Monday, July 24, 2017

How to Get Promoted in Engineering - Part 1

Full disclaimer, there is no one solution that will work for everyone. Instead I will discuss the tactics I used, and the way I approached my work, that moved me from Reasearch Assistant, to Engineer II, to Engineer III, to Engineering Manager inside of 3 years.

1) Choose the right role, not the right salary

Set yourself up for success. Rather than chasing the biggest paycheck, I looked for a position that allowed me to utilize my strengths. I quickly move from a green new employee to a productive contributor to my team. I am certainly not suggesting that you work for free, but you should look at career growth before starting salary. You can climb the corporate ladder much faster if you're already good at your job when you start.

2) Report problems, but provide solutions

Much of an engineer's responsibility is managing mayhem. If this line of work was easy, you wouldn't need engineers to do it. You will be making lots of phone calls to your boss explaining what went wrong, and not having the slightest idea of how to fix it. BUT, you need to offer solutions. Even if your solution is light years away from correct, it allows your boss to give you the corrective action and adjust your train of thought simultaneously. Iterate this process several times, and you will start to get on the same page as your chain of command. Which brings me to my next point:

3) Get on the same page as your manager

The biggest part of earning your promotion is earning your manager's trust. Your manager will need to feel comfortable not knowing what you are working on. There is no cookie-cutter solution for this, but I can tell you how I did it. In meetings, emails, texts, and any other forms of communication my manager would always have questions about what I was reporting. I started to anticipate the questions he would ask, and preemptively answer them. Eventually anticipating his questions would lead me to solve some of the issues I was facing, and vastly improve my communication skills.

Part 2 coming soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Three reasons to hire a Ph.D

This subject has been on my mind for a while, so I figured I would post it. Here are three reasons why it is a good idea to hire a recent Ph.D. graduate:

1. After our qualifying exam, we will fear no test:

      The qualifying exam was by far my least favorite experience in my graduate studies. We studied full time for a month, cramming every single day. At the end of it, we took not one, but two four hour tests in a cold room. You’re probably thinking a four hour test is too long, but it was actually too short. There were eight tough questions, and we only had 30 minutes to answer them. Failure is devastating, as you’re only allowed to retake the test once, and you have to wait 6 months.

      Many people believe that after college there will be no more tests, but this is incorrect (in most cases). Early into my professional career I was enrolled in a two week training class, with daily quizzes and a final exam at the end. This was very stressful for a few of my classmates, but for me it was actually enjoyable! Testing out my newly acquired knowledge was fun and rewarding, not to mention I passed with flying colors.

      2. After our dissertation defense, we will fear no presentation:

      For some people, talking to large groups comes naturally, but for many (including myself) the prospect is nerve racking. I gave many presentations during my studies, conferences, group meetings, proposals, posters, demonstrations, etc. With each one I became more confident. The dissertation defense was the most critical presentation I have ever given, with my degree held in the balance. I was nervous, but I was ready.

      I haven’t had to give any presentations at work yet, but I am sure I will be ready when the time comes.
      3. We're hungry:

      We’re tired of living in crappy apartments, eating ramen noodles, and asking our parents for money. We’re ready to get out into the world and make some real money. We’re done postponing our student loans. We’re excited to buy houses, buy cars, get married, and maybe even have children. The allure of the college life has faded away, and we are ready to move on.
      I hope you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to leave a comment or counter any of the points I have laid out. Give me some reasons why you would or wouldn't hire a Ph.D.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Job hunting round two

My research is rolling and graduation is rapidly approaching, so it is time for me to apply for jobs.

If I said I was confident about job searching I would be lying. Don't get me wrong, I know I am a very qualified applicant, and I believe I will find an excellent position. I am, however, very anxious due to my previous experience.

A little over three years ago, I was job hunting after completing my Bachelor's degree. I applied for probably 30 or 40 different positions, most of which I never heard back from.

They say "looking for a job is a full time job," and it is no joke. I tweaked my résumé and wrote a new cover letter for each position. Looking back I think I sent my word documents instead of PDFs, but that wouldn't send my application straight to the trash, would it? I would frequently follow up, but at the end of my search I think I only got two interviews.

When I was offered a research assistant position to study for my PhD I was relieved. It offered me an escape from the constant anxiety of not being good enough. That was a big part of what made me take the job.

So I'm back at it again, in a higher pay grade with less of a market to apply for. I would love to hear any advice, comments or questions you may have.

I will try to keep you posted. Stay positive my friends.


Monday, May 13, 2013

My blog needs a new title..

Injection molding my future? I don't know what I was thinking last February. That's corny, even by my standards..

