With the rapid technology change occurring today resulting in tremendous career opportunities, there are increasing stories of engineering professionals changing their careers. There is always a huge risk when you change – you could be currently working in a great job paying well and you decide to change because you perceive there are better opportunities and perhaps, more exciting technical challenges. There is certainly a huge amount of change occurring in the engineering and technology areas with the strong growth of artificial intelligence, machine learning, increasing use of software in every endeavour, Internet of Things, drones, autonomous cars…..the list goes on and on.
A few suggestions if you are in this position and thinking of change.
Carefully research the industry you are considering moving to. This means looking for real business trends in that industry – rising investment, major announcements, positive company results, share prices of companies and naturally job adverts. If there are only a few scattered announcements of growth in this area, there may be some unpleasant risks awaiting.
Examine Learning and Training Opportunities. Look for educational support for your move into these areas. Books, magazine articles, web sites and videos in this industry should be voraciously consumed on a daily basis. Courses presented by companies – generally in an online or very convenient classroom format are good. Or simply mentoring from colleagues working in this new area. The trick is also to gain some hands-on practical experience rather than simply theoretical knowledge. Traditional institutions may not always provide up-to-date educational support in new technology areas.
Use Synergies. You would surely have many skills from your current engineering career which you can build into your new one. Such as broad technical knowledge, quantitative skills and project management skills.
Getting into the New Industry. Look for ways of meeting up others working in this new industry. This means joining industry groups and networking with professionals working in this new area.
Put a Plan Together. This should be an action oriented plan over many months – perhaps as long as a year - on how to achieve your transition to your new career. Ensure you have full support from your family and friends – communicate carefully to them why this is going to benefit you and them. It is always hard to articulate these reasons but good to discuss with all and sundry.
Finally - build an outcome from your research, skills development and networking that enables you to be headhunted by a few high quality companies.
Amelia Earhart – that remarkable female aviator was quite right: The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.
Yours in engineering learning