Sick of my engineering profession

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new2bogle
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Sick of my engineering profession

Post by new2bogle »

I have a PhD in electrical engineering and have been working in the semiconductor industry for about 8 years now (yeah, not very long). I am becoming bored at work. It's not that I don't have work to do, I just don't like it anymore. I am 34.

What kind of options do I have? I am not a manager. I want to get out of engineering. One problem is that I make a pretty decent salary here (about 120k) and I don't know where else I can make a salary like that with my background.

Are there any ex-engineers out there? What did you do? MBA? Law? Any other advice? I would prefer to not dislike my job.
livesoft
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Post by livesoft »

Why not become a stay-at-home parent?

Tell us what you like to do? Have you read "What Color Is Your Parachute?"
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Random Musings
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Post by Random Musings »

I was an engineeer. Now, I have an MBA and am primarily involved in corporate finance/accounting. Although I still get to use certain engineering skills. That's why I was hired, not just for the MBA but for my prior experience. MBA's that have other experience that go into the consulting fields are also usually hired because of their other experience since it can be leveraged.

Saying that, could you be happier at a completely different profession making less money? If not, that will eliminate a bunch of options (most of the time), as there are always a few special cases for everything.

RM
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Post by tc101 »

I was a computer programmer/software engineer. I got sick of it several times over the course of my career. Twice I got out of it for a year, did something else, then came back to it fresh and enjoyed it much more.
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Post by xystici »

I have a Master in Electrical Engineering and moved to Sales and then Marketing after my MBA at UCLA Anderson. Before the MBA, I spent 5 years in a Diagnostic / Medical Device company in R&D as an engineer. It was always in my plan the transition to Management in the Diagnostics industry after an MBA.
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Post by ryuns »

I know an academic research engineer from my last job at a university who pursued jobs in the more "practical" applications of their engineering experience. He was a PhD who took a gig doing building management, troubleshooting problems with building automation, utility management, etc. He seemed to enjoy it.

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Post by VictoriaF »

With a doctorate you can try academic positions, in the U.S. or abroad. If you want to change your field completely, consider that the Wall Street used to hire well educated engineers to build investment models. Perhaps, others here know how that works.

Victoria
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bnttwnbnt
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Post by bnttwnbnt »

Have you thought about investing in real estate?

I knew an Engineer that wanted something different. He became involved in Primerica of all things...

I don't think he's doing Primerica anymore but has become a heavy-duty real estate investor. He is still an Engineer.

I myself am not an Engineer but I work with them. They are very smart, technical people! I'd like to be an Engineer for a day to see what their world looks like :P
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Post by new2bogle »

Thanks for all of the replies/suggestions.

livesoft - my wife is going to be the stay at home mom.

real estate sounds interesting, but is that a viable job in right now?

It seems like a lot of the suggestions involve getting an MBA. I have done some preliminary research into this and the exectuive MBA is about $70-$80k (total). The time commitment is targetted for working professionals, so that is not a problem.

The other thing I looked into was an online MBA at a second tier school. This is about $40k and I could spread the time commitment and tuition over 4 years or so (which is very acceptable to me). However, it would not be from anywhere near a top tier school.

For the people who have done MBAs, what kind of value would this bring to my career? The online MBA will NOT say online and in fact will be their regular MBA degree. I will have 10+ years of experience plus a PhD from a top 5 school.

VictoriaF - you bring up some interesting points, thanks, I will look into that.
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Post by jh »

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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by new2bogle »

jh wrote:
new2bogle wrote:I have a PhD in electrical engineering and have been working in the semiconductor industry for about 8 years now (yeah, not very long). I am becoming bored at work. It's not that I don't have work to do, I just don't like it anymore. I am 34.

What kind of options do I have? I am not a manager. I want to get out of engineering. One problem is that I make a pretty decent salary here (about 120k) and I don't know where else I can make a salary like that with my background.

Are there any ex-engineers out there? What did you do? MBA? Law? Any other advice? I would prefer to not dislike my job.
I am in a similar situation. I am just toughing it out as I have golden handcuffs (gov pension) keeping me here. I continue to build up my taxable investments which give me some hope that I may be able to retire early, in which case I wouldn't need the pension after all...

The unemployment rate in my profession was supposedly around 2% in 2009, but I am still unmotivated to even look with U3 and U6 being so high. Better to stay where the chance of a layoff is essentially zero. I am a wuss. :?
Yeah, it's a tough place to be in. I know that in 10 years my salary is going to be nearly 30-50% greater - why would I want to give that up? Especially when my job is actually pretty secure. But I am going to be really bored and likely hate my job even more (which is the primary motivation).
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Post by livesoft »

For a good comment about MBA, please read Febreze's post in the college loan thread: http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=51790
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Post by chaz »

new2bogle, go to law school at night.
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sommerfeld
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by sommerfeld »

new2bogle wrote:Are there any ex-engineers out there? What did you do? MBA? Law? Any other advice? I would prefer to not dislike my job.
I'm still doing software engineering and enjoying that part of the job, but I know a bunch of people who made the switch.

At least three are teaching science in high schools (and are pushing their students much harder than they're used to being pushed..)

One is going to law school and is intending to go into patent law.

Another is studying to become a veterinarian (and is volunteering at animal hospitals).

One had a long-time aviation hobby as a cash sink and turned it around (somewhat) and became a flight instructor.
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Post by greenspam »

i would like to suggest biomedical engineering as a possibly more interesting profession...

as you already have a phd in EE, it might only take a year or two post-doc in a biomed engng research lab doing instrumentation research, for example,

then,

go out and figure why there are still problems with ekg and other alarm systems in critical care units....

or how to interface a computer with the human brain...

or how electrical disturbances in the heart can be better detected/controlled...

or how electrical stimulation might enhance healing of musculoskeletal tissues.....

or if there really is a connection between cell phone useage and brain cancer....

just a few quick examples of how EE and biomed engng interact. i chose biomed engng as a much more interesting and important engng discipline compared to ee or mechanical etc...
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by 3CT_Paddler »

I am curious what specifically you hate about your job? Are there any specific aspects of your job that you enjoy? I am also an engineer (civil - lightweight compared to you), and I find that there are parts of my job that I enjoy and parts that I hate. So as I advance and learn, my goal is to pursue opportunities in my field that I will enjoy and can achieve success in. What does a regular day at work look like for you? I know in my job I would like to have more client interaction... there is only so much time I can spend in front of a computer without getting completely bored. I think there are a couple books out there that could help you out on career decisions. Good luck!
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by Triple digit golfer »

One problem is that I make a pretty decent salary here (about 120k)
I wish I had that problem.
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Post by Gekko »

professor? high tech sales? Google? Intel? Apple?

"I believe in ten year cycles – at least for me. I think, you can get excited about a business concept or business in general for 10 years, beyond that, particularly in a fast moving field, it is hard to sustain a psychological excitement because you want to move on to new things."

http://www.sramanamitra.com/2007/11/01/ ... m-part-14/
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by Gekko »

Triple digit golfer wrote:
One problem is that I make a pretty decent salary here (about 120k)
I wish I had that problem.
easy to fix. just go get your PhD in EE.
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by UrbanMedic »

new2bogle wrote:I have a PhD in electrical engineering and have been working in the semiconductor industry for about 8 years now (yeah, not very long). I am becoming bored at work. It's not that I don't have work to do, I just don't like it anymore. I am 34.

What kind of options do I have? I am not a manager. I want to get out of engineering. One problem is that I make a pretty decent salary here (about 120k) and I don't know where else I can make a salary like that with my background.

Are there any ex-engineers out there? What did you do? MBA? Law? Any other advice? I would prefer to not dislike my job.
You won't make that kind of money doing what I do, but my job as a paramedic is fantastic. My base salary is around $45k/year with decent benefits (great health insurance). If you are like most engineers I know, the hours are long, approaching 50-70 hours per week depending on the season and the nature of engineering with civil engineers working tons during the summer construction months. If worked that much at my job, you would make probably $60k to $70k a year with a 60 hour a week schedule year round.

This is a second career for me. I used to be a middle manager at a large organization and grew tired of all the red tape. We have amazing freedom to do our jobs. Nobody EVER is looking over my shoulder to tell me what or how to do. On medical calls, I call the shots. We have our protocols to follow, yes, but as long as you follow the protocols, and have good rationale for why you didn't, and you work in the patient's best interest, you can do what needs to be done.

We have a lot of fun, a lot of freedom, and get to make a huge difference in people's lives once in a great while. Now, that said, there is a lot about the job that leaves some to be desired -- lack of respect from other health care providers, and the impression from the public that we are Ambulance Drivers and not health care providers. It can be dangerous, too, and we get put in situations that are patently unsafe or deal with people that hate your guts and aren't shy about telling you. But this is a rarity if you use your head and street smarts.

I never have to sit in an office on a sunny day. I get to see parts of the city that most people would never set foot in. In a single day, we might be in the nicest condos in the city with monthly rents more than I make in a year to the worst abandoned houses that aren't worth a ream of paper. Everything you see on the news, we get to see first. Behind the scenes at that headliner rock concert you couldn't get tickets too, side line passes to the NFL game to work the field, etc.

Considering how I used to have an office job, I'll tell you the absolute best part of my job - every day is a new day. Never any paperwork to return to. Never any projects to start back on. Never emails, meetings, or power points to do, no more meetings about meetings or conference calls to discuss a conference call. When I go home, work is done. No calls at home. When I'm at work, I get paid. When I'm not at work, I don't think about work or worry about it. I have a life and get to live the way I want on my time.

The other job I would recommend, if you want a total change of pace and like autonomy and independence is working as a respiratory therapist. The RRTs at the hospitals have a very important job that is not duplicated by any other health care provider. Pay is variable, but those jobs typically bring in between 40 and 65k a year. But as you noted in your post, life is more than money. You need money to live, but being a slave to your wage is just that.
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Post by diasurfer »

greenspam wrote:i would like to suggest biomedical engineering as a possibly more interesting profession...

as you already have a phd in EE, it might only take a year or two post-doc in a biomed engng research lab doing instrumentation research, for example,
Good idea, but the postdoc may not be necessary. I was able to move into biomedical engineering with a phd in physical oceanography (although I did algorithm development for defense applications in between). A EE would have less of a leap to make than me. Just have to convince someone to hire you.

What kind of EE work are you doing now?
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by Triple digit golfer »

Gekko wrote:
Triple digit golfer wrote:
One problem is that I make a pretty decent salary here (about 120k)
I wish I had that problem.
easy to fix. just go get your PhD in EE.
Oh, I actually meant I wish I had that problem without having to go spend thousands of dollars and study engineering! As in, I wish tomorrow when I got to work, they told me I am getting a raise to $120k just for being handsome.
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by craigr »

new2bogle wrote:I would prefer to not dislike my job.
Do you hate engineering, or just your job? Have you thought about going the start-up route? Most start-up employees hang around for only a few years and then move on to something new. There is also the chance to make good money in stock options if you are an early hire. Or do you have any of your own ideas you'd like to see as a company? Something you can work on in your spare time and form a company around? Founding a company is stressful, but can be very rewarding and can allow you to transition from engineering to management with real-world experience that becoming an MBA will never give you.

