Dear Colleagues

Although there is the inevitable hype about what an incredible economic year beckons us as we farewell the great recession, I have my reservations. I reckon things are going to remain challenging and that we are currently experiencing a paradigm shift which will effect how we work as engineering professionals. This is driven by a high level of unemployment, a shortage of capital, low profitability in companies, enormous debt weighing on all economies, China and India rapidly growing and the internet coming of age in all industries. In response we have to be flexible to maximise our career opportunities.

Over the past decade, I have observed some remarkable engineering career changes; Mike, an instrumentation engineer, had enormous experience in mining and alumina, but is now heading up a successful software design team for transport systems, Phil has moved from an advanced process control background to floating a top international mining company, John has set up a massively successful cell phone company after a successful data communications design career; Branden, a successful computer networking technician, has set up a company writing 3-d engineering software for mining applications and finally, Mike, who originally implemented electrical SCADA systems for an electrical utility is now designing and managing biomedical systems.

On the other hand, however, I have seen some remarkable career failures, especially with the dot com bomb in 2000 - some really good engineers and technicians got “wasted” by entering the web design and internet area where, at that time, there were no solid commercial benefits. In many cases their (often very interesting) jobs soon evaporated.

Suggestions:

* Look out for solid technology trends in your engineering area and investigate them
* Skill yourself up in these new areas by networking, reading, attending courses and getting on-the-job experience
* Look for areas which have solid commercial payoffs rather than blue sky opportunities
* Look at how you can add these new skills to your instruction set to benefit your firm
* If the job looks solid and there are real commercial benefits, then take it.

And in investigating new avenues for your career remember, Philip Crosby's injunction: ‘Very few of the great leaders ever get through their careers without failing, sometimes dramatically’.

Yours in engineering learning

Steve