Now that my prediction has come to pass, what's next?
September 2, 2011 1:33 PM   Subscribe

A couple years ago the division of the company I worked in was sold. It was my dream job (though nominally the mechanical engineering manager I was system architect). The group was excellent, about 25 people designing and building measurement equipment. Things went wrong, so what do I do about it?

The group fell apart as I predicted. It started with a layoff at the beginning of this year wherein I was let go along with about a third of the group. I set up a consultancy and was promptly hired by the same company for a number of projects which were duly completed, released to the market, and sold fairly well. During this time more than 2/3 of the remaining staff went to work elsewhere. It's now clear that the company is in terminal trouble in spite of decent sales by this group, and my network hasn't resulted in any new work either for my consultancy or as an employee.

I've found the engineering equivalent of a McJob. It pays the bills but won't do for very long.

How do I keep faith I can re-create or improve on my prior situation, change to improve my odds of doing it again, or use the lessons I learned to go further? The characteristics of the work were: autonomy in decision-making coupled with the need to keep the group focused and moving forward (not directing but persuading), congenial and intelligent staff, challenging or downright difficult equipment to make and sell, high to crazy high level of integration, low volume (thousands per year). The lessons I learned were 1) my "built-in, shockproof crap detector" works and I should have taken its warnings seriously, 2) although I don't think of myself as a "people person", I can lead a group of smart, opinionated people through persuasion, 3) I was right to go work at a start-up when I got the job five years ago, and that is probably the best place for me.

Does this add up to anything worthwhile for which I have some kind of blind spot? I look here and there for engineering management work but perhaps that is too small a box.
posted by jet_silver to Work & Money (2 answers total)
I had a great job like that a few years ago and left because I moved. I always thought I would want to go back but by the time I could, everyone I had worked with was gone. Some were laid off, others left for different job. But I realized that it was just a good job at the time, something about that particular group of people and not necessarily that company or the project we were working on. Like you, I made a list of the things that were good about that job and I've looked for them again. In my current position, I'm close to it but it's not 100% there. Still, there is enough and I'm really happy with it.

So, I guess my point, if I have one, is that it's great you had that experience. But you probably won't find the exact thing again. Still, having seen it, you can do a better job of finding something similar in your job search. And eventually, you can maybe even find something better. Keep looking!
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:48 PM on September 2, 2011

I was in the same position as you were. I left but didn't try to recreate what I had, since I wanted to pursue other interests. Thinking back, if I did want to "recreate" it, I would probably not try to do it with the exact group of people immediately. I would look for a good organization with a healthy management atmosphere and get myself hired there. Then if hiring opportunities came up, I would contact those people you enjoyed working with and give them first dibs at the openings.

I do remember the feeling of loss when the good times ended at the company I was with. And I did have the thought that the loss of a great team was a crying shame. But unless you want to start your own company, it's unlikely the team is salvageable in the short term.

It does sound like you're a fine engineering manager. And that's actually a pretty big box I think.
posted by storybored at 8:08 PM on September 2, 2011

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