Thinking About a Change....

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:

  1. Do these problems sound typical or am I wasting my time trying to change things?

  2. Is it possible for an engineer to be take a career path that really isn’t well…so engineering and more so design?

  3. Is my hope that a company exists without all the problems I have right now possible or merely a pipe dream?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

If your not happy you should leave. Some of the issues you’ve raised are typical but its down to you in the end. Geting told to take your stuff down is a bit of a joke, I would have told them that their grey walls are offending me.

Make your action now rather than getting to conferable. If you want to get in to more ID stuff then you need to create some more ID work for your portfolio or get in a company as a Engineer and it might give you some more exposure to the ID’ers. I would say get in to a smaller company’s as you will be pushed more and they will be more flexible. Call a few up near you and try and get in for a chat and feedback on your portfolio…so you know what you need to do to improve.

Good luck!

Check out the consultancies, there are plenty around here. I’m sure their working environments are a lot more “creative friendly” than the situation you describe.

Thanks for the good advice guys. I’ve been looking at the main’s site list of design firms and checked out everything in the area. I never realized there was design firm only a few miles from me!

Regarding the portfolio, what would you suggest for an engineer? So far since I’ve started I’ve been involved with a few projects. Would it be better to take some shots of the rendered 3D models (Pro/E, I don’t know anything else yet), some photos of what I’ve done, or just bring in examples of my work?

Also funny story: I was in my boss’ office the other night trying to figure out the solution to a problem that someone else in the group designed (long story) and be basically starts sighing about how tough his job is (partially because he micromanages so much). Then he looks at me and tells me how I’ll realize how tough it will be someday when I’m doing his job. My stomach started to cringe a little when he said that…

I would check your allowed to show the work you have done to other people…or is it confidential. A bad CAD rendering can look really dull. Try and tell a story of your development process and thinking…might help if you start drawing too.

As recruiter that specializes in placing candidates in creative positions, I can tell you that many of the things you dislike sound, unfortunately, typical. Office politics and micromanagers will always be there- I truly believe it’s how you decide to approach the situation that will change the situation for you. Deep, huh? :slight_smile:

So many times I meet with graphic designers who have just graduated who think that their first position out of college will be concepting and implementing a company’s new ad campaign and are astonished when I tell them that they’ll be doing the grunt work for the first few years of their career.

So many people are looking for their dream job and after placing candidate after candidate in positions, I’ve come to realize that there is never going to be a “dream job.” If work was supposed to be fun, it would be called “play,” and not “work.” That being said, there can be great parts to your job that you love- but anyone that tells you they can’t wait to go to work on Monday morning, is probably lying.

But I do agree with you that if you are unhappy in your position for reasons that will never change- do start looking for a new one. Just be advised that if you job hop, it is a huge turn off for future employers. I can show my client a candidate with perfect experience, but if they’ve had too many jobs in the past few years (ie 4 jobs in 4 years), they will without a doubt, turn them down.

I realize I’m not in ID, I just thought with my experience as a recruiter, I had some information that might be of use. I hope this helps!

Don’t Get down, you are in a really good position! an engineer with an interest in design. You have tons of possibilities and I think you’re off to a good start visiting these forums.

I’m in engineering too, and while I like the job, the design opportunities are just not there. So, I’ve done a couple things to help.

I do t-shirt designs and I have a blog. This two alone give me the satisfaction I’ve been looking for. I don’t have to work for someone else and I can be creative as I want to be and still hold an interesting engineering job (for the time) that I can bring my design interests in to.

Keep at it. do something you love doing till you find what you want to do! It may help you get there faster instead of just waiting till something happens! good luck.

I love all these responses. They definitely give me a lot to think about.

dawolfman666: Regarding my current work. It has been released to the public and some of our customers are ordering right now. The design we did on the project is close to final. We are just doing some testing to verify that this new design is as good as the previous more expensive, less user friendly, and uglier design. I wish I could give more info but unfortunately I prefer to keep who my employer is out of this conversation. All I can tell you is that while we don’t offer a “consumer product” what I’ve been working on is something that millions of American’s interact with everyday.

