Technical career ideas?
December 17, 2013 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Mid-twenties looking for career suggestions and ideas. More inside about what I value/enjoy in work, etc.

Hi,

I'm really feeling stalled in trying to figure out what I'd like to do as a career. Wrote down some info about what I value in a work environment/like to do. Could you all brainstorm some career suggestions that'd be good for me?

Thanks.

I'm fairly comfortable being "thrown in the deep end" on projects and usually don't need to be micro managed.
One thing I really value is enough flexibility to set my own schedule (within reason of course). I really prefer to start work earlier and end earlier than the usual "9 to 5" or maybe would like to be able to take a break for an hour or so when bored and finish work later in the day or evening (maybe work remotely? not sure).
One thing I notice is that I get easily bored with doing the "same thing" over and over, and would value variety every few months at least (even if it's just applying the same techniques and concepts to a new topic, idea, or project).
I'm also fairly good at knowing how to get things done efficiently and effectively and really liked getting rewarded for that in past jobs (e.g. getting off work a bit early or even just a simple thank you from my supervisor).

Things I really enjoy intellectually are: Analyzing/manipulating data, explaining technical or other concepts to people, and picking up new information quickly.

I've got a bachelors in engineering with a minor in comp. sci. (and can't really see myself as a coder; except maybe Stata or R type applied stats things, but could maybe be convinced towards others) if that helps narrow anything down. I’m not necessarily only interested in engineering jobs, but would be completely open to non-traditional engineering jobs or other types of jobs.

Salary wise I'd be looking for about 60K per year or that much within a couple years, but honestly work/life balance are more important to me.

If it helps here are some jobs I've worked in the past:

Risk analyst - Nuclear systems analysis including researching system configuration and preparing risk scenarios.
Research Assistant - Biotech equipment development, writing technical documentation, and creating video/online equipment demos.
Teaching Assistant - The usual, grading papers and office hours. (I really enjoyed helping students in office hours, since I got to explain an interesting technical concept and if there was down time I could distract myself with other things/homework.)

If you could suggest some suitable careers I should look in to, I'd be grateful,

Thanks.
posted by Chicoreus to Work & Money (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You might enjoy some of the jobs that straddle the sales and engineering worlds, like sales engineer, technical account management, developer relations, etc. Flexibility would vary based on the company more than anything else.
posted by telegraph at 1:07 PM on December 17, 2013


FWIW, your college's career center probably also serves alumni, at least recent alumni. So that is a resource you may not have considered.
posted by elizeh at 1:23 PM on December 17, 2013


I was a sales engineer. Great money, good work/life balance. A chance to do different things everyday. Kicking ideas around with customers was great fun! Lots of flexibility both for hours and for working remotely. I worked at the phone company, but they've got them for everything.

A TA is NEVER going to make $60k, so drive that thought from your head. In fact, I know a guy on the tenure track who's note making anywhere near that. I doubt a Research Assistant makes anywhere near $60k either.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:54 PM on December 17, 2013


Yeah, based on your list of things you enjoy, I was going to suggest Applications Engineering or Field Applications Engineering for a tech company. You would be the technical contact for your company's customers (and your own sales people), working with them to build your company's product into their own or troubleshooting problems when they happen.

You need to know your product(s) well enough to be able to explain what it does, and how it works, and in the case of failure analysis, what may have gone wrong. You don't necessarily have to write the code - or design the circuits - yourself, unless it's for a demo program to help customers, but it definitely helps to have the hands-on experience.

There's a lot of variety in the day to day work and a lot of problem solving depending on the customers needs and products. You need to be a quick learner, since you'll be working with unfamiliar products being built by your customers. Drawbacks are often a lack of focus, since projects are often more day-to-day and week-to-week, rather than month to month and you usually have to deal with multiple issues and customers at the same time.
posted by TwoWordReview at 1:55 PM on December 17, 2013


Consulting (for a management consultancy or tech consulting firm) absolutely satisfies the 'thrown in the deep end'/'picking up new information quickly' requirement because the work is project based, and you traditionally end up working on a different client/project/whatever every couple months. It CAN satisfy the 'analyzing data' and 'explaining technical concepts' requirement if you work for the right consultancy/in the right industry. It also easily exceeds your salary target.