If you have a PhD in EE you have a lot of skills that start-ups need and would pay good money and good stock options to have. In many ways, working at start-ups is less risky because you are constantly pushing your skill set and don't get pigeonholed. Your skills will become wider and more adaptable. It may also make engineering seem fun again because the energy level at a start-up is much different than an established company.
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Post by kramer »

No matter what course of action you decide to take, this should be a financial wake up call to save more and spend less. This will give you more freedom. Also, the dollars you earn and save while you are young are worth more than those you will earn when you are older.

I was in your situation and I retired early after toughing it out a few more years. But retiring early is not for everyone.

I think you have lots of options. Best wishes.

Kramer
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Post by DaleMaley »

I'm finishing my 31st year in engineering for the same company. I worked for Ford Tractor Co. for 18 months after I got my BS in Engineering, then switched to my current firm.

I picked up an MBA at night school when I was in my 30's. I supervise engineers and non-degreed personnel doing technical jobs.

I have always found I can slightly twist a job around to fit my strengths and weaknesses.

I have fun inventing new products or processes. I have done everything from facilities engineering, to product design, to manufacturing engineering, to operations superintendent.

I still enjoy my job, as long as I get to work on some new product or process. I don't enjoy optimizing the efficiency of an old process.......no kicks for me.

Surely there is some part of engineering that you enjoy, and why can't you change your job or get a different assignment that let's you do what you like?
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Post by Rodc »

Before a major make over you might try moving to a different ee job. EE is an amazingly broad field.

I'm a mathematician pretending to be an engineer, but I work at a large place. I generally head up small to medium sized research teams that are a mix of BS, MS, and PhD engineers, computer programmers and mathematicians, etc.

Every few years I get bored and just move to some other research area. Some of the jumps are small, some larger, but new challenges are good.

Maybe you just need to move across the company, or to a new company, rather than finding an entirely new profession.
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Post by robolove »

120K and bored. That`s awesome.
VictoriaF wrote: If you want to change your field completely, consider that the Wall Street used to hire well educated engineers to build investment models. Perhaps, others here know how that works.
I second this suggestion. Your interview, people, and soft skills need to be up there with your technical skills.

You will not be bored, but, I guarantee that you will see your colleagues more than your friends and family. Your colleagues will become your family.

I loved my previous 60-70+ hrs/week&end job because it was never boring, but, now, recently married, I wouldn`t trade my new and boring 9-5:30 position for any amount of money or an ounce of the excitement that I had before.

work to live > live to work. imo.
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Post by LadyGeek »

You're solving the wrong problem. A college degree is a means to an end. Not the other way around.

What do you do for a hobby? That, more than anything, will tell you what you like to do.

You don't need to join the IEEE to help your career. If you want to see where the market is going, just surf EE Times and be lucky that you have a stable job.

Do you really want to get out of engineering? Here's a suggestion: Volunteer your time. Pick what you want to do- and then find a charity that could use your expertise.

- Want to teach? Go to your local school and offer to teach kids how to be an engineer (after-hours class...).

- Want to go into business? Offer your services as a volunteer to companies that need help. For example: The Service Core of Retired Executives might give you some advice about volunteering.

Thinking about business? Try being a cost account manager. Have a career discussion with your boss to see if there are any openings in this area. It's a win-win situation. They get a good employee and you get to see the finance side of things with no risk to your job.

Like others who posted here, I'm chained to golden handcuffs. What do I do? Whatever is needed to keep me interested (and my boss happy).
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Post by NightOwl »

Hi new2bogle,

I don't know anything about engineering, but I do know something about being mid-30s (36 in my case) and starting to feel a bit bored with a job I've been doing for 8 years. Many of my peers feel the same way -- perhaps a version of the seven-year itch? In my case, I realized that the first several years in my job were spent climbing a pretty steep learning curve, getting to know the politics of the place, mastering a long series of necessary skills, making and learning from mistakes, constantly seeking out ways to get better. Recently that curve has flattened significantly (though not entirely), and I think that led me to feel that my job had become less interesting.

But another way of looking at it is that now that I've done all the hard work of mastering my job, I can just re-direct my desire to learn new things outside of my job. Now I view my job as something I can do with much less expenditure of mental and emotional energy, thus freeing me up to do things I've neglected over the past several years of intensive career-building.

So maybe having done all the hard work of getting to the place where your job is easy for you, you can enjoy that feeling for a while? If you start over, you have to traverse that learning curve all over again. And at the end of that journey, boredom might be sitting there waiting for you -- only now you're 10 years older and you've sacrificed some money.
my wife is going to be the stay at home mom.
If you're anything like my friends who have recently had babies, the instant your child is born, you will want to do nothing other than spend time with your wife and child. And that's a wonderful thing. A friend of mine who is a highly accomplished attorney -- and a very ambitious guy -- recently said to me "It's really crazy, but ever since my son was born, I just don't give a shit about work. I just want to be home with my kid." If that's the case for you, you'll be thrilled to have a high-paying job that doesn't take much thought.

If you truly dislike your job (I do not dislike mine), then I suppose you have to move on. But maybe you can reframe the issue. Just another perspective. Best of luck whatever you decide to do.

