Seeking career change advice
September 5, 2018 4:27 PM   Subscribe

My brother is looking for a new career direction and would love some suggestions for directions to look. Snowflakes within.

My brother (mid-thirties living near Denver) has had a hell of a year. His wife got pregnant, was diagnosed with breast-cancer, and he was laid off of his reasonably high-powered job in the oil and gas industry. The layoff was a blessing in disguise because the severance package was fantastic and he got to spend some months only worrying about supporting wife through chemo and helping out there.

Now, wife is in remission (YAY!) and baby is a healthy newborn and he's looking for other jobs. He has realised that he probably does not want to continue in oil and gas. I think he has good reasons:

1. His old job required a lot of travel, like 25-50% of the time, and he does not want to be away from his family that much.

2. He is pretty liberal and he is sick of having to hide so much of himself and his beliefs from his generally conservative and Trump-supporting coworkers.

3. He is tired of being part of an industry that he thinks makes the world a net worse place. He wants to be doing something to help and improve it.

4. He wants something a bit more stable, and less susceptible to the whims of the market and the political climate than gas prices.

5. This whole saga with the cancer and pregnancy reminded him that he's always been very interested in medicine and health care -- he even started on a medical track in college, and trained as a medic in the army, but untreated mental health issues meant that he crashed and burned a bit on those paths. The mental health issues are now well in control but he is a lot older, with a family to support, which means the original dream of being a doctor is probably not realistic.

Given this situation, he has asked me for suggestions for fields he could look into. He can do something that requires some schooling (e.g., a few years at most) but obviously it would be better if the training requirements are less. He would like to stay in the Denver area if possible, as that is where his support network is, they own a house, etc etc.

Other pertinent information:

- He has a business degree from Denver University (economics minor), which required courses in law, leadership, etc.

- He is almost done with a petroleum engineering Bachelors degree (a senior). Coursework includes higher level math through differential equations, only chemistry he has not taken is O-chem, lots of physics

- He is very smart and very good with people from all walks of life, from laborers up to high-powered executives. Lots of people call him "charismatic." Does really well under pressure but really badly with tedium or repetition.

- His previous job involved managing budgets of $50-$60 million/year, acting as an expert witness and testifying in front of governmental organizations, contract negotiation and working constantly with lawyers, presenting before companies C-Suite and board members

- Huge amounts of Excel experience and one of his favourite aspects of his old jobs was the part that involved numbers, research, and finding patterns to solve problems - he geeks out on that aspect of delving into something, reading about it, learning about it, massaging data, using math, to solve problems/create solutions)

- That said I think he'd struggle with a job that was ALL sitting in front of a computer. He's pretty ADD and needs changing sets of challenges and a reasonable amount of personal interaction to thrive. By the same token though he's a nerd at heart and I think a job without any maths/puzzles/etc would get old.

So, I realise there are a lot of conflicting requirements here, but does anybody have any suggestions for things he should look into? Given the medical interest I suggested nursing but he said he'd never really been interested in that (I don't know if it's a gender thing or probably more likely that it doesn't seem puzzle-y or geeky enough?) I'm an academic, I don't know enough about other industries to suggest things appropriately, so I would appreciate any ideas or resources anybody has. He's a great guy and it would be awesome if we can get him using his skills for good and able to spend more time with his little family.
posted by forza to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Public health comes to mind. Maybe the Colorado School of Public Health would let him transfer some of his credits?
posted by Etrigan at 4:46 PM on September 5, 2018

I know several people like this with very wide, deep and technical skills sets (pilots, engineers, folk with shipping experience, but also people who like the people side).

These all work in commercial facilitation and negotiation as well as project management, especially where the increasing siloisation of society is meaning many projects are failing (as the interstices between silos expand to the point where a job is mostly unfilled gaps) - these people are catalysts; they can connect people across class, race and technical boundaries.
posted by unearthed at 4:53 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

He could look into being a physician assistant, although I don't know if that would sufficiently scratch his puzzle itch. PAs are officially supervised by a physician, but the supervision is often pretty hands-off, depending on the regulations in their particular state. Another nice thing about being a PA is that their training isn't specialized, so they can start out doing one thing (ER, for instance, or dermatology) and then switch to something else if they get bored of it. He'd probably have to take some pre-req courses, and then PA school lasts about three years. The first PAs were former military medics who received fast-track training to work in civilian healthcare, and some PA schools still have a preference for former medics. Here's a list of programs in Colorado.

