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Old 05-07-2019, 06:17 PM   #15
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One comment on all of that.
The likelyhood of ever reaching a level of engineering where you can work on “whatever project you want” is probably a little less probable that getting hit by lightning. Even the top people in their field rarely get to pick what they work on.
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Old 05-07-2019, 06:43 PM   #16
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I really don't have much to share regarding how to start. I more or less attacked it ass backwards after realizing I couldn't make a living working at a lumber yard. Parents never went to school, basically none of my family did, so I didn't know where to go/what to do for higher education. Plus I was broke. It obviously sounds like you are interested in mechanical/electrical work .. as am I. We share a lot of interests and skills, so I will share how I got to where I am today doing what I really enjoy.

I attended a vocational school during my time in high school [03-07] working with AutoCAD doing mechanical drafting and design - things like gears, cams, timing, hinges, etc. This is where I really started getting into cars, tearing things apart and learning how stuff works which built an incredible foundation for the future I think. Very hands on approach and I 100% do not regret it, however, this led to a very early career continuing to do AutoCAD work [which I absolutely loathe now].

I went to a community college right out of high school to continue mechanical engineering but dropped out after the first year. I am not a school person at all. Not even close. I tested out of the drafting class [which was basically the only thing I was interested in] so the only classes left were things I didn't really care about. Complete waste of time and it got me really discouraged.

Fast forward a few years after working a couple different jobs detailing cars for body shops and dealerships [another awesome experience I don't regret. I learned an incredible amount about car repair and paint] I decided to go back to college but this time It was a technical college [New England Institute of Technology] in Rhode island, however, I switched my career path to electrical after gaining interested doing stereos, house wiring and other hobby stuff. It was an extremely fast paced 18 month program that would essentially get you ready to be an electrician. I learned everything from the NFPA code, electrical theory, entire house circuitry, solar panel equipment, pipe bending, motor controls [this is key], transformers, OSHA, reading wiring diagrams, you name it. Every class got me more and more interested - I thought I would become a good electrician. Teachers all saw I did really good work, made sure wiring was neat, labels, everything They could see I was passionate doing what I like. This eventually led to an apprenticeship job with a master electrician.

Again, I think I went about this all wrong - he was self employed and took me on as extra help but paid cash, which was both good and bad for obvious reasons. This only lasted about a year until the work suddenly stopped. Then he told me none of my hours would count towards getting a journeyman's license. Like, the whole goal of being an apprentice was to gain experience and work your way up to be a master licensed electrician. Again, discouraged .. looked for more work, tried to join the IBEW union but they were very slow with every step of the process but eventually told me there was a hiring freeze.

Took a job at a car wash for a year, made really good money as the head detailer, but eventually got sick of having constant shoulder pain. This is where I started to get desperate. I collectively took what I knew and made the most incredible bullshit resume and threw it out to a hundred employers and eventually landed my first "career" job at a telecommunications company doing .. yes you guessed it, AutoCAD work. I don't even want to get into it - the monotonous office lifestyle, dressing up to impress people you don't care about, fake smiles, it's all bullshit everywhere you go and this continued for two years until I started working for a government sub contractor doing AutoCAD work yet again. Only this time it paid more! The company was so big. I felt like a grain of sand of the beach. Like walking through NYC - everybody is just doing there own thing, heads down into phone walking by, fake friends, fake laughs, getting in with the higher-ups for a promotion, cliques, just like high school. That only lasted for two years until I literally said fuck it, I need to go back to school and get a bachelors degree. I worked at that company two years - the last year I was going to school full time. Work was an hour away in another state, carpool with a bunch of smelly people in a van because it was cheaper than driving, but man was it so fucking depressing.

The bachelors program I attended was for Electrical Engineering at New England Tech. I did so bad in my associates program [only in classes like math, writing, research, you know, all the bullshit classes] that I literally had to write a letter to the dean begging for acceptance into the BS program. I more or less explained what you just read above and without much hesitation he let me in. This was, yet again, an ass backwards approach. So as you can see, I had quite a big gap between my AS and BS - about 5 years. It really sucked having to relearn everything again. On top of that, I never learned any of the circuit analysis stuff or any of the hardcore math that a typical engineering course would require because I was in the "electrical" program, not the "electronics." The electrical program was a more of a hands on approach whereas the electronics really focused on math and analysis. I digress ..

