wasn’t the same for me either.
At first, I was an RCG and loved working late and even on weekends.
But as the years flew by, things changed when there were dept reorgs and many managerial changes. I can’t remember how many different managers I’ve had due just to reorgs alone. I think towards the end of my employment, they had poor managerial leadership in the design teams that I worked on. They encouraged behavior which wasn’t constructive for effective team work or developing strong leaders.
Those senior folks who were good at office politics or schmoozing or shirking work onto others got better visibility and reviews and seen as stronger leaders. Since those weren’t my strengths, I was thought of as a weak leader. So even though I was able to get the technical stuff done, I was penalized because I wasn’t the most extroverted or well connected person during focal.
In hindsight, I probably could have done things a little differently to have tried to hang in there. But when they were handing out vsp, I guess that was a wake up call that I was expendable. The severance package was ok. Now though, the job market is highly competitve and sometimes I wonder if I should have not accepted separation package and stayed.
Oh well, thanks for listening….
I had 2 sabbaticals with Intel as well. It was really hard to go back to work after the 2nd one.
I was terrible with the office politic. When I had the right manager who know what I could do, it was fine. However, I didn’t really get along with my last manager and it made leaving a pretty easy decision. I guess I should have held out for a vsp, but I couldn’t stand going into the office anymore.
Good luck with the job search. Are you in San Jose? You might need to move to California if you are looking for an engineering job.
Good blog. Very interesting to read. I am an embedded engineer of 10+ years. The way my career has shaken out is that I worked for my first company for 10 years (embedded engineer for a gaming company) and left on a high note (great recommendations), about 9 months before the company decided to change direction and did massive layoffs. The second company I hopped to was much smaller (instead of 5000 people, it was about 100 people). At this company I was an embedded engineer working in power systems. Big change. The engineering group was small and still very “family” oriented. However, after about 5 years there, and similar good credentials, I could see things going south with this company. So, I left there and actually went back to the first company for a year, dodging layoffs at the smaller company. After a year at the first place again, I decided to change streams and moved out of state to a company that deals with cable power systems. I am essentially a communications systems embedded engineer. I do like the place I am at now. I have made it a year here and the potential looks good. There is a ton of stress though. The expectation is high and I am kind of taking up the slack that another senior engineer has created (he is content to sit in a corner and work alone). I do have a business degree as well, but prefer the engineering side of things. I still love engineering and do a lot of projects with my daughter on the side (she is 7). Here is the problem Two years ago I suffered a heart attack after leaving a gym and doing some swimming. I essentially passed out driving back to work and was dead for at least 90 seconds to two minutes until people at work shocked me back to life (got shocked a second time in the ambulance). I have been fine since, but I have the fear of the stress and future for my family. My wife works, but doesnt bring in a lot of money. So, there is no way to live off of what she can make. We have debts from previous houses, etc. and need the type of income that I have grown to make. So, its a matter of having to live with the stress. What I would love to do is to run my own business of some form, preferably related to engineering, but am a realist in that I know it takes a good chunk of money to get going and I need to find a good niche. I have tried the freelancing side of things, but I know from that that its very difficult to get any kind of steady jobs rolling along. Engineering can be a good gig if you adjust and try different fields instead of staying in the same field. I love lots of aspects of engineering and try to learn new fields and have gotten jobs in the different niches in the phases of my career. In the company I work at now, they have actually had a partnership with an Indian company for a handful of years and are trying to pull back some of that work back to the US, in house. I am a big part of trying to do that with some projects we are working on now. As much as I love engineering though, I always go back to the thing a diving friend of mine and I say to each other. “once things get too bad, we may as well open up a dive shop and Dairy Queen in Palau and call it good” 🙂 Heck, there have been times when I am in a grocery line and see the person bagging groceries and say to myself “man, I would love that level of stress for a day or two, it would be great”.
Thanks for sharing. You should evaluate your option more and see if you can reduce the stress level in your life. You already had one scary episode and you don’t want to repeat that. I’m sure your family would rather live a little simpler and have you around for the long term. Can you handle another 5 or 10 years of this stress?
Can you downsize your home or perhaps find some other way to cut expenses?
Good luck and please take care of yourself.
I worked at BRCM in the metro Boston area in the last years before 2010. I thought the product was cool, and as an engineer back then with a decade of experience, I was excited at the start to be part of the company. However, soon the working relationships became … disheartening. A little more than 2/3 of the engineers were Americans and the rest were foreigners, largely Chinese and Indians. A handful of the line managers were foreign born. It was a perfect storm for bigotry and racism. There were few women — I could count the female engineers with one hand — and so you had testosterone fueled egotism in the mix.
What can I say? This is New England, not the Tri-State or California. Diversity wasn’t really part of the regional landscape nor the local history. It was disheartening to say the least. After two years I quit.
What has this got to do with computer engineering? Every time I start at a new job I ask myself: am in for another display of the ugliness of human nature?
Have been an engineer on the mechanical, manufacturing, test, design, and quality assurance side for over 35 years. Have been laid off 19 times in those 35 years of a mix of contract and full time positions. Years ago only engineers over the age of 40 were down trodden and at the mercy of contracting in order to find any type of work. Now those in their late 20’s and even engineering graduates are stuck contracting. The warning signs are clear and many with engineering degrees get out of the field real quick. I worked at a place two years ago that had 6 mechanical engineering contractors. All 6 were divorced by their spouses and still had to pay child support. Several of them were severe alcoholics stumbling late into work each day with an occassional bruise or two from the night before. Absolute mess engineering is in the USA today. 27 year old engineers being promoted to group leaders instructing 57 year old alcoholic contracting engineers. The 27 year old group leaders work 60 hours a week with approximately 1/5 of those hours in meaningless meetings. Most companies hire H-1B foreign visa workers in place of USA citizens to save costs.
Would like to add an update to my comment above. One of the engineers I worked with that stumbled into work late after drinking the night before has turned things around. His child support commitment ended and he teamed up with a group of engineers that were consulting to an Italian company specializing in nano technology implementation. He is now in Italy doing “real” engineering design. So while companies are replacing older experienced engineers with cheaper foreign tech workers on H-1B visas this guy did a reverse and he is sharing his engineering expertise with the Italians. Perhaps this is a trend that will continue which is a plus for foreign countries to grab excellent engineering talent that has gone to waste in the USA.
Sorry to hear about your experience. Engineering is a good field, but it’s just getting more difficult everyday. Engineers should recognize that it’s a lot harder to spend your whole life as an engineer. We need to plan an exit strategy.
Working long hours is rough on the relationship.
I am also an ECE retired at age of 32. I worked for over 10yrs in two companies. I retired when my 1st child is growing up and I felt I have no choice but to give her priority. I got across your blog because after 1.5yrs of being retired I am contemplating on returning to the work force but don’t want an engineering career in the same industry. I think only engineers will understand the stresses that comes with our work and keeping up with the technology, the problem with being a single contributor and the expectations as you become a senior engineer. Those are the things that I don’t want to face anymore because being a mother when I go home at night is another whole level and totally different career for a woman. I sometimes miss programming and other stuff and would like to work again because I still want to keep my brain working and due to self worth, you know. I am trying to explore my options after 1.5yrs of not working.
Maybe you can do contract jobs instead. That way you can control your hours.
Working part time is a great way to have the best of both worlds.
You probably need to get back into it very soon though. 1.5 years is a long gap in the resume.
Or perhaps try a different career or start a business. Good luck!
At the retired age of 69, knowing what I know now, Never in Hell would I recommend the engineering field to any person. No job security, no significant income, long hours, hatred by non-engineers, etc., etc., etc. I know people driving fork trucks and collecting garbage who are better off than most engineers.
Really? Some people seems to do very well as an engineer. Job security is definitely getting worse though.
people driving fork trucks doing better than engineers? It is true!
These people are not in front of the computer 10 hours daily. At least these people are in better physical shape than most engineers.
Engineers are so skillful doing very complex works, but at the same time, people with less training are doing better by being their own boss.