One issue is that PA schools require that applicants have a lot of experience with patient care. I don't know if he actually served as a medic, but if so he should be fine. Otherwise, he may need to get some sort of healthcare job to get enough contact hours.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:54 PM on September 5, 2018

Well, I'm someone who flailed around a lot before finding his place in the world jobwise, and I love working in solar. It's a big growth industry right now and should continue to be for some time (political winds will blow this way and that, but at the end of the day we're the cheapest source of energy to build on a per-megawatt basis) it's one of the few parts of the construction and energy industries where it's cool to be a liberal, and it's easy to feel like you're making the world a better place.

Your husband sounds like someone who could get a job as, say, an Operations Director at a large or mid-sized solar company. Ops Directors manage all the day-to-day operations of a solar company, the parts that involve actually designing and building arrays. They form a bridge between the C-suite execs and the installers in the field, and need to be able to walk in both worlds. It takes someone with a combination of leadership and engineering skills. He'd need to learn solar (just like he'd need to learn any new industry) but I'm sure he could get there.

Tell him to come on in, the water's fine.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:55 PM on September 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

If he's looking for something smaller, he could try for Ops Manager, running ops at a smaller solar company or for a larger one but at the branch level rather than company-wide.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:18 PM on September 5, 2018

He might be interested in population health or health policy work. With increasing pressures from Medicare and the private insurance companies to get hospitals/medical centers to do shared savings (i.e., have some financial skin in the game to demonstrate improvements) there is a lot of work being done on ways to get people to be healthier. This is big business and worth hundreds of millions of dollars to big medical centers.

There are a bunch of roads to that kind of thing--some more clinical than others. There are programs in public health, Masters in Health Administration, and medical informatics roles out there.

Alternatively, he might be interested in health care systems consulting, although that would probably not tick the "less travel" box on the wishlist.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 6:45 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

EMT/paramedic, radiology technician, other similar health care fields where the training is done in a year or two, not 4-8 years.
posted by yclipse at 6:54 PM on September 5, 2018

Solar sounds like a really great idea: I forgot to mention but he has a fair bit of construction experience from his pre-oil days. How would he go about getting into solar? Are there degree programs, should he just apply even without actual solar experience figuring he'd learn on the job, lower-level jobs to work up from, etc...?

That said, all of the suggestions so far seem pretty well calibrated to what I think he'd like and do well at. Any other thoughts totally welcome!
posted by forza at 6:57 PM on September 5, 2018

How would he go about getting into solar? Are there degree programs, should he just apply even without actual solar experience figuring he'd learn on the job, lower-level jobs to work up from, etc...?

Well, I don't know what the industry is like in Colorado (the business environment varies a lot from state to state) but here in MA—where there is more PV and therefore the industry has probably been going longer—most of the people in more senior positions do have a fair bit of experience. However, they are really the first generation of well-seasoned solar people, even here. In Colorado, it's possible that it's less important to have experience in the industry.

Personally, I am in the process of working my way up. If you find the right company and take the right attitude, you can learn a lot fast. Someone intelligent and charismatic with a relevant background (energy, construction, engineering, dealing with government officials, management) who was motivated and had done their homework could probably do the same thing at a more senior level without too much trouble. He sounds like someone who enjoys new challenges, and running ops at a solar company (or any construction company) is a hell of a game.

There are certifications he can get though, and it would probably help to get some. The place to start would be the North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals (NABCEP). They seem to be the main certifying body for solar design and installation around these parts, anyway.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:58 PM on September 5, 2018

Facilities Management, at the AVP level, on a larger campus is far from boring. Plenty of energy use and construction conundrums and projects
posted by childofTethys at 3:33 AM on September 6, 2018

Check the local community college for certifications in solar, logistics management, and other fields.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 6:23 AM on September 6, 2018

Thanks so much everyone! I'm sending all of these to him -- I'm sure they will help a lot.
posted by forza at 3:49 PM on September 6, 2018

I think honestly a big point in his favor is that he has a track record of successfully managing 8-figure budgets. In a saturated market like MA anyway, PV is really a numbers game—it's about maximizing your cost-effectiveness to the customer.

Even just simply the ability to not be intimidated by having responsibility for that amount of money is significant. Our budgets are small by the standards of the oil industry; even our big projects consist of essentially the same equipment that residential-scale projects use, just (lots and lots) more modules. Everything is modular—it's super cool!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:11 PM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

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