What really grabbed my attention in the BS program were PLCs, and how they are able to be programmed to control things like motors, pumps, actuators, solenoids, sensors, indicators - Mechanical things that an entire system or plant would be compromised of. On top that, there is a communication layer [radio telemetry, EthernetIP, Serial, Modbus, Profinet, ControlNet, etc] which really got my attention because I've always wanted to learn more about networking and how devices communicate. Plus I am a big computer nerd. And to tie that all together, there is a graphical layer used to talk to/from these devices called SCADA. I did so well in these classes that the department head picked me for an internship at what is one of the largest environmental engineering firms in the NorthEast region. This opportunity really inspired me - something I was actually good at and felt gratitude towards.

So at this new company, I worked as an intern at the ripe age of 26 [lol] and took a fairly large pay cut. But in the end it worked out and they hired me full time and bumped me up with a nice raise. I was working in the instrumentation and controls group programming these PLCs to be used in water and wastewater treatment facilities, writing scrips for SCADA setting up computers, configuring comms, field service work in control panels, testing, remote support, troubleshooting motors/drives/controls, visiting plants for routine maintenance, you name it. It was literally the perfect job. A perfect mix between everything and I never got bored. What really did it in was the traveling - keep that in mind. Sometimes I would drive 600+ miles in my personal vehicle for work, after getting to work. This eventually led me to my next career two years later.

Fast forward to today: I now work for a system integration company as an industrial controls engineer in the same water/wastewater field. I am responsible for control panel layout & design, PLC programming, HMI/SCADA programming, telemetry, and basically make sure everything is supposed to work as planned. We interface a lot with older systems by doing retrofits. For example, we may install new AC/DC drives depending on the motor/pumps along with the control systems, and keep the old PLC. So we have to spec that out, bid, and make sure it's going to work with the existing hardware [mechanical background coming through], along with actually going out to commission the equipment. One of the large projects I am actively bouncing back and forth from right now is for a main lift station. This station collectively receives water and wastewater from surrounding pump stations, pre-treats it, then pumps it to the main plant to be completely treated. The entire station received bypass pumps because it's completely shut down at the moment. The building should have just been torn down because everything is being wiped out and redone. I was responsible for engineering a new redundant control system for 4 pumps that will essentially run itself. Everything from new level transducers, floats, temp sensors, chem sensors, flow meters, analog signals for motor speed control, EthernetIP control to new AC drives, power monitors, alarming system, SCADA, computers, everything. I've spent an incredible amount of time on this project so far and we haven't even commissioned anything yet. As you can see, there are many different kinds of engineers. The path I took does a bit of everything. I wear a lot of different hats when I'm on-site. You need to be ready to input or make suggestions. Don't become stagnant and most importantly, never stop learning. My goal this year was to learn something new every day - even if it is as simple as a new sub-menu in a piece of industrial software that I never knew existed. You never know if you will need it some day.



Finally, the water treatment process is incredibly simple [filters, chemicals, mixers, aeration, etc] but there are so many different ways to fuck up you would have no idea. I love riding on that edge and seeing it all come together in the end as the anxiety blows over. That's what keeps me going. That, and track day.



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Old 05-07-2019, 06:57 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Jesse36m3 View Post
I really don't have much to share regarding how to start. I more or less attacked it ass backwards after realizing I couldn't make a living working at a lumber yard. Parents never went to school, basically none of my family did, so I didn't know where to go/what to do for higher education. Plus I was broke. It obviously sounds like you are interested in mechanical/electrical work .. as am I. We share a lot of interests and skills, so I will share how I got to where I am today doing what I really enjoy.

I attended a vocational school during my time in high school [03-07] working with AutoCAD doing mechanical drafting and design - things like gears, cams, timing, hinges, etc. This is where I really started getting into cars, tearing things apart and learning how stuff works which built an incredible foundation for the future I think. Very hands on approach and I 100% do not regret it, however, this led to a very early career continuing to do AutoCAD work [which I absolutely loathe now].

I went to a community college right out of high school to continue mechanical engineering but dropped out after the first year. I am not a school person at all. Not even close. I tested out of the drafting class [which was basically the only thing I was interested in] so the only classes left were things I didn't really care about. Complete waste of time and it got me really discouraged.

Fast forward a few years after working a couple different jobs detailing cars for body shops and dealerships [another awesome experience I don't regret. I learned an incredible amount about car repair and paint] I decided to go back to college but this time It was a technical college [New England Institute of Technology] in Rhode island, however, I switched my career path to electrical after gaining interested doing stereos, house wiring and other hobby stuff. It was an extremely fast paced 18 month program that would essentially get you ready to be an electrician. I learned everything from the NFPA code, electrical theory, entire house circuitry, solar panel equipment, pipe bending, motor controls [this is key], transformers, OSHA, reading wiring diagrams, you name it. Every class got me more and more interested - I thought I would become a good electrician. Teachers all saw I did really good work, made sure wiring was neat, labels, everything They could see I was passionate doing what I like. This eventually led to an apprenticeship job with a master electrician.

Again, I think I went about this all wrong - he was self employed and took me on as extra help but paid cash, which was both good and bad for obvious reasons. This only lasted about a year until the work suddenly stopped. Then he told me none of my hours would count towards getting a journeyman's license. Like, the whole goal of being an apprentice was to gain experience and work your way up to be a master licensed electrician. Again, discouraged .. looked for more work, tried to join the IBEW union but they were very slow with every step of the process but eventually told me there was a hiring freeze.

Took a job at a car wash for a year, made really good money as the head detailer, but eventually got sick of having constant shoulder pain. This is where I started to get desperate. I collectively took what I knew and made the most incredible bullshit resume and threw it out to a hundred employers and eventually landed my first "career" job at a telecommunications company doing .. yes you guessed it, AutoCAD work. I don't even want to get into it - the monotonous office lifestyle, dressing up to impress people you don't care about, fake smiles, it's all bullshit everywhere you go and this continued for two years until I started working for a government sub contractor doing AutoCAD work yet again. Only this time it paid more! The company was so big. I felt like a grain of sand of the beach. Like walking through NYC - everybody is just doing there own thing, heads down into phone walking by, fake friends, fake laughs, getting in with the higher-ups for a promotion, cliques, just like high school. That only lasted for two years until I literally said fuck it, I need to go back to school and get a bachelors degree. I worked at that company two years - the last year I was going to school full time. Work was an hour away in another state, carpool with a bunch of smelly people in a van because it was cheaper than driving, but man was it so fucking depressing.

The bachelors program I attended was for Electrical Engineering at New England Tech. I did so bad in my associates program [only in classes like math, writing, research, you know, all the bullshit classes] that I literally had to write a letter to the dean begging for acceptance into the BS program. I more or less explained what you just read above and without much hesitation he let me in. This was, yet again, an ass backwards approach. So as you can see, I had quite a big gap between my AS and BS - about 5 years. It really sucked having to relearn everything again. On top of that, I never learned any of the circuit analysis stuff or any of the hardcore math that a typical engineering course would require because I was in the "electrical" program, not the "electronics." The electrical program was a more of a hands on approach whereas the electronics really focused on math and analysis. I digress ..

What really grabbed my attention in the BS program were PLCs, and how they are able to be programmed to control things like motors, pumps, actuators, solenoids, sensors, indicators - Mechanical things that an entire system or plant would be compromised of. On top that, there is a communication layer [radio telemetry, EthernetIP, Serial, Modbus, Profinet, ControlNet, etc] which really got my attention because I've always wanted to learn more about networking and how devices communicate. Plus I am a big computer nerd. And to tie that all together, there is a graphical layer used to talk to/from these devices called SCADA. I did so well in these classes that the department head picked me for an internship at what is one of the largest environmental engineering firms in the NorthEast region. This opportunity really inspired me - something I was actually good at and felt gratitude towards.

So at this new company, I worked as an intern at the ripe age of 26 [lol] and took a fairly large pay cut. But in the end it worked out and they hired me full time and bumped me up with a nice raise. I was working in the instrumentation and controls group programming these PLCs to be used in water and wastewater treatment facilities, writing scrips for SCADA setting up computers, configuring comms, field service work in control panels, testing, remote support, troubleshooting motors/drives/controls, visiting plants for routine maintenance, you name it. It was literally the perfect job. A perfect mix between everything and I never got bored. What really did it in was the traveling - keep that in mind. Sometimes I would drive 600+ miles in my personal vehicle for work, after getting to work. This eventually led me to my next career two years later.