I’ve been in engineering for 32 years since age 20. Started as a technician and worked my way through school completing a bachelors and masters degree (12 years). All paid for by the company. Engineering has been good to me but not easy. I’ve been laid off, let go, walked out, ect., ect. Each time there has been another opportunity! Everyday I get up I work for me, not the company, for me. The knowledge I get is the knowledge I take with me. I’ve worked for ten companies in the Balt./D.C. area both small and large. The only difference was the sign on the front door!
In conclusion, companies are no larger interested in engineering like back in “the ole days”. With the accountants running the companies and the quarterly profit the top priority, engineering is just a necessary evil to top management.
Thanks for your input. I probably should have changed job more often. However, we didn’t want to move and there are limited employers in our area. I probably should have moved to the Bay Area when I was young.
I am currently in the engineering field but have lost a lot of interest in the engineering field. I am a female mechanical engineer and hate sitting at a desk for long periods at a time. I worked for a small amd medium size company and both have their pros and cons. Ultimately, I miss working with people. I am looking to get out of engineering and I will be another statistic of a female who reached the 5 uear milestone. I am looking at being a science teacher or going into healthcare. I was told a larger company would be easier to work for but based on the forum, I am not sure. Any engineers out there that went into teaching or healthcare?
It is quite depressing to sit in front of the monitor all day long. When I wasn’t in front of a monitor, I was attending useless meetings. That’s the problem with big companies.
I think science teacher sounds great. You’ll get a big pay cut though. 🙁
You should change job and give it one more chance. Maybe you’ll find a good group of people to work with and revitalize your engineering career. You can always quit if it didn’t work out.
I know this post is over a year old, but just wondering what you ended up doing. I hit the 5yr mark as a chemE, but couldn’t take it. I am starting school next year going into healthcare. I considered teaching on some level but decided I was more into healthcare.
At the end of the article, there are links to the one and two years update. I’m a stay at home dad/blogger now and life is pretty darn good. Good luck with the healthcare field.
I have been reading your blog for a while. It is good. Thanks for sharing. I wonder if possible, could you shoot me a private email since I have something to consult with you. Thanks. John
I wish I had the opportunities you did, I am currently a freshman in College and am pursuing a software engineering degree. I know this unrelated to your RB40 story, but I am curious on how you dealt with the transition from highschool to college? My school offers a lot of resources but the one thing they all is an actual person from the field. Thanks for reading and any comment would be greatly appreciated. Good luck with very thing and I hope we can both find our ways.
I graduated from computer science master’s program, with 3.9 GPA, but landed a mediocre engineering job, and I cannot even like my career. Debugging drives me crazy. The details you have to remember drive me crazy. All the tiny little bits you have to configure exactly right to make those meaningless machines work drive me crazy. I spent all my time and energy on learning emerging technologies, with no personal life left, but I still can’t answer the interview programming questions, thus still can’t land a better job. And I doubt I will like it if I do get one.
I loved my job the first 10 years…I think all engineers do because you get better raises the first 7-10 years and don’t have a lot of responsibility or expectations placed upon you. We also received $500 bonuses for simply meeting milestones – doing our jobs….it boosted morale a LOT though. Nobody who was laid off has any intention of ever going back. Then the penny pinchers came, and ticked everyone off.
I wonder if other careers are like ours. We could work for 20 years at the same demanding company, yet have to prove ourselves at an interview…do lawyers get asked trick questions regarding the law during interviews? What about accountants – are they asked about obscure tax laws?
We designed very complex systems. One system was literally the most complex the gov’t had ever undertaken until than – well over 5 million lines of code! 20 years later, those engineers are now mostly laid off. A company making retirement software drilled my coworkers in interviews – and that company doesn’t even pay well (their ad encourages H1 visa holders to apply and advertises a $45k salary at the low end of the range). I started out at $36k 20 years ago! That’s $57k in today’s dollars.
I was lucky and managed to get a gov’t job w/in $6k of what I used to make. Very few of my coworkers did as well. One lead test engineer, after 9 months of searching hard, took a job (doing hands on IT work) which barely pays half of what he used to make. He made around $110k at the former company – with 20+ years of experience.
I have a MSEE and top grades too, but didn’t quite make $100k even though I was the lead SE on a multi-hundred million program.
Hopefully working for the gov’t will be lower stress and have better morale…just need to get through the next few tough fiscal years.
Good point about the first 10 years. It was a lot of fun and there wasn’t a lot of leadership demand.
That’s a tough situation to be in. You should save up as much money as you can for now and explore alternative careers. You don’t have to be a programmer forever. Good luck!
Probably, you really did gave up your engineering career, but did you give up on your engineering skills too.
Wow, you have had similar experiences as me (I worked at Lockheed)…it’s not fun once you finally make good pay (and have the pressures of supporting a family).
I was the top math, science, and economics student ($$$!!!) out of 230 at my high school.
I have a MSEE degree with a 3.8 GPA…and graduated in 5 years basically (had 2 classes out of the 10 to take when I started working). Out of 180 EE’s, not many American born engineers graduated with a higher GPA.
HR makes it into slavery (an Israeli program manager said “engineering is modern day slavery” – too funny, it even sucks in Israel!) . We’re treated like a number 100%.
I think many engineering companies work similarly to the following (due to HR receiving similar training at college):
People in each pay level (which pretty much aligns with age/experience) are compared to each other. They literally “rank” the employees from 1 to xxx in each pay level.
Each employee needs to have 3 or 4 coworkers and leads appraise them annually. Clearly, being buddies with your team leads helps.
Raises are based on how much you are paid w/in your pay level (are you at the bottom and thus underpaid, or at the top and “fully compensated”), and performance, which for engineers is subjective, unlike a sales job.
We had 5 levels of performance rankings w/in each pay level.
Only the top 10% get good raises (ie more than 1% above inflation). I got as few of those early on, and was the only engineer out of 30 in my unit two years in a row to get it…but just a year later, doing the same work, my new manager (who was hired a few years earlier to code the software for a fantastic whitepaper I wrote, which won us new work) gave me ZERO! Total insult. and that’s back in the mid 90’s when there was a shortage of engineers, much unlike today.
The next 20% (in terms of performance) get around 1% above inflation for their raise – they are just barely keeping up with inflation!
The next group, the largest with 50% of the employees, gets from 0% to 1% above inflation. People who are above the middle of the pay level mostly get no raise – they are “fully compensated” in that pay level (but if they get promoted tot he next level, they are at much greater risk of being laid off! That’s what got me…).
The next 10% gets no raise, even if they are underpaid w/in their pay level.
The bottom 10% also gets no raise, even if they are underpaid w/in their pay level…and they are guaranteed to get axed in the next layoff, which occurred every 2 years on average.
Thanks for sharing. Your annual review process is almost exactly the same as what they had at Intel.
I’m sure it’s the standard operating procedure to squeeze as much as they can out of engineers. It’s good for the short term, but I don’t think it works in the long term. You lose a lot of good people that way.
Yeap, being on good term with your manager is pretty much the most important thing in the annual review.
It was Jack Welch’s idea to “squeeze” the bottom 10% so they’d leave the company on their own…GE did not have layoffs like us, so maybe that made sense for them. We had layoffs every 2 years on average however (and 4 years in a row currently!), so hardly did they need to force anyone out via other methods.
All it did was piss off around 10 to 20% (depended on how well the business was doing; etc) who got no raises for a LONG time. Instead, why not give them 2% raises…that’s only 10% x 2% = 0.2% of the total payroll! So hardly did it save a meaningful amount of money compared to the damage to morale. Nobody worked extra hours unpaid anymore, and some didn’t work the 40 they charged, which is a felony.
Around half of those who got no raises were the same people as the prior year, but many were not, so around 30% of the workers at some point got shafted.
My friend got no raise, and 1-2 months later won a huge corporate award for the work he did during that same period! He had my manager at that point… My friend was transferring to a different group/program, and he’d also have a new manger. So we figure his manager figured why not screw him over since he wouldn’t be in his unit the next year anyhow.
