Scott Decker fell in love with writing code in college. He had a brief foray as a mechanical engineer before becoming a software consultant. He blogs here, tweets here, and is emailed here. You can also find him on LinkedIn. If he’s not writing code, he’s probably exploring the closest mountain range with his wife and dog.
Why This ME Became a Software Consultant
Fifteen months ago this week, I started my new occupation as a technology consultant. I spent the previous 16 months in the R&D department of a thermoelectric company as a mechanical engineer. What would cause a mechanical engineer to unexpectedly quit his job and change industries entirely? This is my story.
I have three degrees from Dartmouth, all with the word "engineer" on them. None of them have the word “software” or “computer”. Nonetheless, every job offer I received after college involved writing code except the one I accepted. I wanted to give mechanical engineering its chance, to see if the industry could reproduce the culture I had found and loved during my time in school. Here is what I discovered and why I changed occupations to software consulting.
I'm impatient. We take the Predictive Index at my current employer and my overwhelming trait is low patience. Mechanical engineering works differently. The timelines are in years or decades. Prototypes could take weeks or months to arrive meaning the iterative process is at least that slow. Contrast: I'd go home at night and turn out a brand new feature on an app I was writing in a matter of hours. I could see results instantly. It was gratifying and addictive.
In engineering, I worked with mostly people in their 40s or 50s. No one was in a rush to get promoted and most were happy just to have a job. There were no misconceptions that we were doing anything cool that would change the world. We were mostly there just to design some new stuff and hope somebody bought it. Contrast: all my co-workers are my age. Our managers are in their 30s. Our Principals and VPs are in their 40s and 50s. This means I actually enjoy hanging out with my co-workers. We're similarly minded and career-driven. Our management arrived at their position because they were too, making them great resources. Additionally, we get to build some really cool stuff and, as a result, we're excited about what we do.
I had been working at my engineering company for 16 months. My direct manager had been there for 10 years. His manager had been there for 35 years. Needless to say, I wasn't going anywhere fast. The path before me was to take cost of living increases for years until someone retired and then we all moved up. Contrast: I'm up for promotion every 12 months. My promotions are based on my performance, not the actions of someone else. My earning potential and the demand for my skills are both much greater.
You combine these three things and you get drastically different cultures. I still love mechanical engineering, but more in the pure sense rather than the industry implementation. If you're thinking about what to major in, choosing your first job, or contemplating a career change, think through these three things and what culture best fits you. For me, I’ve found software consulting to be a perfect blend of consistency and new challenges, security and new opportunities. I get to work with great people solving hard problems for interesting clients and it’s hard to ask more from a job than that.