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.


term said...

For reasons I don't feel like explaining, I'd like to keep my company of employment off of the internet. Please don't mention who I specifically work for in any comments.

Thanks in advance, sorry for being retarded.

Prime said...

For me it would be technical with zero hesitation. Once you get to a point where you are comfortable salary wise which you mention you are, low stress would be the #1 for my future job choices, and I would imagine the older you get the more and more true that would be. Plus honestly the technical job just seems more enjoyable too, but i also am a fan of the logical thinking etc. so thats probably different for everyone.

im also probably the biggest slacker on this blog so i may be in the minority haha

Staboski said...

So I will post my POV later but just wanted to say I might actually top you on the slacker part prime.

pex said...

In my opinion you've always been very into math/physics/chem and extremely good at all of them. The technical path seems to be way more in line with what you enjoy.

The management path while nice in some regards, just doesnt seem to be what fits you. No doubt I'm sure you'd be good at it, but you have a chemical engineering degree. As you said I'm sure it takes that expertise that comes with your degree to be able to function in a managerial position and be competent in making these decisions....but in the end its probably about money. Of course theres nothing wrong with that, but you just have to decide what you'd be happier doing. Which I guess is what you're trying to decide.

Now, that being said, I would personally pick the managerial path. I think that ultimately I would be happy either way, and the managerial path just seems to offer more opportunities. And like you said, you can easier switch to tech from managerial. Just my 2 cents.

Prime said...

pex is all about the power...

Prime said...

actually had reservations about adding him to our soccer team this season...i can see him trying to take away power from the poorman coaching duo

Staboski said...

I'm divided. With regards to technical I agree with Primo. I'm all about low stress and it seems like technical you also have more freedom and can be more creative. But I also think you can manage peeps. You have that debs thing where you're no BS which is what it takes. Plus like Pex said you can jump to the other side easier and theres some more cash involved.

My final thoughts, do whatever it takes for you to be CEO.

nyphon said...

I'd put the most emphasis on what you think will make you the most happy. You may make more money doing one path, but if you're not as happy, then it's not worth it imo.

I'd personally try to do the management path, but that's only because I think it would fit me better than the technical path. But I think the technical path fits you better. One thing to consider though is a lot of people in the technical field can only do the technical side because they don't have the social skills to succeed on the mgmt side. I think you have the skills to do either successfully, which is kind of unique because I see most people as only being good at one. Another thing to consider is the things you'll learn by doing mgmt path. You are already doing technical stuff and you've proven to be good at the technical stuff. If you choose mgmt path, that's another line on the resume that makes you more well rounded. Gives you skills that you would not learn otherwise.

As you can see, I'm not telling you what I think you should do. I'm just pointing out the things I think about when I hear your dilemma. But if you follow Boski's advice and "do whatever it takes to make CEO", then you should join the Exxon audit department.

Prime said...

random side note....can you please clarify what TLDR stands for

pex said...

too long; didnt read

term said...

Interesting opinions from everyone. After thinking about it for the past week, I've ultimately ended up in the same spot I was when I started:

My plan is to stay mgmt until I know that it isn't the right path for me.

A few notes on the topic:
- I was discussing career paths with one of my co-workers, who has been around for around 5 years. He has worked in multiple sites and has had more positions than me thus far. Our personalities tend to be pretty similar in many regards. He is currently in an entry level "technical" position, albeit in one of the worst groups to be in. During discussions of technical stress vs. mgmt stress, he had one comment. If you are competitive in nature, you will end up stressing out no matter what job you are in. With that being said, why not make the money to go with the stress.
- I still want to make a big difference in the company. My chances of making a big impact in management are much higher than in technical, despite my skill set slightly leaning towards technical.
- I recently got my raise for 2011. It was good enough that I want to make sure mgmt isn't for me before I jump ship.

The only other thing worth mentioning is about the current talent "pipeline" in technical. With many of the baby-boomers close to retirement, a LOT of technical expertise will be leaving within the next 5 years. This problem is not company specific, nor is it specific to the field of work I am in. With that being said, I do feel like the pay/growth potential in technical will start to increase quite substantially in order to bring young talent to that side of the table. To be honest, in one of the technical groups that was "recruiting" me, I have no doubt that I could be the worldwide expert in said technology in 20 years. Not only would the pay be very good, I would have a very large influence over a big part of the business. Not trying to stoke additional debate; I just find it interesting how important the age demographics are in how a company develops.

Prime said...



...thats for the rude comment in the original post

Mitchell said...

nice article dude! thumb's up, ill keep a check for you

Prime said...

whats mitchell say???