Anyone there more than 10 years has survived at least 2-3 layoffs, so you look around and (almost) everyone else has been through the same “layoff filters” as I call them. They did not hire many experienced engineers, so they needed to have strong resumes to get hired, yet they usually did not make it past 2 layoffs.
Only the very best were left. Phd’s were laid off the year before me (especially those over 40, which most were). Almost nobody under 40 was laid off. The prior year was the same.
Sounds to me like only the cheapest were left.
Wow! Now I understand why Lockheed Martin makes such an excellent passive investment for retired people. 🙂
They really squeeze the blood out of their workers!
I’ve really enjoyed this reading this discussion, as I am living life nearly in reverse from most of the people posting. I’ve “followed my dreams” since the early 90’s with a career in art handling, production of art exhibits, and picture framing. Now that I’m 40, the reality is that though I’ve loved literally nearly every day on the job, the income just doesn’t allow for any real savings or retirement planning, or auto mechanic bills or orthodontics for the kid.
Much of art installation and framing is about problem-solving and spatial thinking, so I’m thinking of returning to school for an engineering degree. Biomedical seems interesting, but I’d love anyone’s input on where the engineering field is headed these days.
At least you gave it a shot, right? 95% of the people who went into the traditional workforce lifestyle, couldn’t get out of it. It’s just too hard to let go.
I think engineering is still a great field. WE always need more engineers.
As of now, I’ve been with my company for ten years. It’s interesting because I know guys who are mostly still technical after 30 years at the company. At the same time I know many, many engineers who hit the “wall” at a particular level and are content to just sit and specialize in something and be a “go-to” guy for something. The company realized that the only way to pass on the knowledge from the increasingly graying population (to give perspective, as of the time of this writing, fully 50% will be eligible for retirement under minimum age requirements in 5 years) is to pass it on to the younger folks. Thus more of the older folks become “full-time direct consultants” rather than the go-to guys.
This is great for me because it creates both technical and leadership potential opportunities. And in my field, we’re a technology integrator, so if I want to dive deep into something I can most likely, and if I want to generalize and focus on high level stuff, I can too. On top of that, I have been networking via LinkedIn and I’ve gotten interview offers from companies across the USA and Canada.
I know some guys who are going into management and I think they came to the same conclusion you did – engineering just wasn’t fun or rewarding anymore, or found their calling. I personally find the technical details interesting and I think that I will stay that route, and seem to be OK at leading (so far LOL!). I think mentoring the younger new engineers has been rewarding and made me realize I might like being a “professor” or something. But then again, I’m just a “new” senior engineer, so we’ll see what I’ll say after a few years!
Wow, 30 years experience. There weren’t many of those guys left at my old company. They all got forced to retire or got fired. That’s another reason why I don’t like the corporate world. It’s so heartless. It’s way cheaper to hire young guys and make them ramp up these days.
Good luck! I’m sure you’ll do well since you sounds like you’re having a lot of fun.
I started at DEC (anyone remember them?) in 1983 as a computer technician, I started attending college for an EE degree part time in the late 80’s – tuition was 100% reimbursed back then. DEC closed our site in 1991 and I decided to finish college as a full time student, graduating in 1994 with a BSEE.
At my first job I realized the happy days of DEC and the 80’s were over. By the end of the 90’s I had been through four companies. I received my MSEE in 1999 and by this time few companies would even pay partial tuition reimbursement. I persevered. Job #5 lasted 2 1/2 years and the site was unceremoniously closed in 2003. It would be 13 months before I could even get a contracting job. My next stint of unemployment after that started in March 2012 and has continued since.
I’ve put at least as much personal time investing in my skill set as I did all my college work – ASIC, FPGA, and DSP filter development languages and tools. I’ve also done numerous circuit designs and know dozens of tool suites and work flows, some of which are now obsolete. I’ve worked in embedded, telecomm, aerospace and even military R&D. Employer skill set requirements have become increasingly ridiculous, often commanding mastery of embedded programming and hardware together (with their particular boutique of tools and architectures). Matching skills and needs, in my opinion, is getting impossible.
At the moment, everyone I know who has an EE job is worried. People have left engineering all together (one opened a package store), retired early or have given up looking. I personally don’t know what I can do, it’s a lot of human capital to give up.
Thanks for sharing. Time is different now, that’s for sure. Employers are too concern about the short term profitability.
Good luck finding another EE job. Many of my friends have troubles too, but it’s much easier if you are in the right area.
Maybe you should try moving to San Jose for a few months and see if you can find anything. It’s tough.
Seems like companies prefer to hire young people with a few years of experience. They can just learn on the job and are much cheaper than experienced folks.
A guy I worked with at Lockheed (around 60 now, and laid off) was from DEC in the Boston area. If willing to move, there are oodles of defense jobs around Maryland and of course DC. Arizona also has many defense and non-defense jobs. I’m stuck in upstate NY however… plenty of SW jobs and some manufacturing related jobs, but nobody around here (except other dwindling defense companies) designs huge complex (mostly SW based) safety critical systems like I did at Lockheed.
I think Kodak in Rochester, which had 60k workers at the peak, is 100% gone now. Xerox is WAY smaller than it used to be, and Bosh and Lomb’s HQ is leaving – announced a week ago.
In Syracuse, Carrier’s union chased the manufacturing out of state and country, but R&D remains. New Process Gear (GM/Chrysler transmissions) is 100% gone. Lockheed in Syracuse and Owego/Binghamton are around half what they were 10 years ago, and the GE/Lockheed facility in Utica is gone. all defense companies w/in 200 miles have had layoffs this year and Lockheed has cut workers (around 70% to 85% over 40 years old) FOUR years in a row!
What I’ve found works is to ignore the advice that says you are also interviewing the company, because you’re not…you are basically begging for a job at this point. Don’t ask anything from them in any way, such as working from home (for example), which many people make the mistake of doing. a few guys admitted that they felt they lost jobs due to that, and I think I did too. I didn’t ask ANYTHING this time (other than how many workers were at the site – a few just for the sake of having questions), and I got the job.
Very intersting view. However,none of you should complain. I have a masters degree in Power Distribution and Control,and still can’t find a proper job. Spending hundreds of hours even more in MATLAB trying to configure complex Power networks using Newton-Raphson equations etc,has turned absolutely useless and waste of time. I have been rejected by many companies,as I don’t have the necessary experience to work out in the field. There is no way for me then to work as an engineer,and I gave up. Sad but true.
Hence I decided to move into the area of of web design(HTML/CSS,Photoshop,Flash) and developement. I already am a qualified Java SE6 professional programmer by Oracle,so PHP is not that hard for me(at the moment),and study to obtain the mysql5 associate certification.
Good luck out there. I guess that’s why we need to keep learning new things.
I left my previous employer (listed on Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For too no less) partly because I tired of the corporate drama… makes you wonder what it is like for companies not on the Fortune list.
Engineering is team endeavor and there’s always going to be at the very least a little corporate drama wherever you go.
While my current gig is okay it has me thinking about what to do in the long term. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years and I feel it’s sort of time for a change… a long sabbatical sounds about right and I don’t know if I want to go back to engineering after that. So I how some ex engineers feel 🙂
Intel is also one of the best companies to work for. It was good when I was young, but it’s not a good fit when I got older.
Good luck finding a long term solution. A sabbatical would be great to get your head straight. Cheers.
I worked for Intel for 5 years, worst job I have ever had.
Intel was my eighth company, and the worst, despite great pay and benefits.
“I lost interest in the job/career”
I can strongly relate to this one. I’ve been in Civil Engineering for 4.5 years and am in the middle of a career change. I firmly believe Engineering (or any career for that matter) is something you have to have a passion for, and frankly I never had it. When I first started, my Engineering job was only intended to be a starting point so I could figure out what I really want to do (And I have figured it out at this point). I found firsthand that if you don’t have the passion you’ll eventually wind up hating it and do mediocre work at best (I’m not saying you’ve done mediocre work; this just happens to be how my story unfolded). This leaves an unsatisfied, unfulfilled worker and a company with less profit-in other words it sucks for everyone involved. Like you said it has the potential to be a rewarding career, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Thanks for sharing your story; I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s had enough Engineering!
