Sorry in advance for the long post (especially for my first), but I’ve had a lot on my mind.
First, let me give a small introduction. I live in the Chicagoland area. I’m 25. I have a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. I’m currently at my second job doing both new product design and application design.
The company I work for is around 250 people which is part of 5000 employee corporation. I work alongside 10 engineers (including my boss) and 4 Pro/E drafters. We also have a “Product Development” team which consists of two engineers that I somewhat work indirectly with (I’ll try to explain later).
The reason I’m writing this today is because I don’t know what to do. It seems like my current career path is going nowhere I want to be. Here are a few of my issues:
-My boss. Personally we get along great. But he tends to be a workaholic and micromanger and it causes my worklife to be extremely difficult. He consistently stays late, never takes his vacation and pushes his employees to do the same. He doesn’t seem to trust anyone to make a decision besides him. Even though he claims that he wants me to continue my education, every time I bring up a class, seminar, show, etc somehow daily work “always” seems to take precedent. I tried to discuss possibly going back to grad school in a product development or design (like IIT’s ID) but my boss said that wouldn’t be worth it and I should just get my Masters in M.E. or an MBA.
-Design in General. I hate the way we’re supposed to think about things. Ideas for new products and improvements come from our Sales team, which consist of salesmen that deal with our customers and the people our customers sell their products too. I’ve tried to change things. Attempted a user-centered design approach. Tried to do research somewhere farther than the vicinity of my desk. Discussed ways we as a company can become more innovative. The typical response to all of these is that our company would love to take these approaches but we don’t have time/money to do that so I should just do my job and go back to my desk.
-Product Development. Our product development team consists of one engineer with an MBA and another engineer working for him. They’re supervised by our Sales department. Since there’s only two people, they are constantly farming out work to engineering. So technically I have two bosses that work for two different departments. Anyone else see a problem with this?
-Creativity. When I started this job, I tried to be a little different. I made my cubicle more decorated than my dorm was in college. I brought new music in every week to listen on my personal MP3 player. Occasionally brought cool, innovative “toys” to show of to my co workers. After a few weeks, I was told someone was “offended” by my cubicle and had to take it all down (The most "offensive"thing in there was a Robot Chicken poster, which wasn’t even bad). I was told to leave my personal MP3 player at home because it was considered “distractive” to my work (even after I brought a research study I did in college that said otherwise). When I tried to show some of the “toys” I was typically asked why I wasn’t doing “work”.
-The almighty dollar. The highest priority in our corporation at the end of the day seems to be money. They want to trim as much of the fat as possible sacrificing as much in the possible. China outsourcing. Cutting back every little extra thing such as sports teams, company parties and Christmas bonuses (wait, do $50 gift cards to Target count as bonuses?). The most utter words when it comes to improvement are “Kaizens, TPS, 5S, Lean Thinking, etc.” and not “Innovation, User-centered, and lateral thinking”.
I’ve read some books such as the IDEO Innovation ones. Companies they give example about sound great. But then again I’m an engineer and not a IDer or similar. Plus I have no chance of getting at job at the IDEO here (believe me, I’ve tried before).
I guess I better get to my point. I’m thinking of moving on right now. But I guess the following questions need to be answered:
Do these problems sound typical or am I wasting my time trying to change things?
Is it possible for an engineer to be take a career path that really isn’t well…so engineering and more so design?
Is my hope that a company exists without all the problems I have right now possible or merely a pipe dream?
If 3 is true where should I be looking at? Design Firms? Large companies? Small companies? I’m not asking for a job. Just a general direction to go.
Are there any books or something else I can read about what to do?
Thanks for taking the time to read this and for all of your advice in advance. I’ve been meaning to put this out there for a long time.