Cons: work/life balance can be difficult to find, and is absolutely not a 'set your own schedule' environment

Caveat - I am currently in consulting, enjoy many/all of the same things you do, and am trying to figure out what I'd like to do instead. However, I do think that if you play it correctly and end up at the right place working on the right projects, a technical consulting role can scratch all your itches, but almost certainly at the cost of compromising on flexibility - most consulting firms are fairly corporate.
posted by hot soup at 1:58 PM on December 17, 2013


If you like working with data, a DBA is great position to have. And good DBAs get a *lot* more than $60k a year.
posted by colin_l at 2:18 PM on December 17, 2013


Maybe tech writer?
posted by madonna of the unloved at 4:18 PM on December 17, 2013


Perhaps you've already considered and rejected this, given that being a TA and an RA implies you've been in graduate school or at least been exposed to the idea, but "professor" fits your requirements rather well.

I'm fairly comfortable being "thrown in the deep end" on projects and usually don't need to be micro managed.

Done. You won't have anyone telling you how to do your job, and in fact no one will really teach you how to do most parts of your job before you start. I see the latter aspect as a downside, but if you're comfortable with it, that's great.

One thing I really value is enough flexibility to set my own schedule (within reason of course). I really prefer to start work earlier and end earlier than the usual "9 to 5" or maybe would like to be able to take a break for an hour or so when bored and finish work later in the day or evening (maybe work remotely? not sure).

Done. No one cares when you do your work outside of scheduled class periods.

One thing I notice is that I get easily bored with doing the "same thing" over and over, and would value variety every few months at least (even if it's just applying the same techniques and concepts to a new topic, idea, or project).

New students present new, interesting challenges each semester; you can rework classes whenever you want; and you choose (and thus can change) your research projects.

I'm also fairly good at knowing how to get things done efficiently and effectively and really liked getting rewarded for that in past jobs (e.g. getting off work a bit early or even just a simple thank you from my supervisor).

Well, no one will notice but you in academia, so your reward will just be more time to do other things.

Things I really enjoy intellectually are: Analyzing/manipulating data, explaining technical or other concepts to people, and picking up new information quickly.

1) Point your research in a direction that involves analyzing/manipulating data; 2) Yup, that's teaching; and 3) Crucial in research (always following the latest published research) and teaching (staying at least a few pages ahead of the students in a course you haven't taught before / in a while).

Salary wise I'd be looking for about 60K per year or that much within a couple years, but honestly work/life balance are more important to me.

Easily done as a faculty member in a technical field. Poke around the AAUP faculty salary survey to see salaries at different schools, and understand that salaries in technical departments (i.e., fields in which you could be making a lot more money in industry) will typically be higher than those averages.

Now, some downsides:

1) You'll have to get a PhD, and that will take several years, and you won't be making anywhere near 60k until you're done. In a technical field, though, you will probably be paid to get the PhD (stipends for doing research or teaching) as opposed to paying for it. And on the bright side, the "job" of getting a PhD has most of the characteristics you desire, though some (like managing your own time) will depend on who you choose as your research advisor.

2) Your hours are flexible, but they're often very long. You won't have a set 9-5, but sometimes you might wish for that (I do at times).

Also, some of these characteristics will vary greatly based on the type of institution you join. Faculty at massive research-focused schools have different pressures, tasks, and salaries than faculty at smaller teaching-focused schools. You can probably find and aim for a type of school that fits you well.

To get a sense of the job and its lifestyle, you might do well to read some blogs written by academics. There are plenty out there, and they can help you get an idea of the common elements as well as the differences between schools, fields of study, etc. And if you decide to go that route, all you have to do is devote years of your life to graduate school, followed by high-stakes applications for scarce positions in a [currently] financially-shaky industry! Ahem. Don't want to paint too rosy a picture here...
posted by whatnotever at 11:32 PM on December 17, 2013


DBA is close, but its going to involve coding. maybe what you want is more like a data scientist role.
posted by deathpanels at 6:13 AM on December 18, 2013


« Older The #1 item on my eight year-o...   |  I need your hope. I cannot se... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments