Advice for a New Grad: Engineering and Design?


I just graduated in May with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a secondary in Scientific and Technical Communications (Editing, Graphic Design, speaking, etc. work). 3.40 overall…whoot.

Are there any design sectors that that combo sounds like it may jive with right now? My long term goal is to find out about doing a master’s in Industrial Design or something design related, but currently, if it wasn’t for the job market, I’d like to work first and see what I’m interested in.

So basically, does anyone have any pointers on companies that might be seeking Engineers whose goal is to learn more about design?

I don’t think in this economy anyone is hiring on the basis of what the employee is interested in learning more about. they’re short handed because of layoffs and need specialists.

that said, ID consultancies with engineering needs would be the best place to look.

I second the notion of checking out consultancies with engineering backgrounds. Unfortunately, even those don’t seem to be hiring new engineering grads.

Were I in your position I would likely take a job somewhere that, while it may seem irrelevant, could help you bolster your skills. Working at a defense contractor to learn Pro|e would be one example, but I’m sure you can think of others.

In the meantime improve your skillset. The three things that you can’t ever be good enough at in a design firm are:

CAD (pro|e and SW seem to most relevant to engineers, Rhino and Alias for ID)
Knowledge of manufacturing processes.

Also keep in mind that ID is fundamentally different from engineering in the sense that you can show up with masters in engineering and no portfolio and that is more than enough. I imagine (and I’m sure I will be corrected if wrong) that a masters in ID with no portfolio is moot.

I agree with the consensus. Having been a student in both field, I think its important to have engineers who know how to talk to designers, and vise versa. If you are already fluent in engineering, try and learn as much of the language of ID as you can. It makes you much more valuable over all.

in Britain and Ireland, you can get an ID position straight after an engineering degree. In Britain right now, sometimes you also need to be able to manage other functions apart from design, such as marketing, so what you really need is a very well rounded university education. You might find it easier to land a job if you cross the pond :wink:

i’m a design engineer at a pretty big us consumer product brand located in nyc. In the world of consumer products, there are very very few of these jobs, and seemingly equally few engineers good at doing it. It takes us months to find qualified engineers when we’re hiring (and we just hired two in the last two months, so there’s jobs out there). If you want one of these jobs you will need to absolutely maintain your focus in your job search. My career path started at an engineering consultancy which taught me how to develop products from concept up, how to mock up, build, machine, program, systems design, mechatronics, plastic parts design, mold design, prototyping techniques, and that’s just scratching the surface. There’s so much you will never learn in school that is a must to do this job, and that’s not to mention learning how to integrate all of this with styling and indusctrial design.

I guess what I’m saying is that if this is what you want to do, choose your jobs and the companies you will work for very carefully. Don’t for one second consider a job that is outside of your carreer path, once you’re out of an industry, it’s almost impossible to break back in (speaking from experience). You can only take that first job out of school once, don’t make a mistake taking a drafting job in some oddball industry, get in tight with the designers and stay there. Every design firm has a stable of underpaid CAD jockeys. Take an internship somewhere if you have to, but get in the circle as fast as possible. 95% of engineering jobs are engineering sales and specification, heavy industry, or running analysis, that remaining 5% is design work. Within that 5%, 4% is cad-jockey surfacing monkey. If you want that 1% of jobs that are true design work and engineering, you’re going to have to grow your product development skills, and work the design process over and over.

Excellent post. I agree 100%. I am also a staff engineer (at a design firm). When I was in school (for my BSME) I turned away a $23/hr internship from a defense contractor for an $18/hr internship at a local design firm. Had I not done that, my skillset would have likely been too narrow to get a job at a design firm right out of school (which I did get), so I would’ve worked a less dynamic employer, which likely would have just reinforced my narrow skillset, making me no more appealing to design firms than I already was. It is truly difficult to break out of that cycle. So get in however you can, even if it means being a CAD/Mcmaster-Carr jockey.

I would agree with spoony’s 95/5 number, but I disagree with the breakdown of the 5%. In the experience I’ve had I would say that while it is not uncommon to spend all day running CAD, it is also not uncommon to get in the shop, sketch out concepts, brainstorm, etc. It might be different elsewhere, but that’s how I’ve seen it go down.

y career path started at an engineering consultancy which taught me how to develop products from concept up, how to mock up, build, machine, program, systems design, mechatronics, plastic parts design, mold design, prototyping techniques, and that’s just scratching the surface.

This is excellent advice. The beauty of being a design engineer is there is almost nothing that you learn that is completely irrelevant… so learn everything.

ok, you got me on the hyperbole :wink: