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Advice for a mechanical engineer turned mathematician?

  1. Apr 29, 2015 #1
    I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 2014 and I have had my job for a year now.

    I absolutely hate it, I am a manufacturing engineer, but I don't feel like I use the skills I learned at school at all, I have these little projects that I get do every once in a while but they never go anywhere. My daily routine consist of nothing but maintenance support, doing research on cost analysis, and the little more "advance' work consist of analysing build plans which include how to deal with the real world big parts that flex over a distance.

    In my company they gave no foundation of what they do, you have to understand everything on your own based on listening to other's conversation, trying to understand what they do why they do in documents (which they don't give a reason "why" they do certain things, in the document they just say that's what they are doing), asking questions that result in ambiguous answers.

    I barely do any design, I use CAD software to look up models and analyze them sometimes but I don't do anything major with them. I feel miserable at work, the money is good for a 22 yo. but I just can't handle the level of bordem and the lack of sense of duty at this job.

    I know that this is not the experience for every ME out there, but my terrible experience as well as my interest in mathematics has compelled me to applied for a 2nd bachelor degree in mathematics hoping that academia would be a more situatble environment for me.

    What do you guys think? Mathematicians, graduates, and MEs?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2015 #2


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    To the OP:

    I have a few questions:

    (1) Have you tried speaking to your manager that you are not being challenged enough? Have you tried talking with the other engineers in your group about opportunities for other projects you could work on? It's possible that as a relatively new employee, people may not always be aware that you're there to learn and grow into the job. So make sure people know you're there!

    (2) In your current company, what is the route for advancement? Are there other engineering jobs available that you could possibly apply to? It may be a good idea to look into other positions internally that could be more up your alley.

    (3) Have you looked into other companies for engineering positions? The type job you have isn't the only type available for MEs -- perhaps you just chose the wrong company, and a different organization (say, a start-up, perhaps), may be better suited to you.

    I personally think that before you decide to switch fields, you may want to look at your answers to the questions I posed above, because it sounds to me that what you're looking for is a challenging and interesting work environment -- not necessarily a change in field. It may turn out that you may end up getting better opportunities to more fully utilize your ME education, so I would suggest to at least to see what else is out there.

    If you decide that you still wish to explore your interest in mathematics and apply for a second bachelor in mathematics, I would say go for it, but be prepared to put in a lot of work to bring yourself up to speed (since the math that is taught will be quite different from what you've been exposed to thus far). Also, keep in mind that careers in academia are highly competitive (if you even want to work in that area), so be prepared to have a backup plan.
  4. Apr 29, 2015 #3

    Thanks for your reply

    (1) I have, but what I realize is that in the department I work at (It's a big company) most people don't do much "innovation", since the products have already been design, which is how I got this job in the first place, whatever's to do in my company is really just sustaining work and any innovation occur in improving the manufacturing process. Which I have come to realize that it is not something I want to do, I want to be a product designer, but not just designing fixture and simple mechanical parts, but dynamical systems design and analysis, so you might be right, maybe it is only the job that I am working in doesn't interest me, I have applied to a pretty competitive school so it is not certain rather or not I will be admitted , hence I have been applying for jobs that interest me.

    (2)there are lots you can do, which is why I have also been exploring opportunities within the company in different departments for more options, but as i said the real job market is in the manfucaturing engineering field right now so the jobs im seeking are probably not hiring at the moment.

    (3) Yes I have, and that is probably the "backup" plan you are referring to in case I don't get accepted into school again.

    I do have a really high interest and I have shown promise in mathematics in the past, I am well aware of the difference in natrue of engienering math and pure math, and I must say I am looking at something in between, something that's practical , applied mathematics perhaps.
  5. Apr 29, 2015 #4


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    What? You thought you'd be in charge by now? You've still got a lot to learn, about your job and about your profession. They only teach you enough in school to get into trouble in the real world.

    This is called "gaining experience". Have you thought that maybe your employers are trying to size you up, by giving you some simple tasks to complete before turning you loose on more advanced work?

    Remember, the only thing you brought to the workplace when you took this job was your college grades. Your employer knows very little about how well you understood what you studied in school and is trying to see if you have the drive and desire to prove that you want to do a good job. From your comments so far, I would have my doubts about this.

