Sunday, December 26, 2010

Don't Call It a Comeback

Well after a very long and boring absence from the blog, I have been itching to find something good to write about to try to revive the action. There were a few decent topics that might have stoked some interest, but honestly I just didn't prioritize writing a blog high enough on my "free-time" list. But with all the free time pondering that comes with the holidays/Jessi being out of town, I've decided that I am going to try to start posting more often to help inspire everyone else to bring back the glory days. Hopefully my posts will have some sustenance, but I'm sure some of the posts will be boring and will likely fetch some stupid comments from Prime.

My Current Career Debate

After working full time for a little over 2.5 years now, my career is getting close to shifting from being a peon to actually getting into developmental/leadership type positions. I am currently in my second position with the company (basically same exact role as my first job, just in a different part of the plant). These lateral moves are almost always the norm just to get young engineers a broader experience before making the next step. Typically the 3rd/4th position that an employee gets into (in the 3.5-5 year time frame) is the first step in developing them into their given career path. For my company, as I might have discussed with any of you at some given time, there are two dominant career "paths." Those paths are "management" and "technical."

The best way to describe these paths on a high level is: technical is everything that involves actual engineering/research/technical work; management is everything else (supervisors, HQ positions, managers, etc.). Almost every position in the company is filled by an engineer, so the qualifications (if you will) for a given path have nothing to do with degree. The only thing that is actually beneficial is to have an advanced degree if you go into a research-oriented technical role.

My current dilemma is which path I want to take.

The difference of the two paths is probably exactly what you can imagine. The "technical" path tends to be more laid back/low stress work which is more behind the scenes. Said path uses their degree and engineering knowledge everyday and their performance is directly related to the results of the work they produce. With that being said, you have to be able to persuade people to actually listen to you as the technical employee, because frankly it is going to be someone else's ass on the line.

The "managerial" path is responsible for making the tough decisions, developing employees, being PC, making good impressions, etc. With these things, the jobs tend to be more stressful. It is worth noting that the "business" positions in the company tend to be filled my the management path people. These employees will use their technical background (school and entry level positions) to sort through any BS that people try to throw at them, but that is about all it is utilized for. These positions tend to be less about what you actually do (results) and more about how you do them (appearance). That doesn't mean you can get by with never making the company money; it just isn't as black and white as technical (which still has its own gray areas).

Hopefully that is just enough information to illustrate my dilemma. If you know me as well as you all do, you should know my strengths/weaknesses as my personality is quite similar at work as it is outside of it. I would say that I am extremely strong technically, specifically around problem solving. I enjoy figuring things out and using my degree in everyday work. All of these things would point to technical. On the flip side, I really enjoy making decisions and hate to have someone make a decision that I don't agree with. I like being a high value employee and enjoy making the biggest impact on an organization as possible. There is also a part of my ego that grab holds and wants me to be the biggest and the best around. This was actually the thing in the past that drove me mostly towards management.

BUTTTT, that part of my personality has been fading lately. I still tend to be competitive, but I am less tolerant of going through some of the BS at work (that is a part of ANY company) than I used to be. There are many days where I think that I would want nothing more than to be out of the spotlight, working a nice 7-5 work day with a steady schedule and low stress. There are very important and influential positions in the "technical" path that I could still get to, but they are few and far between and take an entire career to get to. The other part of the decision is salary. Obviously, the management path has a higher $$ potential (and faster growth). But honestly, I am pretty comfortable now and could be more comfortable in the future if I ever get married.

The only other thing worth mentioning is that it is possible to switch ladders after you have selected (and advanced up) one of the ladders. It is much more difficult to switch from technical to management then the opposite. Also, the salary you have when you switch ladders usually with you, which means there are advantages to staying management until you are sure of what you want.

Just curious as to what you all think. This was more of a dump of text (TLDR) to get me back into the habit of blogging versus something to actual get a lot of comments from. There could be some decent discussion from this, but we will see. For now I'm just glad to be back.