NightOwl
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Post by retcaveman »

Sorry you are struggling with your job/career. While many would say you are crazy to be unhappy with that kind of a salary when so many can't get any kind of a job. But when you are living it, it's different.

You might want to try to find enjoyment outside of your job. Or try to enrich your current situation with a special project, mentor a new employee, write an article, teach a class, rotate to another department, overseas job/transfer, sabbatical? There are a number of low cost career counseling options at community colleges and perhaps at your alma mater. Do you have a mentor who could offer some perspective?

It's really a fairly recent phenomeon that work is expected to be enjoyable. I am not knocking the idea, just saying it's a relatively new concept. Work used to be how you made a living, not how you derived enjoyment. If a job provided enough to support your family and lifestyle, you accepted it and looked for enjoyment elsewhere. I had a boss who used to say, "that's why it's called work...if it was fun, it would be called play." While I don't necessarily buy that, there is a point.

A little book by Frederick Herzburg titled, "Work and the Nature of Man" talks about this. A couple of other books that might give you some ideas are "The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get Out of Them" by Richard Bolles and "Your Career, How to Plan It, Manage it and Change It" by Richard Buskirk. While I have read "Parachute", I did not find it that helpful.

Whatever you do, I would give it some time and not rush into anything. Good luck.
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by paddyshack »

If you are bored, sounds like you aren't being challenged by your work. I can't imagine that you got a PhD in a field that you find uninteresting. I'd switch jobs and/or fields where you can still apply your expertise. Green tech has become hot in a lot of places, and EE is a big part of what is needed there.

I have an MS in ME/Mat. Sci, and I work in software (consumer apps). I do very little engineering, mostly people and product mgt. Don't love it, don't hate it either. It's a job, after all. But what I have found is that if you have a decent business sense, combining that with a well-trained technical mind isn't very common - and will open a lot of doors. But you'll probably have to take some risks to prove this (e.g. like working at a startup where you'll be forced to wear a lot of hats and frequently make some business critical decisions). You likely need to do some networking to find an opportunity that fits. In any case, solving a boredom problem is really quite easy - but it can bring on other problems that are more difficult to solve :)
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Post by Valuethinker »

new2bogle wrote:Thanks for all of the replies/suggestions.

livesoft - my wife is going to be the stay at home mom.

real estate sounds interesting, but is that a viable job in right now?

It seems like a lot of the suggestions involve getting an MBA. I have done some preliminary research into this and the exectuive MBA is about $70-$80k (total). The time commitment is targetted for working professionals, so that is not a problem.

The other thing I looked into was an online MBA at a second tier school. This is about $40k and I could spread the time commitment and tuition over 4 years or so (which is very acceptable to me). However, it would not be from anywhere near a top tier school.

For the people who have done MBAs, what kind of value would this bring to my career? The online MBA will NOT say online and in fact will be their regular MBA degree. I will have 10+ years of experience plus a PhD from a top 5 school.

VictoriaF - you bring up some interesting points, thanks, I will look into that.
1. You could go into management, potentialy. An executive MBA would be helpful in this regard. But you would be in management in a semiconductor related company-- that's where your experience would count.

I would counsel against a second tier online MBA *unless* you plan to stay with current employer and work way onto management track. Then any MBA is useful.

Generally exec MBAs are much less prestigious than their comparable full time MBAs at the same school, and easier to get into. BUT in the outside world, that distinction blurs on your CV over time. The result is that getting into UC Berkeley, Chicago, Wharton Full Time is really really tough, and getting into exec MBA much easier. Also consider something like the Columbia-LBS global EMBA if you can spare the travel time.

But you need to know what you want to achieve with the MBA. Exec role in a start-up? Marketing? Finance?

Read Philip Delves Broughton's book about Harvard. He was someone who struggled with the whole question of career change. Unless you go from a full time MBA at 25-26 into the meat grinders of the blue chip consultancies and investment banks, then there is more focus on what you know, industry background, and domain expertise. It can make career change hard.

There are also the 'Sloan' programmes at Stanford/MIT/LBS-- these are 1 year full time programmes for people too old for a classic MBA (confusingly MIT's business school is also called Sloan-- same founder, but Sloan programme is different). Charles Handy has written about it (he attended the Sloan at MIT along with the likes of Kofi Anan, and then founded the Sloan at LBS).

I've seen people with Phd backgrounds become, for example, equity analysts in that industry (with a CFA and/or MBA background), working for investment banks and research firms.

CFA would be a good bridge to a career analyzing tech companies on Wall Street.

Also become management consultants (McKinsey etc.) focusing on an industry vertical. Few make a long term career of management consulting: the hours and the travel and the rigid pyramid 'up or out' mean you will probably work for BCG/ Bain/ McKinsey/ Booz etc. for 3-5 years (assuming a top MBA) and then exit back into a management role in a client industry.

2. Law is an option, in particular intellectual property law. The ranking of the law school you attend matters a lot-- you need to nail the LSAT. Either you go to a top 10-15 national school, OR you go to a very good local school that will feed into the local law firms (so, in the Valley). There may be law schools with particularly strong IP practices.

The general thing about a career in law is that it is incredibly competitive: if you look at the average salary curve for lawyers, it is massively skewed: a relatively small percentage make the gravy. So you need to ruthlessly pursue your comparative advantage (deep understanding of a particular vertical-- have them as your clients).

Not counting lost income a 3 year law degree will cost you $150-200k I believe. You will also at some point probably do an LLM (but the firm may well sponsor that).