Thanks for your comment. I liked it at first, but all the corporate BS that came with it just killed it for me.
Anyway, people change career a few times these days. We need to find something that we enjoy and then the money will come. Good luck!
Your comment really hit home for me because I quit engineering after I got my EE degree from Cal Poly Pomona. I couldn’t stand it.
I got a good GPA (3.4) upon graduation but I seriously hated it.
But I’ve always wondered how things would have went had I stayed and got a job like everyone else. I eventually went into architecture, then marketing, then Dietetics & Nutrition.
But I think you’re right though, I probably would’ve produced mediocre results at best. And like RetireBy40 is saying, I probably would’ve spent all my money trying to make myself happier.
If you get a chance, I want to hear more about your thoughts on this because I think about this scenario so often and am always wondering “What if I became an engineer?” –> Ray (at) howtoclearyouracne (dot) com.
Its funny because I just graduated in December and I would love to do the exact opposite of you. The faster I get into management the better! I think of myself as a strong intellectual, but technical positions don’t seem to be for me. When I look at job postings for ECE they just all look boring. I have strong speaking skills and would be more than happy if my whole day were to be filled with meetings, presentations, etc. Unfortunately for me it just doesn’t seem to be possible to have that kind of job immediately, so I’ll end up drudging through my job until I can get there.
I think you can get into the management position pretty quick if you like that. Find a good mentor and you’ll get a lot of help.
You can also see if you can get into an assistance position for one of the senior manager. You can help make presentation, set up meetings, and those kind of work. That’s a good way to get out of the technical side. Good luck!
Thanks for the advice, I’ll see what I can find. I was also thinking about getting an MBA a little down the road, but I’ve heard the value of those is decreasing. And of course going back to school is always harder than going the first time.
My son, like yourself and CNBC’s Jim Cramer studied engineering. Unlike yourself, my son Carl and Jim both quit to work in Finance. When I asked my son why he switched he said, “I realized I would have to be an engineer.” I don’t know if this helps, but the engineering curriculum and it’s approach to critical thinking has certainly aided in his transition from Engineering to Finance.
Engineering was fun in the beginning, but I got burned out. It happens to a lot of people. Some people still love it after 20 years and that’s good for them also.
My goals and circumstance are very similar to yours. Been in software engineering field for 12 years and looking forward to financial freedom. Quit the inflated lifestyle 2 years ago. Never felt better. Looking forward to spending more time with the family. I had planned on 44, but reading your blog has got me thinking more aggressively.
@Michael – Well done, sir. You excised Corporate America bureaucracy from the equation.
“Management” as conceived by the Harvard Business School is a massively overrated. Obviously management is required at some level, but the expected level is more to support a Wall st expectation of commoditization of everything. Engineering should have a big dose of creativity, which is something which is inherently chaotic and unmanageable.
I am a consulting engineer specializing in structural glass for buildings, and a started my own practice two years ago. I charge only a little less than big management heavy firms, but have no management overhead. Clients, including now two Fortune 500 companies, love it because they can buy the creativity from my office which has been strangled by their in house MBA’s.
I am currently 36 and may be able to retire retire at 40, but I would never do so because I like engineering too much.
Thanks for sharing your story. I think the corporate culture really killed off many good engineers. That’s too bad.
I think this happens to a lot of engineers. They end up in management positions over time. My husband got promoted out of his technical job without even being interested or consulted. Although it was much better than being laid off and he’s good at it, I think most people don’t realize staying in a technical role forever is not always possible, especially once you salary gets in the 6 figure range.
Good article. The stuff I hate most about my job is the non technical stuff. Too.
@FGA – Interesting, yet odd. I would think the business would initially ask your husband if he’d be interested in the managerial role. Many folks in IT/Engineering are quite content to keep their existing non-managerial roles.
Sorry to hear that. I should have quit 5-6 years ago. Now I don’t even like the technical part of the job. Oh well, life goes on.
@Ernie – sure, no point in working at a place that causes you both mental and physical pain. However, don’t you think it would be prudent to find another job before quitting, especially in this very difficult, ultra-competitive job market?
Not at all. One of my favorite blog posts ever is by one of my favorite bloggers.
The blog post is titled “Top-10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job” and it is by Steve Pavlina, author of “Personal Development for Smart People”
I particularly like this part by Steve:
“Getting a job and trading your time for money may seem like a good idea. There’s only one problem with it. It’s stupid! It’s the stupidest way you can possibly generate income! This is truly income for dummies.
“Why is getting a job so dumb? Because you only get paid when you’re working. Don’t you see a problem with that, or have you been so thoroughly brainwashed into thinking it’s reasonable and intelligent to only earn income when you’re working? Have you never considered that it might be better to be paid even when you’re not working? Who taught you that you could only earn income while working? Some other brainwashed employee perhaps?”
Just a further note that in 1991 when there was a recession happening and shortly after I wrote and self-published my international bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”, I received this letter from a reader:
I have just finished reading your book “The Joy of Not Working.” Your inspirational words have changed the way I now view my life. I always felt that working harder would eliminate my problems, but all it ever did was complicate my life and cause more problems. You have given me the courage to quit my job. I used to be a tax consultant. Now I’m a human being again.
That’s right. I marched in this morning and told them I quit because my wife, my kids, and my health (both mental and physical) were more important. I’ve been seeking security through working more, but that’s not the answer. There are so many things I’ve wanted to do but felt I couldn’t. I love reading, and I’ve always felt writing would be a natural extension of my personality. If you have the time, I’d appreciate learning how you got started writing. I also failed first-year university English.
Incidentally, Les wrote to me a few years later and he did okay.
I think you’ve invested too many years in education and professional experience to simply quit the workforce.
Every company is run differently and has different views on work/life balance. Therefore, just because Intel did you wrong does not mean you should give the notion of working for Corporate America the middle finger.
Have you considered going into programming? Business analysis?
I’m pretty happy with what my education and working life gave me. I’ll try self employment for a while and if I really have to, I would consider going back to work for a small company. Most people can tolerate corporate America, but it really isn’t for me.
I would just add that I totally agree with you here. It is totally irrelevant how much time, money, and education one has invested in the past. If one doesn’t like one’s job, one should find a way to leave.
Seth Godin covers this very well in his book “The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)”
Just a note that I got fired from my engineering job over 30 years ago for taking too much vacation. At first it was traumatic, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
I have not had a regular job since then. I semi-retired when my net worth was minus $30,000 (due to student loans) and have been semi-retired ever since, working four hours a day or so on things I like working on.
Relating to this is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite bloggers:
“Getting a job and trading your time for money may seem like a good idea. There’s only one problem with it. It’s stupid! It’s the stupidest way you can possibly generate income! This is truly income for dummies. Why is getting a job so dumb? Because you only get
paid when you’re working.”
— Steve Pavlina, author of “Personal Development for Smart People”
In short, if anyone offered me $10 million to go work as an engineer (or any other corporate job) for one year, I wouldn’t consider it even for a nanosecond.
Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Prosperity Life Coach
Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
(Over 165,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
(Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)
Thanks for your input. Most engineers are very resourceful and I’m sure they can function even without an engineering job. Wow, I would consider $10 million for one year. 🙂
I’ll only work on what I want to from now on and will never go back to working for a corporation.
Hopefully, my library will have your books.
If you give me your address, either here, or e-mail it to success101coach (at) yahoo (dot) com, I can send you a complimentary autographed copy of “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free.”
Hopefully you will like it and will post a great review of it both on Amazon.com and here on your blog.
