April 7th, 2015


what I'd do all day

ironphoenix asked me this question in another entry: Would you go back to non-managerial engineering if it paid the same as your current salary?

that's complicated. at first glance I thought oh god yes in a second.

then I thought about it and realized some other things.

First, last week I kinda did get to do just that. Another program needed help making some due dates, they called for all hands on deck to write reports. I did not quite get to abandon my entire post like some people did... but I was asked to step back from things, and work some extra hours, and just sit and write a report. I haven't done that in a while. It was kinda awesome. Put on headphones, look at a relatively simple system where I was familiar with all the resources, spend 2-3 hours at a time on a single task.

The week before, a lot of people were out so I got a call from the line with a troubleshooting question. I grabbed some new guys and we walked out to the airplane armed with schematics and we pointed out an issue and pressed some extra buttons just to remind ourselves how everything work and learn some things and say we'd pressed those buttons, and it was awesome. anything that involves touching the airplane is awesome.

so in a way, I haven't ever left what I was doing, I just have more of a mix now. more schedules, meetings, determining priorities, weird questions about the feasibility of off the wall ideas, fighting for resources. I like mixes, that's always been my favorite part of working where I do, that it changes every day.

I think back to 3-4 years ago and I was frustrated sometimes. I'd have an idea, but didn't know where to go with it. That's the thing about being an individual contributor... you're not really given time to fight for stuff.

within a few months of getting my first team to lead I realized that suddenly, it was part of my job to raise the flags so we could all do the right things for people. and yes that's kind of every engineers' job, but when you get to see more projects the flags are bigger. you are entitled to get the information you need to determine "is this a big deal?"

In most engineering departments there's a good technical path that will get you earning just as much money as the managers. It's usually related to having some big test or certificate under your belt. You get to be a sage up on a mountain where people just bring you documents and ideas and ask if they're good or bad. So yes I could have gone for that. But that wouldn't have been simple either. Nobody gets to go back to their old job, nobody gets to stay in the same place and not be challenged. And as engineers we wouldn't want that anyway, that's the point of what we do, you can have the "same" job 30 years and still be slammed by strange new things all the time.

I like helping people and looking for ways to develop new engineers. I like meeting new people in different departments and figuring out how we're all going to help each other. And as I said, I really like doing something different every day. So even when the job feels overwhelming and totally out of my comfort zone, that's got to by my place. I can't be comfortable and happy for very long.

I've said before that there are lots of things I like to do... sewing, writing code, reading to toddlers, getting a pedicure, etc. But when it comes to things I'd want to take on for 40+ hours a week, every week? The only thing I've found so far is my job.