Tag Archives: career

Episode 81 — Plastics

plasticOur conversation with mechanical engineer Jim Heilman delves into exciting advances being made with plastic materials, the types of molding equipment used to manufacture high-volume plastic parts, and whether or not the movie industry can be trusted to provide good career advice.

Thanks to Steven Depolo for use of the image titled “Bottled Water Macros December 02, 20106.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 78 — Grad School

equationsWe discuss the pros and cons of returning to school for an advanced engineering degree in this episode of The Engineering Commons podcast.

  • After knocking over a beer, Brian asks about the “industry exemption” for engineers.
  • As a point of reference, Jeff has a PhD, an MBA, and an MS in Mechanical Engineering. Adam has a Masters in Civil Engineering, and Carmen has an MS in Electrical Engineering. Although Brian attended grad school for a while, he does not (yet) hold a graduate degree.
  • Brian makes an inquiry about PhDs in industry.
  • Jeff explains why the subject area chosen by PhD students is normally very deep and not very broad.
  • Should we put this podcast on Stitcher Radio? Let us know in the comments, or via Twitter, or with the Contact link on our home page.
  • Our pros and cons for obtaining an advanced degree are distilled from the list put together by Petersen’s Guide for Potential Grad Students.
  • Pro 1: Earn more money. According to January 2015 Salary Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for engineers in the US with a bachelor’s degree is $63K, while the mean starting pay for those with a Masters degree is nearly $70K. If you move on to a PhD, the starting salary increases to $88K.
  • Estimated lifetime earnings for engineers are tabulated in a US Census Bureau report.
  • Con 1: Grad school is a highly competitive environment. According to Sayre’s Law, “The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.”
  • Pro 2: Advance your career. You may be able to distinguish yourself from other candidates for a plum job if you have the proper credentials.
  • The American Society for Civil Engineering (ASCE), the National Society for Professional Engineers (NSPE), and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) are advocating that engineers obtain education beyond a bachelor’s degree, although this position has caused some debate within the engineering community.
  • Con 2: You might like student life too much. If you get really comfortable with the grad school life, you may discover that you’ve become a perpetual student.
  • Pro 3: A higher potential for future promotion. Your graduate degree may help you move up the corporate ladder.
  • Con 3: Grad school can be very stressful. This is discussed in an article titled “Dealing With PhD Stress The Right Way.”
  • Pro 4: Get recognized for your professional efforts. You can become well-known in your industry or field if you uncover a new physical phenomenon or process.
  • The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering recognizes engineers for ground-breaking innovation.
  • Con 4: Writing a thesis. It can become a chore to organize your research into a cohesive document. Many PhD students get stuck in a state of having completed All But Dissertation.
  • Brian references the movie Particle Fever as illustrating how years of research effort can be quickly derailed by new experimental results.
  • Pro 5: Join an elite population segment. Only about 5% of practicing engineers in the US have a doctorate.
  • Con 5: It can take many years to finish. If you’re doing novel research, it’s impossible to know in advance how long it will take to produce meaningful results.
  • The Michelson-Morley experiment is the rare case of a negative outcome (disproving the presence of Luminiferous aether) that was accepted by the research community as having great value.
  • Pro 6: Work on ground-breaking research. Grad students sometimes find themselves performing research that has the capability to change the world.
  • Con 6: Grad school is expensive. Not only do you have to pay for books, tuition, and housing, but there is a large opportunity cost to attending grad school.
  • Pro 7: An advanced degree can open up teaching opportunities. A PhD is usually required to teach engineering at the university level, especially since US News and World Report dings institutions for using instructors without doctoral degrees.
  • Con 7: No guarantee that an advanced degree will result in a higher salary. If you can’t find an employer who values your skills, you’re unlikely to be highly compensated for your abilities.
  • Pro 8: Work with state-of-the-art tools. Grad students sometimes design and build new devices that can revolutionize old industries, or create new ones.
  • Con 8: You may be perceived as “too qualified.” One has to judge whether an advanced degree will be a help, or possibly a hinderance, based on the type of work they wish to perform.
  • Pro 9: Because you want to. Grad school is a great opportunity to expand your professional horizons if you have a passion for research and study.
  • Con 9: Because you don’t want to. There’s no reason you can’t find a satisfying engineering career, even if you don’t have an advanced degree.

Thanks to Clay Shonkwiler for use of the image titled “Studying….” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.

Episode 45 — Success

mountaintop2We talk with civil engineer, author, and coach Anthony Fasano about steps one can take to ensure a successful engineering career.

  • Although Jeff’s engineering career hasn’t led to huge financial success, he considers it to have been successful, as he has gotten to work on a lot of interesting projects, and meet many fascinating people.
  • Our guest for this episode is Anthony Fasano, a professional engineer who has authored the book, Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating An Extraordinary Engineering Career.
  • Anthony started as a field surveyor in high school, which led him into a career as a civil engineer.
  • Coming out of college, our guest focused his professional efforts in the area of site development while working for Maser Consulting.
  • Young engineers are often not aware of the numerous sub-disciplines that comprise the engineering profession.
  • Sensing that his work routine was falling into a rut after a few years on the job, Anthony started asking other engineers what it took to develop a successful engineering career.
  • Having leveraged non-technical skills en route to becoming an associate partner, Anthony was asked by his employer to share his insights with other engineers.
  • Our guest credits Tony Robbins with influencing his decision to become an executive coach.
  • Having been successful in coaching engineers at Maser, Anthony left to start his own firm, Powerful Purpose Associates.
  • Seeing that his “true” clients were engineers, rather than engineering companies, our guest started the Institute for Engineering Career Development.
  • After writing his book, Anthony spent three years touring the United States, with books in the trunk of his car, talking to engineering associations about achieving career success.
  • From Anthony’s book, the seven keys to achieving success in an engineering career are:
    1. Setting Goals
    2. Obtaining Credentials
    3. Finding a mentor
    4. Becoming a great communicator
    5. Networking
    6. Becoming organized
    7. Being a leader
  • Our guest recommends getting involved with an organization like Toastmasters International to improve speaking skills.
  • Anthony credits Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, with improving his understanding of how to interact with other people.
  • Dealing with e-mail overload is a subject Anthony addressed on his blog, in an entry titled “Engineers: Are You Having Trouble Getting Out of Your E-mail Inbox?
  • A quick mention of productivity methods arises, including The Seven Habits, and Getting Things Done (GTD). Anthony recommends the book, The Power of Less, authored by Leo Babauta, for its simplification of GTD concepts.
  • Anthony currently serves as Executive Director for the New York State Society of Professional Engineers.
  • Anthony has written a number of articles about career development on his blog for the Institute of Engineering Career Development.
  • A recent project for Anthony has been launching a podcast, The Engineering Career Coach, in which he advises engineers on how to advance their careers.
  • Our guest can be found online via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Thanks to Paxson Woelber for the untitled photo. Podcast theme music provided by Paul Stevenson