Another area to consider is tax law, as there is always a demand for people who can do the intellectually complex work that tax attorneys take on-- the partners are less 'rainmakers' than they are in other forms of private practice. In addition, it can involve mathematics (of a simple type) and that's another barrier to entry in your favour.

General corporate practice in the Valley is interesting, in that you get involved with a lot of startups, taking equity instead of fees, maybe find the next Intel or Youtube. Needless to say such jobs are incredibly hard to get, even though they pay a lot less than associates in Midtown Manhattan law firms, because of that entrepreneurial aspect. And of course every smart American yuppie graduating from law school fancies living in San Francisco.

But a lawyer who understands semis at a deep level might be quite valuable as an associate to the right firm.

3. you might find a broader use of your technological skills eg in government or education. Don't know enough about these sectors to do more than plant the thought.

Government workers are paid less than private sector but have better pensions and benefits, and more job stability.

You might, for example, be too old for the Foreign Service exams, or to work for the Defence Intelligence Agency or CIA. But you might not. You could carve out a career advising your nation's leaders on developments in semiconductors with national security implications: what happens when enemy nanobots hit American shores?

These jobs are deeply bureaucratic (your only real exit is to go work for a 'Beltway Bandit' consultant) but they might be very interesting and there would be a sense of purpose.

A friend of mine, (lawyer), has left private practice and joined the British Army, and is having a whale of a time. Learning Pashtun etc.
wilson08
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by wilson08 »

new2bogle wrote:I have a PhD in electrical engineering and have been working in the semiconductor industry for about 8 years now (yeah, not very long). I am becoming bored at work. It's not that I don't have work to do, I just don't like it anymore. I am 34.

What kind of options do I have? I am not a manager. I want to get out of engineering. One problem is that I make a pretty decent salary here (about 120k) and I don't know where else I can make a salary like that with my background.

Are there any ex-engineers out there? What did you do? MBA? Law? Any other advice? I would prefer to not dislike my job.
Are you sure the problem is with engineering or could it
be the company you are with ? I have known engineers
over the years who were dissatisfied with the conditions,
personel, management, challenges, etc. of their current
employer and were ready to lay the blame on the profession
they had chosen. Some found a new outlook on changing
employers and finding a more suitable, compatible, and
challenging work environment.

With your credentials there should be plenty of opportunities
in academia with options for research and sideline consulting
work if you desire.

If it is truly a matter of being in the wrong profession, at
age 34 there is plenty of time for a "2nd Act".

Wilson
wannabe_CPA
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Post by wannabe_CPA »

Take it from a guy who has been there.

Doing what you like to do for a hobby as a primary job is a really bad idea. The reason hobbies are fun is because there's no pressure to do well except for your own pleasure.

I was very good, but the reality of doing what I liked and loved doing for a living was soul crushing.

I embraced the myth that your work is supposed to make you happy when I was younger and it nearly destroyed me. I wound up losing my twenties and my life savings. At 28, I'm now just old enough I've lost ten or so years of compounding and will never be able to meet many of my life goals. Most people who are thirty with the kind of education I'll have by then make six figures, I will be scrapping with 22 year olds with freshly minted MPAcs and MBAs for jobs paying 30k a year.

In my case I suppose it's better I made that mistake when I was in a position where no one else would suffer for it. But I can't imagine how terrible it would be to do this when you're 40ish and possibly married or otherwise in a situation where other people's welfare depends on yours.

I agree that it's not worth staying at a job you hate but "boredom" isn't hate it's just boredom. Find fulfillment outside of work, keep at this job for a while yet, and soon you'll have plenty of money to have the option to stop entirely and do whatever with no pressure.

We have this silly notion as a society that everyone is supposed to be made happy by their labor. It is ridiculous. As a popular movie once postured in response to the perennial "What would you do if had a million dollars?", the notion that one's occupation should be the answer is nonsense because then nobody would be a janitor (well a few people would but you get the idea).

Possibly consider just making a lateral move. My own father was an EE and a licensed Professional Engineer, but in rural power. His job was actually managing a small utility company, and he was equal parts engineer, manager, controller, and accountant. Or try consulting on the side. Dad used to get side jobs as an expert witness when people would electrocute themselves on equipment in rural areas and sue the power company, and billed this at $350 an hour...
wilson08
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by wilson08 »

3CT_Paddler wrote:I am curious what specifically you hate about your job? Are there any specific aspects of your job that you enjoy? I am also an engineer (civil - lightweight compared to you), and I find that there are parts of my job that I enjoy and parts that I hate. So as I advance and learn, my goal is to pursue opportunities in my field that I will enjoy and can achieve success in. What does a regular day at work look like for you? I know in my job I would like to have more client interaction... there is only so much time I can spend in front of a computer without getting completely bored. I think there are a couple books out there that could help you out on career decisions. Good luck!
This is an aside to the main point but I do not think one branch of
engineering is any easier than another, it depends on what you
have a knack for. A person could be a whiz with circuits and
electronics and find the concepts easy but not be able to grasp
structural analysis or could be a whiz in chemistry and have a
knack for chemical engineering and find circuits and electrical
concepts abstract.

The zone that screens out aspiring engineers is pre-engineering
in the first 1 - 1 1/2 years which is common to all engineering
disciplines. It is the physics, chemistry, and math that determines
who moves on and I do not know the statistics now but when I
was planning to study engineering the Dean of Engineering at a
preliminary counselling session did not pull any punches and said
only one person in three that starts in engineering succeeds.

