Getting Discouraged in my Engineering Job, Pondering a Career Change

In summary, a new graduate's experience in a startup may be good, but it is not typical for a startup to hire a new graduate. A new graduate should pursue a career in an established company where the environment is less stressful.
  • #36
aspiringeng123 said:
I haven't read any books on the subject but, and excuse my ignorance if I am incorrect, I imagine the gist of them goes as follows:

1. Break down the larger problem into smaller, more manageable parts.
2. Break down these manageable parts into known and unknown categories. For the knowns, use previous experience to assign some time.
3. For the unknowns, consult external resources or people who may be able to provide further assistance.
4. Repeat until each milestone is completed and the project is eventually done.

Here is the problem with this:

Almost always when I think a project may need more time based on this approach, I am told there is not enough time allotted. So right off the bat, my estimate is reduced to a more aggressive timeline that I feel uncomfortable meeting. With more senior people with more experience, again there are fewer unknowns, so this uncertainty is not as prevalent.

Basically I am always nudged toward the under estimate, on the argument of business and budget requirements, creating much pressure upon me. However, this is not necessarily a bad management approach . There is one guy who is a genius who I work with who can meet any deadline and is truly much faster than me. Of course, being a genius, I wouldn't need to ask these questions. He is the shining star of the team and if there were a way to clone him I'm sure that management could.

I think, again, it just boils down to how good you are, less so than some particular project management techniques. However, I will heed your advice and look for some books to read.
That is part of the benefit of PM. But it also gives you an overview of all the sides of doing business and how these ( should) come together to finish a plan or design a product. Hopefully, having a better idea, understanding of the issues involved will help you estimate your time needs more accurately.
 
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  • #37
One thing that served me very well in my industry jobs was resolving never to be the bottleneck - never to be the guy whose contributions were causing a schedule to slip. Yes, this resolution required some 60 hour work weeks, especially in my first year with new companies.

But the pay-off was I was able to make requests for double digit raises and was always promoted ahead of schedule.

I also learned never to say I couldn't meet a deadline, but to ask for what I needed to do it on time. If you can clearly articulate what you need to meet deadlines, then it is their fault if they can't provide it. But if they give you everything you say you need, then it is your job to deliver.
 
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  • #38
To reiterate what Dale suggested, learning PM may give you a better idea on how the parts of a project come together, which may help you make more careful and accurate time estimates.
 
  • #39
Dr. Courtney said:
One thing that served me very well in my industry jobs was resolving never to be the bottleneck - never to be the guy whose contributions were causing a schedule to slip. Yes, this resolution required some 60 hour work weeks, especially in my first year with new companies.

But the pay-off was I was able to make requests for double digit raises and was always promoted ahead of schedule.

I also learned never to say I couldn't meet a deadline, but to ask for what I needed to do it on time. If you can clearly articulate what you need to meet deadlines, then it is their fault if they can't provide it. But if they give you everything you say you need, then it is your job to deliver.

I agree with you that if a particular deadline is important, then the onus is on us to clearly state what is necessary to meet that deadline.

At the same time, there are situations where you may be asked how much time a given project will take, without a firm deadline being decided as of yet. In that circumstance, then it is important to provide estimates of how much time the project will take, given the current level of resources available to you and not taking overly optimistic assumptions.

A subtle difference, but worth pointing out.
 
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  • #40
aspiringeng123 said:
Hi everyone,

I hope I can articulate what I'm thinking, as I'm unsure if this is specifically an "engineering job" problem or a job in general problem.

I graduated with a BSEE, got an MS right after, and have worked in two companies so far. I had a pretty good gpa for both, over 3.6, so I think I am somewhat competent although of course not a superstar. The first was a start up that promised a lot of things but in reality ended up turning out to be a lot different. Deadlines were very tight, and daily standups for "progress" turned out more to be like daily grilling sessions, followed by frequent inquiries as to "when is it going to get done". I endured this environment for a bit because I thought that this is just how things are, and I need to expect it, but it was really taking a toll on my stress and health levels. I then went to a more established company, but still small compared to the big semiconductor and software names everyone knows about, and things were much different in the beginning.

However, over time, I noticed that things began to evolve more to how things were at the startup I was at. There was little to no guidance for novel problems, and expectations that they were to be done quickly. I was pestered frequently to give estimates to things that I really had no idea how to accurately estimate, and ended up just making up times, only to have me questioned as to why the project was running late thereafter.

Looking online, it seems that this is becoming more and more common in engineering, of a pressure cooker type scenario where employers attempt to squeeze as much as they can out of their employees. I'll admit I'm not the best or smartest engineer as well, but I do try, although both work environments have not been very great in terms of willingness to help from my colleagues, as they are knee deep in their own problems as well.

Nevertheless, I am getting a bit tired of the stress and pressure and am looking at a career change, but I'm thinking first maybe going to a larger, brand name company would be better just to see if things are different. However, it's my understanding that even at companies like Amazon, Microsoft, etc., stress and pressure is very high, at least for the highly technical groups.

Does anyone have any advice for me, or has been through a similar thought process? I would be looking maybe for some more writing intensive or business side type roles, not so much for the "get xyz feature of widget x working in two days" roles.

It is a pity because I am quite interested in Engineering, and enjoyed my time as a student learning many new things. However I am finding that working as an engineer and studying to be one are very, very different things. So I don't know if I'm more suited to being sort of a hobbyist where I can learn things at my own pace.
It sounds like you're working at "cool" companies. Maybe aim for a boring, time-tested company. EE should get you a job in any market, no matter where you are.

I'm an IT recruiter now, but I used to recruit EE and ME grads for heavy equip manufacturing in the Chicagoland and Metro Detroit areas. These aren't sexy start-up jobs, but they usually come with less stress both in terms of management pressure as well as job security.
 
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