I stopped posting because I was certain that no one was reading my blog. Posting to a blog that no one reads is very similar to talking to yourself, and I'm not that crazy, yet. But it has been brought to my attention that if you Google "plastics qualifying exam," this blog is the first thing that comes up.

So this means, twice a year, a handful of plastics engineering PhD students from UMass Lowell stumble across my blog. Of that handful, one or two of them actually read it. This has inspired me to revisit this blog.

So if you are preparing for the qualifying exam at the end of  summer break, I have 3 tips for you:

  1. Study your ass off! I studied everyday for a month like it was my full-time job, and I barely passed. I have spoke to others who barely studied and passed, but I wouldn't risk it. Do your homework..
  2. Talk to every Professor asking a question. Ask for a review session. We got a review session from most of the professors, the rest would at least give some helpful insight.
  3. Bring a plastics dictionary and a stopwatch.
    • The plastics dictionary is important. It can save you if you don't know one of the words in a question, but it can also help you answer questions you're unsure of.
    • The stopwatch was very helpful to me. You get 30 minutes per question. Don't blow 90 minutes on one question and run out of time for the rest. If you haven't answered the question fully in 30 minutes, write that you ran out of time, and that you will come back to it if you can.
I'll try to post some more tips over the summer as soon as I think of a better title for my blog. Please leave some questions or comments below, that way I know I am not talking to myself.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Qualifying Exam

I must admit, I forgot about this page that I made.. I entered a Google search for "UML plastics qualifying exam," and this was the fifth page to turn up.

Anyways, I am anxiously awaiting my results from taking the qualify exam two weeks ago. That's right, two weeks. Could you imagine having to wait two weeks to find the results to a test that decides your future?

Here is how the test works:
Closed book: 2 Questions in 4 subjects (Materials, Design, Processing, Properties) 4 hours to complete. Go home, cry yourself to sleep. Then come back the next day and repeat the test for the open book section.
You need to pass 2 questions in each subject and 11/16 overall.

I can say hands down, this exam is the most miserable experience I have willingly put myself through. I studied for three weeks like it was a full time job. Between gathering information from other students, arranging study sessions with teachers asking questions, and having group studies with classmates, I have to had put in at least 40 hours per week. Actually taking the test was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. I have had nightmares about not knowing answers to simple questions, running out of time, and only getting two questions right on the entire exam.

I really hope that I passed, because I know that it would take a lot for me to put myself through this again. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Recive a PhD in 3 (years)

As I am nearing the end of my first semester in the PhD program at UMass Lowell, I have been looking forward to what requirements I would need to fill to graduate. The idea is that if I stay on track, I can graduate in 3 years. Basically, there are three major steps in the PhD program:
  1. The Qualifying Exam
  2. Research Proposal
  3. Research Defense
As these steps need to be done in order, the idea to the fast track is getting the Qualifying Exam out of the way ASAP. This is probably not good advice for most situations. A good idea is to take at least one class from every professor in the department. Since I have my bachelor's degree in the same department, I have already taken classes from most of the professors.

I hope to take the qualifying exam next spring or next fall. The qualifying exam is two four hour tests, one open book, and one closed book. These exams are comprised of questions from every major topic area. For plastics engineering, they are: processing, materials, properties and design.

Here is a better description from the UML Website:

"The qualifying examination will be administered in January (and in May if there is sufficient demand for a second exam). It will be a two day examination covering the following topics: plastics processing, design, properties, and materials. Any changes to the format will be indicated by the doctoral coordinator when the specific examination date is announced. The student will receive a grade of pass or fail. A student who fails the exam on a marginal basis may make a second attempt with permission of the Graduate Study Committee. All decisions of the Plastics Engineering Department regarding passing of the qualifying exam are final."

I will give more details about the other two steps once I get past the qualifying exam.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I'm back on the blog...

It's been a little while since my last post. I have stepped away from blogging for a bit, but I think I'm ready to get back to it. Things have certainly changed a bit, here is a summary of what has happened in the past 7 months.

I finished up my bachelor's degree in plastics engineering. I was offered a fantastic position as a research assistant. I stopped searching for industry positions. I applied for graduate school at UMass Lowell. I was accepted into the PhD program in plastics engineering. I extended my co-op over the summer. Came back to school, I am only taking 3 classes per semester now. Now, I am getting into the home stretch of my first semester in grad school.
I am really excited about my research; I am working on a multivariate in mold sensor for injection molding. I will explain my project in more detail in the future. Being a research assistant is the best job I have had to this date. It is like taking school and work and mashing them into one.

I am really excited that winter is right around the corner, I can't wait to get out snowboarding! I am currently looking into classes for next semester and internships for the summer, so things are looking pretty promising so far.
Look forward to more posts in the future!