Fast forward to today: I now work for a system integration company as an industrial controls engineer in the same water/wastewater field. I am responsible for control panel layout & design, PLC programming, HMI/SCADA programming, telemetry, and basically make sure everything is supposed to work as planned. We interface a lot with older systems by doing retrofits. For example, we may install new AC/DC drives depending on the motor/pumps along with the control systems, and keep the old PLC. So we have to spec that out, bid, and make sure it's going to work with the existing hardware [mechanical background coming through], along with actually going out to commission the equipment. One of the large projects I am actively bouncing back and forth from right now is for a main lift station. This station collectively receives water and wastewater from surrounding pump stations, pre-treats it, then pumps it to the main plant to be completely treated. The entire station received bypass pumps because it's completely shut down at the moment. The building should have just been torn down because everything is being wiped out and redone. I was responsible for engineering a new redundant control system for 4 pumps that will essentially run itself. Everything from new level transducers, floats, temp sensors, chem sensors, flow meters, analog signals for motor speed control, EthernetIP control to new AC drives, power monitors, alarming system, SCADA, computers, everything. I've spent an incredible amount of time on this project so far and we haven't even commissioned anything yet. As you can see, there are many different kinds of engineers. The path I took does a bit of everything. I wear a lot of different hats when I'm on-site. You need to be ready to input or make suggestions. Don't become stagnant and most importantly, never stop learning. My goal this year was to learn something new every day - even if it is as simple as a new sub-menu in a piece of industrial software that I never knew existed. You never know if you will need it some day.






Is there a character limit to posts here?
Apparently not
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Old 05-07-2019, 07:30 PM   #18
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I read your entire post but of note...


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Originally Posted by Jesse36m3 View Post
Finally, the water treatment process is incredibly simple [filters, chemicals, mixers, aeration, etc] but there are so many different ways to fuck up you would have no idea. I love riding on that edge and seeing it all come together in the end as the anxiety blows over. That's what keeps me going. That, and track day.
I spent 6 years as a Navy Nuclear Machinist Mate,we can talk 'bout high quality h two oh

Its interesting you brought up PLC boards, I had a guy at Cubic (?) approach me on the idea of doing courses with that and computer software engineering because theres alot of DoD related jobs that need persons who can do exactly what you do, we got talking about that and Link and sorta buddied up but I havent re-reached out to him.
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Old 05-07-2019, 09:13 PM   #19
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Skimmed prior posts, imho they're missing a big difference between pursuing an engineering degree and a technician qualification.

If you're truly interested in a B.S. in Mechatronics Engineering (basically 2/3rds of an electrical engineering degree and 2/3rds of a mechanical engineering degree plus your general education, yes that's more than 100% of a degree) from a respected school that teaches the theoretical fundamentals of the subject matter: be good at math. And not decimals and long division and figuring out what the percentage off sale means in your head. I mean multi-variable calculus, sequences and series, linear algebra, Euler, fourier transforms, and most importantly differential equations. They're pivotal to understanding what's really going on when you're developing a controller and need to pinpoint an instability in the system and correct it before you blow tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a mistake. The stress analysis, thermal analysis, aerodynamic analysis, electromagnetic analysis you're telling a computer to run (or telling someone else to run) is driven by fundamental principles of math, physics, and computing. Being blind to those factors will put a ceiling on what you can accomplish and will be necessary to work "whatever project you want".

Yes most people will go through the pain of learning those things and will never use it on a regular basis, using it to just pick on junior engineers when they feel like it. The great minds understand how it applies to everything they do and will use those skills to make good judgments at ridiculous speeds. This isn't me putting up a roadblock, this is a very real qualification needed for high caliber engineering imho. There are schools that are more hands on, industries that follow 'build and test' rather than develop the hell out of something on paper for a year before funding gets approved. But on the path to either ends of that spectrum of engineering you will have to take the aforementioned classes and have at least a base understanding of the rules of the universe.

Best of luck wherever you end up.
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Old 05-07-2019, 09:39 PM   #20
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One comment on all of that.
The likelyhood of ever reaching a level of engineering where you can work on “whatever project you want” is probably a little less probable that getting hit by lightning. Even the top people in their field rarely get to pick what they work on.
Not to go too far off-topic but...

I mean, I can't work on WHATEVER I want, but I do essentially get to pick what I work on. At the expense of seeming like an arrogant prick (which might be the case lol)...

-Within my job, I have a lot of leeway as long as I can tie my work back to some added value to [the departments goals], which is actually pretty easy. I also get a lot of opportunities to do side projects with other departments.
-Within my company, openings in various departments pop up an a regular basis, and it's a rather diverse company.
-And I'm fairly certain I can get a job working nearly any project in my current industry somewhere else if I really want to. There are also a few other industries I'm sure I could jump to.

My situation might be a bit unusual, but I figured I'd share it as a contrasting opinion.

Some random advice from my experience which might help with the working with people situation:
Success is not about what you know, or even who you know. Its about who you know that knows what you know. I was (un)lucky enough to be shuffled between 12 managers and 4 different teams in my first 4 years. Sucked for my career in the traditional sense come performance review time, but I worked with a ton of people and discovered a very simple formula. Understand the team, figure out what it is missing or needs to be more successful, then provide that to the team. Repeat.