Ernie…Again this comes back to the definition of what each individual understands as “retirement.” As I mentioned above in an observation to a post, retirement for me means “freedom of choice.” After 20 years of retirement, I love having all of the choices in my life, sometimes trading seasonal work for money to improve our cash flow or just being challenged by a source outside of my daily routine. I also like volunteering for the same reason (mental challenges) and meeting new people. I note that you prefer writing as your new work after being an engineer. That’s the beauty of retiring relatively young (50’s for me), lots of choices and new experiences.
My husband is going to quit his engineering job in a year. My salary will cover our expenses plus an additional 4K, even with the new baby expenses. We’ve discovered that he’s a scanner… he likes to do new things all the time, so he’s thinking he wants to do contract work. We’re talking about this more on our Sept 3rd post.
I’ll mark the date on my calender and make sure to drop by.
I know you are loving the time you are spending at home raising the toddler, but any thought to getting an intro job for 2-3 days a week? To alleviate some of the financial pressure
I’m not planning to get a job at this time. If our cash fund dip below $25,000, then I might consider taking up a part time job. Our finance is holding steady so I don’t think I’ll need to do that anytime soon. When he goes off to preschool, I’ll definitely put more effort into self employment or perhaps a part time job.
Interesting insight, thanks for sharing! I too am an engineer and have undergone a similar transformation as I’ve progressed throughout my career. I used to enjoy being in the manufacturing plant, troubleshooting complex problems, getting that high at the end of the shift that we banged something out or whatever. A few jobs later I’m running projects that take 3-4 years to totally complete, my team is all over the world so all the interactions are over the phone and the responsibilities and expectations are increased. I’ve kinda grown into my current role but I’m mid-30s. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in my 40s and 50s but I may well find myself feeling the same way you did!
It sounds like you are doing pretty well in your leadership role. That’s great to hear and I know many people who like being a manager. I’m a much better individual contributor and I’m just not comfortable with leadership. Anyway, life goes on.
I’m an engineer by education and my 2 degrees, but never more than that. I got out before I even got in to the field for real. If I had gone for it, I could’ve seen a career ending up much like yours, Joe. Many of my friends work for consultants and work nights, weekends, or whatever it takes. I can just see the trend of how their lives will become more stressful and less fulfilling, even as they move up management. I just have no desire to do that.
Thanks for sharing!
Wow, that’s a lot of pain (2 degrees) to go through, but a few of my college friends did that too.
Yeah, it’s not that bad to work a lot of hours when you’re young. It’s no fun when you have a family though.
Looking forward to seeing you next week.
I’m an engineer, EE, but started and have stayed in software, and I’ve worked with everything from embedded devices to large scale communications and control. I don’t think I’m cut out to be a manager, though (I’ve only led small 3-5 person groups). My company does have the technical track, where you’re expected to continue your education (PhD), publish papers, and research, which is not a bad thing. However, I’ve been in the field for 19 years now, and I’m burned out. Since I don’t want to go the technical track, and I don’t want to be a manager, either, I’m at a dead end. And my company also moved 20 miles further away, adding to my commute time. So, I’ve cut my hours down to half time at work (I do have a great manager!), and am in the process of getting my real estate license. Some people think I’m crazy to switch careers at this point. But if you get to a point in your career where you realize that it’s not giving you value, you need to move on from there. You have to make the most of your life! I have met two former engineers who went into real estate and never looked back. Good luck in finding your next career when you are ready!
Amy, I know how you feel. It would be fine for me to keep doing the same job and getting minimal raises, but that’s not enough for the company. They always demand more and I got burned out.
I think it’s good to try something else. Some people love engineering, but I saw many people who are just hanging on for the paycheck too.
Life is short so we need to enjoy it. Working is such a big part of life that it’s not worth staying in a job that you don’t like.
Good luck to you too. I’m sure the real estate market will turn around at some point. 🙂
I was a data scientist for four years. I worked very hard hoping to be promoted. However, instead of being promoted, I fell in the trap of political fight in the corporate. Business people think things very different from technical people. And, you need to have the talent of persuading them using the right technologies. But, if you have the skill of convincing people, why not just be a sales person?
It’s so interesting to learn more about your background, Joe! I was only in the corporate world for 4 years before making my leap, so while I don’t consider myself retired, I’m definitely out on my own. Who knows what’s in store from here on out. 😉
I think you are doing great so far. You can always go back to work in a corporation if needed. Maybe move to the Bay Area? There are a lot more opportunities there if you want a job. 🙂
I’m not sure if you will find humor in this but here it goes: my mom is an electrical engineer, my dad an engineer (don’t remember what kind), my brother majored in Industrial Engineering of Operations and Research and co-founded Mixbook.com, my uncle is in nuclear engineer (i think), and I’m a professional in the financial industry. I majored in finance. My mom told me not to become an engineer, and so I didn’t. My immediate family are all engineers, except for me. Could I be the blacksheep? Probably not, I find my field to be a lot more rewarding. 🙂
Hahaha, that is pretty funny. I don’t know. Being an engineer is not bad, it’s just not for everyone. 🙂
It’s great that you successful in your field.
Financial world vs the engineering world. Or for that matter, accountant or management or leadership world. Which one fulfill better the human soul most?
Stories like this are why I’m saving as much as I can now. I’m not convinced that I want to stay in the corporate life forever and I’m confident that I could save enough by 35-40, like you did, that I wouldn’t need to stay in the corporate life.
I’m a software engineer and only a few years out of college. I would say that I’m an intermediate-level engineer. I’ve seen some of what you’re talking about though, with the expectations changing as engineers get more senior.
I still enjoy my job now, but I doubt I would want to continue to do it until full retirement age. I can’t imagine still working 40 years from now!
Some people are happy with the corporate life, but it’s not for everyone. It’s great that you are saving and investing now. It will give you more options no matter what happens in the future. Good luck!
I’ve been a software (writing low level I/O firmware) engineer for 16 years now, and am expecting to make that “senior” level in the next year or so. I’m a team lead, and love my job. It has it’s challenging days, but I can count on my fingers the companies in the world where I an do what I do. It gets my brain moving in ways that nothing else in my life can – maybe my perspective will change one day, but right now, I couldn’t see giving it up.
It’s great that your career is working out for you. I know quite a few senior level people that are very happy with their job.
When I was in high school, I dreamed of taking up Computer Engineering and become the only lady engineer in our batch. For some reasons, I majored in ECE. Yes, it was really tough!
After graduation, I taught in a comunity college while finishing my graduate degree. Afterwards, I moved to a software development company. However, it was getting difficult for us to get a helper who will look after our children while my husband and I are at work. Likewise, working hours are getting longer. There were weekends that i have to report to work. One day, all my three kids approached me and they all complained (Yes, the kids, not my husband! LOL) because I am not spending enough time with them anymore. That was the last straw so I decided to leave the job and become a full-time mom. Though I know we were not ready for it, we needed to make a decision. I was glad I found a way how I can work online and earn enough while at home.
I’m glad to hear you were able to work it out too. The women engineers have it pretty tough when they have kids. The demand at the company stays the same, but you need to take care of the kids too.
I’ve been following your posts for a few months. Congrats on the transition.
I am 20+ years into an engineering career and currently with a big tech company. I did the management thing for a few years but moved back to being a drone because it’s better fit with who I am and where I want to be. I am happy with my job and the Company. As far as retirement, the Mrs and I have been buying rentals for a couple of years and can nearly cover our expenses. Best case, we’d like to drop out of the rat race in 5 years and join the RB50 club.
It’s great that you are planning for the future. You like your job and company now, but who knows what can happen in 5 years. I did a little moving back and forth too. Good luck!
I’m not a senior engineer (about 6 years in), but I definitely can see what you are saying regarding individual contributers at the senior level having trouble staying in the field. The good news is, I really like leading technical things, making presentations, planning, etc., so I hope I’m still able to enjoy my career for years to come! Nearly all of my college engineer friends are still engineers, but then again, we are all only about 6 years in. I don’t think my job is super high stress, and my hours are typically very reasonable, but I do see that changing as people go up in the chain.
