Job Title: Engineering Manager
Type of Company: My current company provides coating and welding services for gas turbine engine airfoils. These coatings provide oxidation and hot corrosion resistance to the turbine blades and vanes during jet engine operation.
Education: BS, Materials Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute MS, Materials Science, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Previous Experience: My first job was as an R&D engineer for an aerospace conglomerate but I later took a job at a small, start-up business, with a focus on the manufacture of advanced coatings for gas turbine engine airfoils.
Job Tasks: As the Engineering Manager in our small facility, I have many different roles to play during the course of the working day. Our day begins with a morning meeting, where the plant leadership team briefly reviews all aspects of our activity for the past 24 hours and the day ahead.
After the morning meeting, I meet with my engineering team to review their latest results and the status of their projects, and then we discuss the steps they'll pursue in the days ahead. Our engineering activities typically focus on qualifying new part numbers or processes for manufacturing application, or on process improvements, or on solving process and quality problems that have plagued us. My key role is to support them in the technical activities, provide input & assistance in overcoming barriers to success, and also keep them on task in meeting the goal(s) of the projects they are working on.
After my meetings, I walk the shop to see what is going on; I ask questions of the shop associates regarding their activities and issues, and I answer their questions about all aspects of the business.
Other parts of my day include discussions with suppliers and customers. In a smaller facility such as ours, I am exposed to all aspects of our business. All of these activities require "people skills". I do not sit in my office isolated from all activities. I have constant interactions with all of the stakeholders in our business each day.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job are the daily interactions with my colleagues. We have a camaraderie that's very pleasant and we want to be successful as a team. I also enjoy solving problems. Getting to the root of an issue is often challenging and difficult, but when the cause has been identified and the problem's been solved it feels great.
Dealing with people is both the best part and the worst part of the job. Although most of my dealings are fun and productive, there will always be a few people who are difficult to deal with, and are often roadblocks to success. How you learn to deal with them will be critical to your career and personal development.
Job Tips: If you would like to be a successful engineer, then I recommend that you find a college or university engineering program that interests you. Enjoy your years in college but keep your focus on your goals. Consider post-graduate education to enhance your skills.
When interviewing for employment, always learn as much as you can about the company you are interviewing. Ask questions during the interview, and be prepared to discuss your prior experience on projects and programs, including situations where there were problems to be solved and what your role was in solving said problems.
Everywhere you go, find a mentor who is willing to share his experiences with you. This is more than just someone "showing you the ropes"; it is about your continuing education as an adult and as a leader.
Additional Thoughts: Be open-minded to the possibilities before you. Avoid pre-conceived notions and certainties or you will be disappointed throughout your journey. Learn every day, and find the right mentors at each stage of your career. Listen before you speak, and acknowledge everyone's opinions and perspectives before sharing your thoughts. And finally, have fun at what you do most every day.
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