    Every engineer goes through this phase during his or her first job. It's not like your experience is unusual or atypical.

    If the answers you get to your questions are ambiguous, do you ask follow up questions? Do you do any research on your own to find out the answers, separate from the discussions you have with your managers and other co-workers?

    In any job, there is going to be a certain amount of routine work that needs to be done, stuff that no one questions in depth.

    Boredom can occur in many jobs at different times. Few engineering outfits will turn green engineers loose on doing major design work unless they have no alternative, or are able to assign a senior engineer to supervise, which is unlikely, since the senior engineers probably already have many other duties to attend to.

    It's not clear how you "know" that your experience as a junior engineer is not typical of most in the field.

    So, instead of sticking with your present career, which by your own admission pays well for someone just out of school with zero experience, you want to chuck it into the dustbin, go back to school and train for a largely academic career whose job prospects, not to mention salary, are probably going to be worse than those in your present profession?

    Even in academia, the junior math professor gets the scut work, teaching introductory classes, grading papers, and such. You have to put in your time before you get considered for a full professorship, and then you'll probably have to wait for one of the senior professors to leave the faculty before a position opens up (See: tenure).
  6. Apr 29, 2015 #5


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    To be fair to the OP, I don't think he/she was expecting to be in charge right away, but I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to be challenged in his/her job at least some, if not most, of the time (my first job out of grad school as a statistician was a lot of things, but one thing it wasn't was boring). Now I agree with you that part of the onus would be on the employee to seek further opportunities to grow within the job and take on new challenges, and doing so shows the employer that the new employee is taking initiative.
  7. Apr 29, 2015 #6

    Thank you for your reply. That's some tough love right there :)

    I think people have told me about the same thing you are telling me, however, after talking to many of my fellow graduates, the nature of what we do are just very different, most of my friends are actually enjoying what they are doing , be it in design, stress analysis or even just drafting, they seem to be using what they learn in college at the very least, while what I mostly do, while involve some thinking, they are tasks that can be easily accomplished withotu a college degree in engineernig.

    Now I understand that every companies are different, which is why I have been looking at other opportunities. That certainly does not imply I have not been working hard at my current job, I ask for more task whenever I can, but 1 by1 they are just tasks such as " go call the supplier to see if there's spare parts for this", or "talk to this guy and refer him to the right person in the company to do the job". I am more or less a "middle man", but even as a middle man, I swear to god I study every machinary they have given me and do my best to be "nosey" and give feedbacks whenever I can, often time my employers appreciate my feedback, sometimes they utilize them sometimes they don't, but my point is that with the task I am working on , I don't see what I am learning in the process that will make me a better engineer for what I want to do, despite how proactive I have been in learning as much as I can.

    What kind of jobs do you have? Do you mind sharing your experience as well?
  8. Apr 29, 2015 #7


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    Right now, I'm a self-employed consultant.

    I trained as a naval architect and worked my whole career in that field. I spent a lot of my early work experience being the guy who held the clip board and took down measurements and what not. It was only after many years that I got to design anything, but I had a lot of varied experiences before then, and a lot of stuff which was stone cold boring, to say the least.

    Mechanical Engineers can utilize their talents and training in a lot of different jobs. Perhaps this first job you have is not particularly interesting to you, or it seems dull when compared to the jobs that your fellow classmates landed after graduation.

    Still, to me, it seems a bit extreme to decide to prematurely end your engineering career and start over on the career treadmill by switching professions from engineer to academic.

    There may be other engineering jobs available which might be more satisfying to you than your current job. I would investigate changing jobs before changing careers.
  9. Apr 30, 2015 #8
    I know exactly how you feel. Most large companies are like this. I do paperwork all day and during my employee evaluation I explained to my boss that I enjoy big picture projects and digging deep into a problem. So far most of my work has been boring to the point of depressing, but at the same time I derive a lot of my self worth out of the work I do. Not everyone needs an interesting job to be happy. I too have thought about leaving engineering. I really loved what I learned in school.

    I am not sure I can give you advice, as I am in your position. Just know you aren't alone.
  10. May 2, 2015 #9

    What kind of company are you working at? I personally just cannot handle bordem at work, I listen the fun and challenge i had in school.
  11. May 2, 2015 #10
    I work for a defence contractor.
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