If you like the leadership role, then that’s great. You will have more options than people who just like the technical aspect of the job like me. When I was young, I thought the hours wasn’t that bad.
Hope you have a great career.
Hi everyone. I’m J.P., and I’m the poor sod who asked Joe about his early retirement, so blame me for this big, bucket-load of depressing misery in a post. lol
To add to the misery, I’m an IT worker that has just turned Joe’s target-age, and have been out of work for over 2 years. I’ve only recently found out the reason for not getting any jobs was that my former employer was bad-mouthing me so I couldn’t get a job elsewhere. He shouldn’t bother, as I’ve been out of work for so long now, HR departments won’t hire ANYONE unemployed longer than 6 months anymore. I’ve burned through both my savings and my 401k just surviving, and am now living with family. Hence why I’m going back to school to start-over in another field.
Electronic engineering is a tough field nowadays, especially the sub-field of computer electronics. With China, India and now Indonesia coming online with semiconductor plants and their engineers fresh out of America’s best colleges, the industry is ripe for having electronic computer engineers being brought under pressure to perform more than ever before, or get out-sourced. US Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows a DOWNWARD trend in the industry for salaries….I know because Joe’s field was my first choice when going into engineering and did some researching for it. I flipped a coin between civil- and mechanical engineering, and chose M.E., as it’s the most versatile if I ever find a need to change jobs.
Joe, it sounds like pure burnout on your end, and I’m sure the engineering community is poorer without you around. That said, maybe after your fatherhood-sabbatical, you can find your second-wind and find something else that works for you. Maybe do like Limor “Ladyada” Fried did and start a company that supplies and educates electronics hobbyists. Or maybe beekeeping (*my* hobby). Or whatever gets you up out of bed in the morning.
Thanks again for a peek into the engineering lifestyle. 🙂
That’s true about outsourcing. A lot of jobs are going oversea. When I first started, Intel did all the design and validation in the US and Israel. Now even these core areas are starting to go oversea. Maybe I got out at the right time. 🙂
I think you might have! lol Not everyone can make the transition from worker to manager. I’ve worked over 4-5 people maximum before, and had no problems with it, so I’d probably be okay making the jump. Management usually has a bit more job protection built-in, as you said before, you’re a multiplier and should be able to oversee not just people in person, but also the outsourced individuals overseas via tele-presense doing what used to be YOUR work. BTW, did you get a letter of recommendation from your former boss? It might help you out when you make the transition back into the work force later on. At the very least, it will avoid problems like have occurred with me!
I didn’t get a recommendation letter from my old boss because I’m not planning to go back to engineering. Our relationship wasn’t that great anyway. I’m in contact with the previous boss before that and can get the recommendation letter from him if needed.
I remember during my children’s college orientation the Chancellor said that you should be prepared for multiple careers. Whether you are an engineer or accountant, you shouldn’t think it will stay the same for 40 years. I have had something like 7 careers. If you do not continue to learn and change over time, you become unpromotible and stagnate
Were all those careers successful? I know you did very well at many of them. Why did you have so many career change? I think it’s good to change career too. It keeps life more interesting.
I totally identify with this post…I’m a database engineer..been doing this for 9 years and I’m 34 years old going on 35. Having no kids and being a frugal person, I’ve been socking away savings. I too would like to semi-retire by 40 (ideally 38 years old). I have no wish to go into a leadership/management role yet I’m not sure if I can remain in a developer role for much longer. But my biggest problem is what other career can I go into?
I feel rather stuck right now. I guess I shouldn’t complain as I’m paid well yet I’m constantly brainstorming for what other new careers/small businesses I can start.
That’s great to hear. Even if you don’t want to leave yet, it’s a good to have that option. Perhaps you can take a year off to figure out what you want to do.
I used to think I shouldn’t complain because I was paid well too, but I was pretty miserable. It’s not worth the money to stay in a job that you hate for the paycheck unless you really need it. Good luck!
Lots of companies (at least in my field of software engineering) say there is a career path for engineers that don’t want to go into management. Yet the very fact that they trumpet this makes me think that that path doesn’t really exist, or has so few “openings” that it might as well not. Nevertheless, at least in software, there is always somewhere else to work where you can continue on as an individual contributor, or where it is easier to get a management/lead role, depending on which direction you wish to go (and aren’t getting traction on at your current employer)
Intel does have a path for senior level individual contributors. It seems most of those people doesn’t do much technical works though. It’s all about meeting, planning, and that kind of work at that level.
It’s more difficult in hardware engineering because it’s more specialized.
I work at a big tech company as an engineer. I am going on 16 years as an individual contributor in the same job. My job is just fine and I’m happy with it. I work in a support role with regular 40 hour schedule which makes it easier since I don’t have the 60 hour workweeks and high stress to hit deadlines. BUT about 50% of my friends have disliked their jobs at the same company and quit.
I think your management and the actual nature of the job probably matter as much or more than the company.
I’ve had friends at the same company who hated their management, hated their group and/or hated their actual jobs. Most of them were very unhappy and eventually quit. One of them bounced between 4-5 companies in 4-5 years and was never happy till she finally landed at a company she settled with. Another friend had a couple crappy jobs and long stretches of unemployment and now wishes he hadn’t quit our company in the first place. One friend was originally in a really REALLY awful job in a certain division here and eventually got out of that and changed to another job internally and his job went from hell to just fine. He’s perfectly happy now at the same company in a very different role under different management. Another friend quit but for him I honestly think it was mostly that he was homesick for his home state and didn’t like living here. I have a couple other friends that have been with the company for 10-15 years and are plenty happy with their jobs. For a few years I had a couple crappy managers and I hated my job .. manager changed and job got better again. I’m very sure if I had a different job role or just a bad manager that I’d hate my job too. On the other hand I’m sure other people would hate my job and not get along as well with my management. Its all very different mixed results all under one company.
I agree about the manager and job. I changed job a few times, but it was always high stress because I was in the CPU division.
I know many people who are quite happy with their job. I think most senior people who are strictly individual contributors will eventually get squeeze out though. Quite a few older folks were forced to retire over the last few years.
No wonder you retired. I would have too. I find that many companies lose sight of what is important with employees and end up pushing them out the door. I also don’t think it is right to let your career take away everything else in your life. I know so many people whose lives have fallen apart (divorce, sickness, etc) because they sold their soul to their job. I think you are going to be much happier now Joe.
I am already much happier now. Thanks! 🙂
It’s tough for the companies too. They need to have the senior people be more productive. It’s not enough to just be good at the technical side. The budget can’t keep up with the complexity so the senior people had to contribute more.
Intel’s culture is the WORST. They trap you, too, with the sabbatical offer every seven years, which is fairly brilliant for them, since they know that the average person is done with Intel after about five, so you get a bunch of disgruntled folks. I worked for Intel while in college, and realized that company wasn’t for me.
Intel is a huge company. Massive. Yes, there are bad teams, there are bad managers, and there are no doubt jobs where people feel trapped. As is true at every employer, large and small.
On balance, Intel is a darn good employer. Salary and benefits are well above average for the industry, and are very generous by the standards of nearly any other industry. There are opportunities for advancement, both within a role or by moving to another role. Trapped by sabbatical? Not so. I’ve not known anyone who feels trapped by sabbatical.
The majority of the people I worked with when I joined are still here, 15 years later. It sure doesn’t sound like they’re burning out or wanting to leave!
I can definitely respect RB40’s decision to move on. In fact, I quit Intel a couple years ago to join another company (I’ve since returned). But IMO anyone who makes a blanket statement like the above about Intel’s culture should do a bit of self-examination.
I can’t complain too much about Intel. I owe a lot of what I have to them. That’s why I said I’m not a good fit for the job anymore. I think it was me that changed a lot over the years.
“the average person is done with Intel after about five”
Voluntary turnover rate at Intel is currently 2%. That puts them at #2 among the top 100 companies to work for (at least among those that report #’s)
So in fact their turnover is among the very lowest out there among all major companies.
