A Career in Engineering - What I learned in my first 8 years.

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

I recently made a choice to switch companies and switch industries. In order to improve it is important to reflect and this change in engineering career path is the perfect time to do so.

8 Years as a Control Systems Engineer for Siemens has bestowed upon me a range of skills, experiences and knowledge all with a fair amount of variety in roles, projects, locations and challenges culminating in a journey from Engineering Intern to Lead Engineer.

Allow me to give you a quick summary of my career (which I made an infographic for) and then I will give an overview of the top 8 things I learned so you may get some value in your engineering career too.

[8 Years, 5x states, 15x power stations, 9x roles (intern, junior eng, service eng, project eng, software eng, system admin, digitalisation eng, OT Cyber sec specialist, lead eng), 3x country level or above award winning projects, 1x patent submission, 10+ creations/inventions, 5x public speaking opportunities, 1x cyber training in germany, 1x mentoring program (as mentor)]

Engineering Career Summary Infographic by Engineering IRL

You may have noticed my role as an OT Cyber Security Specialist. To understand what OT is check out my previous article anwering: What is Operational Technology? .

In the final year I managed to travel quite a few places. When reviewing my photos I found this nice snippet that summarises what it's like in a year for a Control Systems Engineer in the Power Generation industry and how diverse your working spaces may be.

Lessons Learned

After every project a lessons learned session gives the entire execution team an opportunity to gain insights from the lessons learned on the course of the project.

Take this as my lessons learned.

Maybe you have some of the same problems you ran into and tips here can help or better yet you are just starting your own journey and get a heads up on some things to learn.

For all of the tips mentioned in this article these are really just food for thought, doing them or not doing them will not guarantee improvements in your career but I can tell you that you won't lose out on your career when you think critically about it and aim for something more.

Tip #1 - Empty Your Cup

Even if you're the smartest person in the room.

Not that this was the case for me or is likely with many engineers around but this is super important. Imagine what you know is water in a cup. You have to first empty your cup in order to add some more, otherwise it just spills.

Don't overthink the analogy. It simply means assume you know nothing because you might actually learn something that you wouldn't have if you didn't listen for more information.

Starting out this allowed me to really learn what all the more senior engineers were concerned with and to also formulate my own ideas and opinions.

Tip #2 - Build Rapport

This may sound trivial, but I would recommend building rapport in 2 ways. The first is on the job, manage expectations with clients, management and your peers alike - that is, under promise and over deliver. The other way is to chat.

Yes. Chat.

I know this may be frowned upon in some places or for some people seen as simply wasting time, but building rapport only when work needs to be done or when there is an emergency or it is critical is actually inefficient. When you've built solid rapport with your colleagues and peers and when you need a favor or assistance there's no need to have small talk, they will likely help you above and beyond what they would have otherwise.

This is worth it in the long run even though in the short term it could look like you talk too much. But when you start delivering in the clutch scenarios when you need to get stuff done you'll be glad you have so many peers that you've already developed rapport with.

Tip #3 - Work

Obviously you're being paid to work. I also mean work when you work. Work hard.