And about drawing…I’m pretty bad even with simple sketching (I think it’s because I try to be too perfect when I draw things). Any suggestions on some good books or other ways to try and improve my drawing skills?

ProfilesBaltimore: I know exactly what you are talking about regarding the job hop problem. It’s been 3 1/2 years since I graduated and the idea of a 3rd employers sounds well…a bit hasty when I take a step back.

I will have to tell you that I took my first job back in '04 with a consulting agency in Peoria, IL because…well…I needed a job and was getting impatient after a month. My first position was extremely easy for what I was capable of and after almost a year I was transfered to a new position (same company) in the Chicago suburbs. After 5 months at that position the company I was working with decided that they were going to relocate the entire engineering department to Chattanooga, TN. I had the option of either moving with them or finding another job, both of which needed to be decided in 2 months. Again I had very little time to find what I wanted and after about 5 interviews I ended up at my current job.

I guess it’s really hard to tell what’s really bothering me. It could be my boss, my environment, the way my company does things, or possibly I’m just bored with what I’m doing right now and need something different. I’ve tried to change things with my current employer and come up with some new ideas but since I’m pretty low on the totem pole I’m usually not taken very seriously, especially in a company that prefers profits and productivity over innovation and creativity.

I do understand that there’s no “dream job” that exists for any of us out there, but I do believe that there’s something that offers me a better challenge than “how many times can I draw up what my boss sketches on a piece of paper”. I’m definitely not the typical “9 to 5” engineer. I enjoy working later if I feel like it’s going to accomplish something, not because my workaholic micromanager is unreachable during normal hours (I started to come in late and still work 8 hours. My boss and the other managers started to commend me on it :confused: I guess people notice what time you leave more often than what time you come in:wink: .).

goatlip: Good suggestion on the extra curricular activities. I’ve been doing auto racing, mainly drifting (purposely sliding cars) for the past few years.
My old car:

I’ve never been really good at but it’s a lot of fun and allows me to try some ideas that no one has ever done before. Especially since the new car I’ve been working on has no aftermarket support.

Unfortunately I’ve been sidelined this season due to the fact that I was building up a new car and funds were tight due to the fact that I bought a new house.

Regarding jobs, I started looking at a few design firms on the main site here in the Chicagoland area. One’s pretty close to me, PDT. Looks like an interesting place to work with a lot of variety there. However, when I discussed the place with a co-worker who knew someone that worked there he said this person (engineer) quit because he found that all he was doing was designing cell phones and got sick of it after a couple years(sounds a little premature to me). I guess it wouldn’t hurt to apply though. I also liked Design Integrity just because their portfolio really spoke to me.

Oh yeah I got another small horror story from a couple Fridays ago. I usually leave around 5:00 and this Friday it was especially important to get out since I had a date that night. Anyway surprise surprise my boss (who’s traveling back from Canada) keeps me late (even though I told him I had to leave by 5:00 that night) because the product I was trying to get out to a customer wasn’t assembling correctly (The design was done by my boss and another engineer, The other engineer decided to leave early that day :angry: ). I end up leaving at 8:30 and canceling my date. I tell my boss the following Monday (He’s always asking me why I’m not married yet at the age of 25 and I thought he might find this interesting) and his response is “I’m sorry but it’s your own fault. You should’ve called me earlier in the week so we could’ve figured this out sooner (Parts for assembly weren’t ready until 1:00 on Friday even though production promised me them two days before that).” Nice eh?

Wow. I really have a tendency to ramble don’t I?

The scott robertson DVDs over on Gomon workshop are pretty good.

for books here are a couple that come to mind:

Presentation Techniques - quite old school - not so many tutorials but a lovely books of examples and styles.

in the end its just practice, go sign yourself up to some life drawing evening classes, to get your more relaxed. Take a look over in the sketching forum there are a few tutorials and links to online tutorials

Thanks. I ordered those two books you listed today. I also stopped by Borders and grabbed a copy of “Rapid Viz” as suggested in another thread.