That could be partly due to the fact that if they stick it out seven years, they get a two month paid vacation. And they get that every seven years. It is a bad financial decision to leave.
I liked the sabbaticals. 🙂
It’s a great benefit and most people feels better after taking them.
Having worked for eight tech companies from very small to very large, concur that Intel was one of the worst, bottom of the barrel. Cutthroat culture, with dinosaur hardass management. I moved from one of the worst groups in Intel to a much better one, which was still awful in general lack of support and unreal expectations. So glad to be out of there.
When you are in school, you have all these grand ideas that you are going to make a difference. After so many years, you are a bit more realistic, especially just being the “cog in the wheel.” I think it’s healthy to change every so many years so you don’t end up a burn out just hanging in for the check. We all know those people and they are not fun. Most people don’t have the planning or forethought as you had, so that’s why I enjoy following your journey.
Thanks for the encouragement. It’s hard to make plan when things are going well. You think things will always be like that. Luckily we were pretty frugal and were able to save up some money over the years.
My brother is a mechanic engineer at SpaceX and definitely puts in a ton of hours. I think I would hate a job like that. He loves the work but hates the stress. I definitely wouldn’t make it as an engineer. Kudos to you for making it as long as you did!
Wow, SpaceX sounds like a great place to work. I can see why he would love it. The stress is unfortunate but the company has to make money for the executives and shareholders.
System Architect here (Computer System Engineer) and I totally here him on that, Lance. Most days I really enjoy what I do, but the long hours and stress level is very high in my world as well.
Like Keri mentioned above, I see the confusion on the use of the word “retired” as when I came across the blog I was thinking of that as meaning financial independence as well. Probably within the next decade I will “retire” from my line of work and take on a new career, though I’d like to eventually get to the point where I can really retire and fully replace my income with my investments…preferably before “normal” retirement age. 🙂 As you’ve mentiond in your other posts, staying out of debt will really help!
I’m glad you got out of a field that was no longer a fit for you, thanks for sharing!
Interesting that you lost interest in laptops. Seems that a lot of much-needed changes are finally happening (high-res screens, much thinner profiles). Although, like you said, most people do not notice nor care for these items (I’m hoping consumer preferences change).
I like the thinner profile, but I will wait for the price to come down. I’m much more ambivalent about performance increases. A cheap laptop works pretty well these days.
Man, that is the dream job for ECE’s!
Everything gets boring after a while. You were there for for 16 years yeah?
Yeap. It was great fun in the beginning, but I wasn’t able to evolve to fit the job expectation. I got tired of engineering.
Joe, I’m sure you have friends and acquaintances in the same field but who have worked for companies other than Intel. In your opinion, are the issues you mention specific to Intel, or are they likely to be present with any company over a certain size? And do you think the technology industry inherently has more pressure for employees than non-technology?
It’s different for everyone. There are issues with every company, but most people deal with it. I was ready to move on from engineering so I didn’t put a lot of effort into making it work. I think the pressure is high for engineers. Ever since the downturn, the teams shrunk and the work load grew.
I also work in IT as a business systems analyst, and I have faced the exact same situation as Rby40 has. It is the IT business that is completely cut-throat. Employees are viewed much more as resources than people, so they are treated that way: long hours, extremely stressful projects and timelines, changing technology to keep up with, younger and younger competitors with more energy, CORPORATE POLITICS, etc. I have worked in several large organizations as well as a mid/small sized non-profit. I have to say, I experienced it in every company as well as the insensitive lay-offs with no warning or consideration for the lives of those laid off. I’ve never been laid off myself, but many of my friends/co-workers were at horrible times, without warning, and very little compensation.
I’ve been looking to get out of IT for years now. I just turned 40, but I’m not in a place to get out yet. If I end up in one of the many, frequent layoffs that happen in the IT world, I’m never going back. I will have to reduce my lifestyle drastically, but I won’t work in IT ever again.
Good luck! Life is too short to be stressed out all the time. Money is nice, but it’s much better to enjoy life with as little stress as possible. Save as much as you can and try to get some passive income rolling while you still make good money.
Yeah!No reason to be stressed. Life is short.
I think management jobs are better than the slaves doing engineering.
Mgte people just talk, read some emails and have fun. Engineers are the ants, always working and doing the stuff, at least 10 hours daily.
Hi all! I found this article through a google of “good paying jobs for former engineers.”
I studied EE. I had one engineering job and got sacked in 2001 due to the downturn, and as the Chinese products drove our company from existence. I am a self-taught computer person and for years I have been administering enterprise class software, as well as programming ETL, for a Fortune 200. Typical EE not doing EE work, right? 🙂
Dittos on what makeupgirl says. I have an IT role in an Operations group. Unlike IT groups, there is little long-term planning. Everything is NOW, driven by whatever the VPSs said that they want this morning. Every job interrupts every other job. I have some planning of mainframe to open systems migration of my application, but I hesitate to call it planning because I am getting some new job request every couple of hours that I have to code NOW. I am 43. The stress has become nearly unbearable. Wish I would have saved better like RB40 but I am catching up. Several promotions and with rare exception that money goes right to the mortgage, which is within a year from payoff. I am still behind because the 40% drop in home value is many years of stressful paychecks evaporated 🙁 However knowing that I am rightside-up and most Americans are not gives me some encouragement.
Regarding RB40’s situation of getting thrust up the management ranks, this is a typical corporate thing, not just Intel. Companies all try to shoehorn the employees. They have this idea of cross training and the company thinks that if people move throughout the ranks, that makes for a successful company. And all roles lead to what? In any “metric-driven’ company like ours they lead to the Controller. Everything is run by some financial officer. I understand that the end result must be a good financial gain, but LEADING by penny planning has proven over and over to be bad in every way. The stress of overworked employees, not having tools that would make us much more efficient, on and on.
This is why I adhere to a strict 2 year rule in the industry. There is no rule that says you cannot play cut throat right back. Typically I will stick around through my second year without a pay increase, then update the resume, take a 15-20% increase with the new employer and then give my goodbyes. It’s nothing personal against any of the companies. Business in general has found that they can take advantage of IT workers and I won’t be a part of that. Upper management should be the most understanding of this short term “it’s just business” mindset. They taught it to us!
I couldn’t disagree with you more about your management line… I have a team of 10 and am the first to arrive and last to leave. All of their problems are my problems…not to mention helping them through mentoring and listening to each of their specific issues.
Makeupgirl, I feel like I could have written your exact post. I too have been in IT for too long and in various roles (pc tech, telecom tech, telecom manager, IT project manager) and it’s ran it’s course. I no longer care for it, actually I hate it and every time I hear any IT slang it makes me cringe. I’ve worked in start ups, small business, medium business, large corporation, healthcare and government in these roles and at this point I feel no joy whatsoever in it, it’s a paycheck. I’m working on transitioning out of IT and into something less stressful and more meaningful to me. I can especially relate to your last statement “but i won’t work in IT ever again”, boy can I absolutely agree with that!
Got to agree with brian. As an engineer I see my managers putting in more hours and having the more stressful careers. I’ve only had one manager that had high expectations for me and I found out pretty early on that he was never going to be satisfied. Maybe I have just been lucky with the managers I’ve had but they usually try to push back on the workload that I get and take the flak for it. I’ve always been available to do more but asking for extra work usually falls on deaf ears. There have been some stressful times in my career but really they were self generated due to fear of job loss or pointless ambition. After 15 years in engineering I’ve learned to drop the stress completely out of my job. Helps to have plenty of FU money and be close to FI.
Most companies expect senior personnel to engage in quasi-managerial activities to some extent, but Intel codifies this explicitly in upper grade level expectations at a high level (although this usually isn’t obvious to outsiders based upon published job descriptions). Problem is what the tech industry now considers “senior” can be just 10 years of experience, which at Intel meant youngish engineers spending much of their time on these quasi-managerial tasks, instead of the engineering for which they were hired. This was not what I experienced elsewhere, where older engineers could remain essentially individual contributors. Joining Intel as senior engineer, these requirements hit immediately, where I desperately tried to meet unreal expectations as newbie employee, in tasks I felt neither able nor willing to engage. Engineers left because they wanted to be engineers, not managers.