Wilson
Topic Author
new2bogle
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Post by new2bogle »

Wow - lots of great ideas, questions, suggestions, comments. Thank you all very much. I will go through them and respond appropriately later today as I've got a meeting in a few minutes :?
gouldnm
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Post by gouldnm »

I have a B.S. in chemical engineering, but I found that I enjoyed the pure math and analyzing data far more than I did straight engineering. So I went back to school and got an M.S. in Applied Statistics. Once I had the degree in statistics, I found that I had all sorts of opportunities, including:

-- working as an actuary in the insurance industry
-- research in the pharmaceutical industry
-- Wall St. hires lots of statisticians
-- working for major corporations consulting to engineers--both manufacturing and R&D
-- various govt. agencies ranging from Bureau of the Census to DoD
-- teaching at a community college

The nice thing about being a statistician is that, because virtually every field has lots of data to analyze, it makes it really easy to jump from industry to industry. So if you get bored with one thing, you can always switch to another.

When I went back to school to get my master's, it was very easy to get a job as a teaching assistant, which meant that my tuition was free, plus I got a stipend. Not enough to raise a family, but a lot cheaper than had I gotten an MBA or gone to law school! At least I didn't graduate in debt.

The average salary for a masters degree statistician is well over $100K--probably close to what you make now. I currently make just over $100K, and I'm relatively low paid. That's because I work for the federal government. On the positive side, I have a pension, close to 6 weeks vacation, and great benefits!
SP-diceman
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Post by SP-diceman »

gouldnm wrote: On the positive side, I have a pension, close to 6 weeks vacation, and great benefits!
Have you crunched the numbers on how long that will last?
(heh, heh)

The piggy bank will soon be empty.


Thanks
SP-diceman
TRC
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Post by TRC »

What about a technical support sales role for a company that sells products relative to your background? Most field sales reps rely heavily on technical subject matter experts to help them demo the product in the field, answer technical questions, etc. In my industry (software sales), we call this a Solutions Engineer or Solutions Consultant.
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3CT_Paddler
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Re: Sick of my engineering profession

Post by 3CT_Paddler »

wilson08 wrote: This is an aside to the main point but I do not think one branch of
engineering is any easier than another, it depends on what you
have a knack for. A person could be a whiz with circuits and
electronics and find the concepts easy but not be able to grasp
structural analysis or could be a whiz in chemistry and have a
knack for chemical engineering and find circuits and electrical
concepts abstract.
Different branches of engineering definitely vary in level of technical analysis required. Even within civil engineering there is a big difference between being a structural engineer designing a skyscraper and a transportation engineer designing a roadway. Electrical engineering is up there with chemical engineering in terms of difficulty for different reasons. Many of the concepts of electrical engineering and how electricity behaves are not intuitive (at least for most people). And chemical engineers better understand every aspect of fluid mechanics known to man... not easy stuff. So yes there is a difference between different branches IMO, but that does not mean that every Chem E is smarter than every Civil Engineer... just some programs are more difficult than others. At least that was my experience during my education as an engineer.
Valuethinker
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Post by Valuethinker »

SP-diceman wrote:
gouldnm wrote: On the positive side, I have a pension, close to 6 weeks vacation, and great benefits!
Have you crunched the numbers on how long that will last?
(heh, heh)

The piggy bank will soon be empty.


Thanks
SP-diceman
Ahh but what happens is the government outsources to consultants.

The same people do the work, but they work for Booz or PWC that charges a 100% markup (or 200% if it's in Iraq or Afghanistan) on their salaries.
Valuethinker
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Post by Valuethinker »

new2bogle wrote:Wow - lots of great ideas, questions, suggestions, comments. Thank you all very much. I will go through them and respond appropriately later today as I've got a meeting in a few minutes :?
Herminia Ibarra's book on career change is very good. She is a professor at INSEAD business school (for the short form, read her Harvard Business Review article on same).

So too is Po Bronson's more impressionistic book.
gouldnm
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Post by gouldnm »

Valuethinker wrote:
SP-diceman wrote:
gouldnm wrote: On the positive side, I have a pension, close to 6 weeks vacation, and great benefits!
Have you crunched the numbers on how long that will last?
(heh, heh)

The piggy bank will soon be empty.


Thanks
SP-diceman
Ahh but what happens is the government outsources to consultants.

The same people do the work, but they work for Booz or PWC that charges a 100% markup (or 200% if it's in Iraq or Afghanistan) on their salaries.
Actually, it's worse than that. The govt. contracts out while allowing people like me to keep my govt. job and monitor the contractors.
btenny
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Post by btenny »

Well I have a MS EE and did about 35+ years in semiconducters and systems and engineering management. I found out early that I got bored easily. I found out later in my career that most engineers get bored easily. We are all driven to get that degree where new class challenges happen every semester so we get bored doing just one thing over and over on a job. We need new challenges to refresh our minds.

In my case I would learn all the issues for a new technology and then start the work and then after a year or so I would get bored with "just completing the project". I suspect that is your issue, it's not fun any more on your current assignment.

So IMO I think your issue is to find something that is fun and new and challenging. You may be able to do that inside your current company if you look around quietly. Your boss will not want to lose you to another group but the big boss would rather transfer you than have you quit. So start exploring and asking around.

Then if you cannot find something talk to a head hunter. PhD American semiconducter engineers are key resources that are highly sought after. You can get another job with another company doing fun stuff and I would go that route before I got the MBA.