Zoltecruels, I feel Ur pain.
Very dood comments that many of us can take into consideration. I’m in ID, and I have worked at a consultancy and corporation. They both have their advantages, the corporate def has more political upper management BS.

Micromanaging can happen anywhere, and of course it’s very frustrating. Changing companies/paths seems to be the way for you to go.

Thanks for the topic

SpaceCadet, I can understand the woes that are typical with any large corporation. What makes it especially frustrating is that were only 250 people at our place but the 5000+ corporation leaders make all the decisions (Even though I’ve only seen them once in person since I’ve worked here).

Within the company the structure is pretty unbalanced. Sales gets the most attention and “push” compared to anyone. It has a tendency to drive everyone in Engineering here a little nuts, especially when it comes to brand new products and applications.

One story was earlier this year, we were developing this product and hadn’t made any prototypes due to the fact we hadn’t ordered any aluminum extrusions yet. Low and behold sales gets a crazy idea for us not only to give a customer a free demo in 30 days, but to somehow go into full production within 3 months.

I tried to tell my boss (who was a major part in this design) how this was not a good idea not only because of the time constraints(which I do understand is part of the business) but the fact that we were attempting to release a product that has no testing done (which all of customers require) and that we don’t know will even be able produce this new product. All my boss could tell me was “That’s what Sales wants so that’s what we have to do.” Figures.

Well 2 weeks later I was getting close to a prototype getting done when Sales contacts me directly (my Boss was out of town) and asked me for the test results for the new product. I told them nothing was done and they started yelling at me! They asked what the hell my boss and I were doing the past few months with this project and how could we not have the testing done. I kind of chuckled a little inside and responded “Because you are getting my first prototype, that’s why”.

As expected the customer received the demo on time (even though Sales didn’t care by then) but never went through with the production order of them. We still haven’t gotten testing completed (something more important always happens).

I’m also pretty frustrated with the fact that we don’t have any group dedicated to making prototypes. Every time I want something made it has to go through production tooling, CNC, fabrications, etc. Supposedly we had a group to do this sometime ago, but unfortunately someone with “Anorexic I mean Lean Thinking” decided that it was a waste, like so many other good ideas.

Update: I coaxed my boss into letting me taking a Pro/E Surfacing class for three days. It’s interesting not having to think in solid modeling for once…

Thats funny, cause our company is driven by sales and marketing as well. I understand that marketing researches and helps plan which products to develop. Often times directives come from the sales end. Last minute fire drills are far too common. We show products to buyers, which are still in development with no testing.

Very frustrating, and I know this is normal practice at all corps. At least U were able to get some free training to increase Ur viability.

It is a game and you have to know how to play to win.

Training was kind of a long time coming this year. I signed up for 2 classes before this, 2 seminars, and a couple trade shows in the area. They all got canceled last minute because of what my boss considered “immediate work”. He’s done this with my vacation too (I still have a week and 1/2 that I haven’t used since I started).

I was able to get this class by asking him how he respond to similar issues with “immediate work” if I was in Grad School (BSME, MBA, mDm (I wish :unamused: ). He had no good answer, felt guilty, and well…I got to go class.

The funny thing about Marketing at our company is well…it’s at a minimum. Our sales team members (about 15+) deal directly with the customer and I guess they seem to know what the customer wants with new products. The only other people that really put input in for new prodcuts is our Product Development Group(2 guys, they work under Sales, weird, I know). We do have one guy that is considered Marketing…he mostly does the website, sales flyers, and has the trade show exhibits set up.

I really don’t know when I’m going to be able to spruce up my resume and get working on my portfolio. Probably after the New Year…

Time over the Holidays is an excellent time to put things in motion. Then U have Jan & Feb to tweak, before companies start beefing up again