Okay, this isn’t totally related, but I’ve been wanting to ask this question ever since I first came across your blog a few months ago. I’m very curious why you couch your quitting in the phrase of “retirement” rather than staying home to take care of your kid (which I know you’d said was a big reason for quitting). Since you still have a working spouse, and it doesn’t seem like you guys could get by without her income, despite working on other income streams, I don’t see how this can be in any way called retirement.
I know I’m mostly harping on semantics, and people can call themselves anything they want. I just find it interesting that whenever I meet a woman who leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, even if they have done all the prior prep like you did (saving her income, making sure they could make it on one, building passive income to help out, etc.), no one looks at it as retirement – rather, it’s all about her becoming a stay-at-home mom.
I hope you don’t take this as an attack, because it’s really not. I just find this a very strange sociological question. My own family is living on one income. My husband is in the military, and due to us moving so much plus our two kids who need more stability than I could give them if I were working, too, I suppose I “retired” when the first one was born. Even though we save a lot and are in a good financial position (hence, why I started reading your blog for tips!), no one would ever call us “retired” until my husband does so. Then, our family will be “retired” – unless I decide to reenter the workforce at that point, although hopefully it will be because I miss it, not because we didn’t plan well enough!
The question is: Can YOU support your family as a retiree? Were you the one supporting the family mainly for 15 years?
The answers for Joe I believe is yes. If it is yes for you two, then you are also a retiree.
Sure, I think of it like retiring from a career.
When a basketball player get injured and quit. He retired, right? Firefighter, military, and other careers also offer the retirement option.
What do people do after they retire from these careers? They move on to do something else.
That’s the way I think about it. The main reason why I call it retirement is because I don’t plan to go back to my engineering career. I’m not going to reenter the work force unless I have no other choice.
People retire at different time. I don’t see why the family needs to be retired at the same time.
If I’m 65 and in this same situation, you probably wouldn’t think twice about the whole retirement thing.
I contribute to about 50% of our expense and I’m pretty happy with that. If Mrs. RB40 quit her job today, we would move to a cheaper location, we could move to a cheaper location and reduce our expense drastically.
Thanks for writing!
I think I’m going to have to respectfully disagree here. While it may be true that you COULD move somewhere else and live cheaper and be financially independent (which is really the core issue, not retirement), you aren’t choosing to do this because it doesn’t make sense for your life choices. We could easily do the same, but don’t want to do so. It still doesn’t make me retired.
I do agree that using myself as an example is fuzzy because while I was handily supporting myself for over ten years when I quit the workforce, the whole idea of being financially independent early hadn’t occurred to me. So, no, when I stopped working, I wasn’t supporting us. However, I have met women who WERE in this position, left to raise kids while their husband took over, and people the word “retirement” never applied to them.
Obviously, you are free to call yourself whatever, but I still would not call your departure from the workforce a true “retirement” as long as you have a working spouse you rely on.
I’m sure many people agree with you. There isn’t a good word for leaving a career.
I choose the title Retire by 40 when I started because it was more catchy than Quitting Work by 40. 🙂
“to withdraw from office, business, or active life, usually because of age: to retire at the age of sixty.”
“removal or withdrawal from service, office, or business.”
Keri’s perception of retirement
“Obviously, you are free to call yourself whatever, but I still would not call your departure from the workforce a true “retirement” as long as you have a working spouse you rely on.”
A year late… but… yeah
different strokes for different folks. lol
I just read this article and I agree with Joe here. The word “Retirement” means different things to different people. To me, it means “freedom of choice.” I have been retired for over 20 years, yet I choose to work about every five years or so on a seasonal basis in the USA or at a university overseas. It has both to do about purpose as well as bringing in some extra cash flow. I still consider myself retired. I have the freedom to make choices for my life without being worried about pleasing my boss, or working under stress or duress, or doing a lifestyle no longer fitting for me and my wife. Eventually, one realizes that work and, especially volunteering, can be fun and an interesting part of a retirement program.
I believe that you will see a mass movement among the Boomers in the next few years who choose to return to work for a short time and/or volunteer. Thirty years of being retired is a long time and I find that reentering the work force occasionally challenges me so that I keep my mental facilities sharp and fit. As I near the age of 80, I notice a subtle difference within weeks of my memory and mental state after being on the new job after a few weeks.
Would you please tell me how do you get seasonal work or even volunteering at age 80, let alone 40 or 50? In computer software, which is my area of expertise (if you want to call 12 years of experience plus 2 part-time that I left over ten years ago currently useful expertise), this is outstanding. Were you a star in your field and your reputation carried over, or is there some other explanation?
David work at the Amazon fulfillment center around Christmas as I understand. It’s not glamorous and it wasn’t what he did as a full time job. You have to be flexible.
I will like to get a BS in Software Engineering. I will be starting school at 21. And I fear that in my thirties companies will want to fire me for younger employees. Do you know any other careers I can pursuit if this was to happen that I could achieve with a BS in Software Engineering, with decent pay of at least $60-70 and not discrimated for age?
I think most engineers can find a different job within the same field after a layoff. It depends on the economy, of course. I’m sure you will have a better idea about the field after you work for 10 years or so. A lot of people stayed and kept working. Many people left to find a different career too. You never know how it’s going to turn out. Good luck!
You are way too young to worry about your age and layoffs. I went back to Electrical Engineering school at the age of 30, graduated at 35. If the field needs you, you have some experience (internships, etc.), you do a good interview, you will be fine. Just be good at your job and go with the flow.
That sounds like a pretty tumultuous situation, however, it sounds more like a problem with a company and less of a problem with the career. I’m sure you made the right choice for you, though.
Intel is one of the better company in the industry from what I understand. It was time for me to move on anyway.
That’s horrible! I’m sorry you went through so much with your job. One thing that struck me was that your job promoted you to your level of discomfort. You said you didn’t feel equipped and was stressed out. It is sad when companies lose valuable people because they don’t recognize what makes that person so special at their jobs to begin with. Not everything is transferable.
I think it’s tough to stay an individual contributor these days. It’s easy to find a young engineer to replace a senior person. The CPU is getting more and more complicated and the budget couldn’t keep up. That’s why they always try to get rid of highly paid senior people who are individual contributors.
I was a software engineer, now a manager. Surprisingly I still love my job, I have some friction with my boss but I am sure he’s won’t be staying back for long as we follow a strict rotation policy. So, you can say I am not looking for going alone at this moment.
That’s great. I know some people who still like their job after 25 years. It’s great to look forward to going to work.
Elon Musk says engineering is everything. I think he’s right. Engineers will save this planet.
Elon Musk smokes weed. He was probably high when he said that. (joking).
Engineers saves this planet yes, but not as an individual but as community. That means anyone can replace you (like he wrote), sooner or later the inventions will come, if not from you, then from another. You might as well choose a career that gives you a life that you enjoy. I agree with him, if you study engineering, you will not enjoy video games as before. I too studied engineering (construction) and I remember that being the most boring time of my life – what’s the point of enjoying TV and graphics if you are constantly bombarded with that in the work? AND I WAS OBSESSED WITH ARCHITECTURE SINCE CHILDHOOD. I now study pharmacy and it gives me a social life, and I love video games more than before as well as TV-shows and movies. Loving nature a lot more.
In between I studied commercial law, and it wasn’t bad either, I liked it – but missed the science. Law gives you a lot of freedom and a VERY good social life. It gives you a meaning to interact with people and a meaning to everything. Everything you watch on TV or anywhere you travel has law in it – and it makes it a lot exciting. I would suggest to everyone to try law 1 year, to see if it’s anything for you – you will be surprises how much it will teach you about everything. There is one path I wouldn’t recommend to choose in order to have a good life and that is being a doctor.
Btw. Elon Musk is a physicist, not an engineer making the dirty job..