I always go in assuming everyone is as smart or smarter than I am because they know how to do what they are doing better than I, the new guy, do. If you think they are wrong, seek to be swayed to their point of view as opposed to challenging them. What question do you need answered to see things their way (which takes practice and patience), or at least accept it for now. Sometimes they realize you are actually right.
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Old 05-08-2019, 01:51 AM   #21
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Not to go too far off-topic but...

….. At the expense of seeming like an arrogant prick …..
Well, THAT saves me from having to read the rest -




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Old 05-08-2019, 06:17 AM   #22
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Not to go too far off-topic but...

I mean, I can't work on WHATEVER I want, but I do essentially get to pick what I work on. At the expense of seeming like an arrogant prick (which might be the case lol)...

-Within my job, I have a lot of leeway as long as I can tie my work back to some added value to [the departments goals], which is actually pretty easy. I also get a lot of opportunities to do side projects with other departments.
-Within my company, openings in various departments pop up an a regular basis, and it's a rather diverse company.
-And I'm fairly certain I can get a job working nearly any project in my current industry somewhere else if I really want to. There are also a few other industries I'm sure I could jump to.

My situation might be a bit unusual, but I figured I'd share it as a contrasting opinion.

Some random advice from my experience which might help with the working with people situation:
Success is not about what you know, or even who you know. Its about who you know that knows what you know. I was (un)lucky enough to be shuffled between 12 managers and 4 different teams in my first 4 years. Sucked for my career in the traditional sense come performance review time, but I worked with a ton of people and discovered a very simple formula. Understand the team, figure out what it is missing or needs to be more successful, then provide that to the team. Repeat.

I always go in assuming everyone is as smart or smarter than I am because they know how to do what they are doing better than I, the new guy, do. If you think they are wrong, seek to be swayed to their point of view as opposed to challenging them. What question do you need answered to see things their way (which takes practice and patience), or at least accept it for now. Sometimes they realize you are actually right.
Working within a set of goals and doing whatever you want are not the same thing.
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Old 05-08-2019, 08:01 AM   #23
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Working within a set of goals and doing whatever you want are not the same thing.
The ability to change what those goals are fairly easily (changing jobs for example) gets it pretty damn close in my opinion.
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Old 05-08-2019, 08:10 AM   #24
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The ability to change what those goals are fairly easily (changing jobs for example) gets it pretty damn close in my opinion.
You have no management to OK the change? No budgets to work within? Are they really goals if you can change them (Oh that would be so nice)?
You may have some element of control over what you pick and chose to do but it is still far from doing "whatever you want".
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Old 05-08-2019, 09:59 AM   #25
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You have no management to OK the change? No budgets to work within? Are they really goals if you can change them (Oh that would be so nice)?
You may have some element of control over what you pick and chose to do but it is still far from doing "whatever you want".
No, I can't suddenly decide to draw unicorns and rainbows and charge the company for it if that's what you are referring to. But I'm not forced to work any particular thing. If someone here at my level of experience really wants to work on something different, management typically finds a way to make it happen. If they don't they inevitably lose that experience to a competitor who will pay them 20% more for similar work. I've seen both outcomes happen quite a few times. Not saying that is the case everywhere, but it does happen.
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Old 05-08-2019, 10:03 AM   #26
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No, I can't suddenly decide to draw unicorns and rainbows and charge the company for it if that's what you are referring to. But I'm not forced to work any particular thing. If someone here at my level of experience really wants to work on something different, management typically finds a way to make it happen. If they don't they inevitably lose that experience to a competitor who will pay them 20% more for similar work. I've seen both outcomes happen quite a few times. Not saying that is the case everywhere, but it does happen.
I rest my case.
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Old 05-08-2019, 10:07 AM   #27
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I rest my case.
While I'm still not entirely sure what case you were making, I am certainly glad it is resting now.

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Old 05-08-2019, 10:13 AM   #28
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While I'm still not entirely sure what case you were making, I am certainly glad it is resting now.

That there is no level of engineer that can do "whatever they want". Everybody answers to somebody. Sure you may express your preference but that is not the same as just doing it. Even CEOs of companies can't do "whatever they want".


I am sort of interested in a drawing of a unicorn and rainbow though. Maybe I will go assign an engineer to draw one up for me. "Hey Joe I have an urgent task for you..." Be worth asking just to see the look on their face.
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