In my case boredom lead me to another job in a different town within a completely different part of the same company (very big electronics) that did heavy project design engineering rather than just chip stuff. The new job let me stay on a project for 6-18 months and then move onto the next project. The key was there was always a new project starting up in a slightly different technology with a new team. So there was constant learning of new things and new people. Later in my career I moved up to project management and proposal stuff and then further into management later.

Again the issue was there was always something new to learn and new ideas to pursue. I know now that I could also have done the same thing in bay area (or maybe Boston) by working at various startup firms but with a lot of job changing. So there are many ways to refresh your career.

Good luck,
Bill
freebeer
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Post by freebeer »

software?

I've worked with many EE and Physics PhDs who moved over, of course it's not necessarily a drastic change but as many "real engineers" like to say "software development's not engineering!". E.g.. you can't add more lines of code and make something more reliable, like doubling up a bridge structural member or thickening a wire. Creating software is still more art/craft than science.

Software also tends to involve more interaction with people, as they are more likely to be directly using what you create, vs. what you create being an isolated subcomponent.

Anyway this would probably be a relatively easy career move for you to make, if it could address whatever issues you are having in your current work.
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Post by 3CT_Paddler »

Valuethinker wrote: Ahh but what happens is the government outsources to consultants.

The same people do the work, but they work for Booz or PWC that charges a 100% markup (or 200% if it's in Iraq or Afghanistan) on their salaries.
And those consultants often do the work much better/faster... at least that is my limited experience as someone who is a consultant for municipalities. My incentive is to get the job done as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality and be competitive enough to win work from every other consultant out there. The guy working on the government side does not have that pressure. Of course there are cases of consultants who face no competition and make a ton of money off of government work... but usually there are shady dealing in such cases. My sister went from working for a consultant that did work for a government testing agency, and then switched jobs to working for the government agency. It was night and day work environments... her boss in government actually got upset if she worked past five or took work home with her. I think her eyes have been opened to a certain extent.
Valuethinker
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Post by Valuethinker »

3CT_Paddler wrote:
Valuethinker wrote: Ahh but what happens is the government outsources to consultants.

The same people do the work, but they work for Booz or PWC that charges a 100% markup (or 200% if it's in Iraq or Afghanistan) on their salaries.
And those consultants often do the work much better/faster... at least that is my limited experience as someone who is a consultant for municipalities. My incentive is to get the job done as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality and be competitive enough to win work from every other consultant out there. The guy working on the government side does not have that pressure. Of course there are cases of consultants who face no competition and make a ton of money off of government work... but usually there are shady dealing in such cases. My sister went from working for a consultant that did work for a government testing agency, and then switched jobs to working for the government agency. It was night and day work environments... her boss in government actually got upset if she worked past five or took work home with her. I think her eyes have been opened to a certain extent.
I have a cynicism about outsourcing in corporate settings (and government).

You pay people 2-3 times as much to tell senior management what middle management has been telling them for years, and it is viewed as great insight.

And you lose expertise and become 'consultant compelled', the company loses the ability to make its own decisions.

McKinsey was taking £1m+ a month out of the BBC for years.

The process by which consultants 'colonize' a client and generate new and further business is fascinating to watch (in the way watching a predatory insect catch and eat its prey is horrifying to watch).

Consultants work if the client controls them very tightly and scopes the project very tightly and makes use of specialized knowledge and expertise the client lacks.. Big outsourcing projects in my experience create very little public value.
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Post by gkaplan »

Valuethinker wrote:

Ahh but what happens is the government outsources to consultants.

The same people do the work, but they work for Booz or PWC that charges a 100% markup (or 200% if it's in Iraq or Afghanistan) on their salaries.


And those consultants often do the work much better/faster... at least that is my limited experience as someone who is a consultant for municipalities. My incentive is to get the job done as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality and be competitive enough to win work from every other consultant out there. The guy working on the government side does not have that pressure. Of course there are cases of consultants who face no competition and make a ton of money off of government work... but usually there are shady dealing in such cases. My sister went from working for a consultant that did work for a government testing agency, and then switched jobs to working for the government agency. It was night and day work environments... her boss in government actually got upset if she worked past five or took work home with her. I think her eyes have been opened to a certain extent.

My impression is just the opposite.
Gordon
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Post by 3CT_Paddler »

Valuethinker wrote: I have a cynicism about outsourcing in corporate settings (and government).

You pay people 2-3 times as much to tell senior management what middle management has been telling them for years, and it is viewed as great insight.

And you lose expertise and become 'consultant compelled', the company loses the ability to make its own decisions.

McKinsey was taking £1m+ a month out of the BBC for years.

The process by which consultants 'colonize' a client and generate new and further business is fascinating to watch (in the way watching a predatory insect catch and eat its prey is horrifying to watch).

Consultants work if the client controls them very tightly and scopes the project very tightly and makes use of specialized knowledge and expertise the client lacks.. Big outsourcing projects in my experience create very little public value.
I understand the cynicism, but I think it depends on the situation. We did some work for a city where we mapped with GPS units their existing stormwater infrastructure. When we bid on and won the job they thought we would lose our shirts on it because of the price we gave them. But we ended up working minimum 10hr days for six days a week and made a great profit off of the job and finishing months ahead of schedule. If they would have done it in house it would have taken them much longer and probably cost them more than we charged. Plus they did not have the manpower to commit to the job. In much of our work for cities and counties, the city or county lacks the expertise to do a certain project and we have the expertise to do the work.

All this to say that in many situations you could be correct that consultants act as leaches on a company... but sometimes they have a specialty niche that can bring a lot of value to a company.
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new2bogle
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Post by new2bogle »

I apologize about the length of this post, but I wanted to reply to people's comments.
chaz wrote:new2bogle, go to law school at night.
I've thought about this before. The time/money committment is pretty big, plus the lost 2-3 years of work.
greenspam wrote:i would like to suggest biomedical engineering as a possibly more interesting profession...
My undergrad major was actually in BME (!) but I ended up switching to EE due to lack of interest in the biology part of it.
3CT_Paddler wrote: I am curious what specifically you hate about your job? Are there any specific aspects of your job that you enjoy? I am also an engineer (civil - lightweight compared to you), and I find that there are parts of my job that I enjoy and parts that I hate. So as I advance and learn, my goal is to pursue opportunities in my field that I will enjoy and can achieve success in. What does a regular day at work look like for you? I know in my job I would like to have more client interaction... there is only so much time I can spend in front of a computer without getting completely bored. I think there are a couple books out there that could help you out on career decisions. Good luck!
There are at least a couple of aspects I do not like, one that you mentioned is sitting behind a computer all day. The major aspect of my dislike is engineering itself - I have to learn a lot everyday so I know what is going on, the problem is that I just don't want to learn it because it doesn't interest me anymore. It's hard for me to learn these things when I have no interest in them, and I know eventually this will catch up to me. So far, I've been learning enough just so I can get by with avg to above average reviews (never spectacular because I can't bring myself to like my work that much).
craigr wrote:Do you hate engineering, or just your job? Have you thought about going the start-up route?
I'm beginning to think I hate engineering, but it really could be that I just hate circuit design type of jobs. I will look at start-ups over the next few years, but since I've only been with my current company for 1 year, I want to wait a bit more so my resume doesn't look weird.
kramer wrote:I was in your situation and I retired early after toughing it out a few more years. But retiring early is not for everyone.
I can not fathom an early retirement. Even after another 15 or 20 years of saving, I can't see how I will have enough to last me 30 years of living (+ healthcare costs, kids college costs, etc). Care to elaborate how you did it/are doing it?
retcaveman wrote:You might want to try to find enjoyment outside of your job. Or try to enrich your current situation with a special project, mentor a new employee, write an article, teach a class, rotate to another department, overseas job/transfer, sabbatical?
I do do things outside of work, but again it is hard. After spending 8AM-6PM away from home during the week, when I get back I don't have the energy to want to go out again (and I force myself to go to the gym to stay healthy). Weekends are too short but do provide me time for enjoying the things I do like as hobbies (but not as a career).
NightOwl wrote:If you're anything like my friends who have recently had babies, the instant your child is born, you will want to do nothing other than spend time with your wife and child.
Maybe having kids is the answer! But wouldn't the exicement fade after you're done having kids and they're ~10-12 years old? Then it's back to work to earn money for them to spend, so you better like what you're doing.
Valuethinker wrote:You could go into management, potentialy. An executive MBA would be helpful in this regard.
My idea for the eMBA was exactly that - stay either in the same company or at least a competitor (same industry) and leverage eMBA as way for a vertical jump. I wonder if an online MBA from a second tier school would do the same (at a cheaper cost)? I would only need an MBA to "show" that I have some business background (rather than all technical)....

The CFA route is interesting - haven't thought about that ever.


wilson08 wrote:Are you sure the problem is with engineering or could it
be the company you are with ?
Definitely not the company - I moved here about a year ago and the company/people are much better than my old company. For the first year or so I was ok, maybe because it was a new company and I was excited. Not so much anymore. Plus, it's not like I can switch companies every two years - that would destroy my resume.
wilson08 wrote:This is an aside to the main point but I do not think one branch of
engineering is any easier than another, it depends on what you
have a knack for.
I agree with this 100%. I nearly failed my mechanics classes while getting As in my EE classes. I definitely had a knack for EE.
gouldmn wrote:-- working as an actuary in the insurance industry
-- research in the pharmaceutical industry
-- Wall St. hires lots of statisticians
-- working for major corporations consulting to engineers--both manufacturing and R&D
-- various govt. agencies ranging from Bureau of the Census to DoD
-- teaching at a community college
All of these are great suggestions, half of them I've already looked into! One thing I still can't figure out is how to become a consultant to engineering firms??? This would provide me with the being new excitement and keep things fresh every 12-24 months. I just don't know how to go independent and have been trying hard to figure that one out. Ideas?
btenny wrote:In my case I would learn all the issues for a new technology and then start the work and then after a year or so I would get bored with "just completing the project". I suspect that is your issue, it's not fun any more on your current assignment.

So IMO I think your issue is to find something that is fun and new and challenging. You may be able to do that inside your current company if you look around quietly. Your boss will not want to lose you to another group but the big boss would rather transfer you than have you quit. So start exploring and asking around.

Then if you cannot find something talk to a head hunter. PhD American semiconducter engineers are key resources that are highly sought after. You can get another job with another company doing fun stuff and I would go that route before I got the MBA.
Right, I am now thinking about exhausting the numerous options at my current company before going the 2nd-tier MBA route. I also hear they are starting more career development/management track/rotational programs here soon, so I will definitely look into that - maybe I can use my expertise in a non-technical job (which I think would be ideal).

freebeer wrote:software?
Ugh! This is the one thing I can not stand! My father was a software developer and while he loved it, I can't stant it. Thanks for the suggestion though! (no offense meant!)


Thanks to everyone for their comments - I didn't mean to leave anyone out, there's just so much here!
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