ChemEs and Career Transitions

As ChemEs, many of us know we can't assume that the career path we took right out of college will be the one we stay on until retirement. We know our technical education and training can get dated, and likely won't carry us through our entire career. Many ChemEs go through one or more career transitions, and need different skills or expertise in each new position.

Have you made a career transition? I want to hear about it.

I'm writing a bi-monthly career column for Chemical Engineering Progress magazine, and the first topic will be "Managing Your Career Transition." So I'd like to hear from ChemEs who have made, or are in the process of making, a career transition:

  • What type of transition did you go through or are you going through now (e.g., from technical to managerial role, a layoff, retirement, etc.)?
  • What were your "lessons learned" from managing your own transition?
  • What advice would you give others who are going through a career transition?

When you comment, please be sure to include your full name, city and state in your post so that I can quote you in the article. Thank you!

What career transition experiences can you share?


Nemoy Rau's picture

Loraine, I think this is something that can be very inspirational for many younger ChemEs and many professionals either looking to re-invent themselves due to the economy or looking for some major changes. Starting my career in Houston, I worked like many in a very traditional sense working in a large design company in oil and gas. Due to a large company lay off (during the peak of the economic downturn), I went to work in areas I normally wouldn't have been exposed to for at least 20 years into my careers. Unfortunately, working for "startups" is a new phenomena that is mostly seen in Silicon Valley or Boston and never really seen with Chemical Engineers. Many chemical engineers generally work for large Fortune 500 companies that might include design firms, O&G, petrochemicals, or pharmaceuticals. The behavior seen in, for example, Silicon Valley where a number of people leave their companies to create a new innovative product is not seen with ChemEs and in some cases, discouraged. For me, by joining with some startups meant I was quickly exposed and made numerous "jumps" career-wise that I wouldn't have in a normal traditional environment. I could simultaneously work in a number of areas and handle more responsibility. Because of this experience, I am working in a number of cutting-edge areas while essentially as a young engineer making presentations to "C-level" executives, venture capitalists, and various members of congress and other senior government officials. For younger, new graduates there are a number of new programs setup to get hands-on business experiences with startups and coached by seasoned entrepreneurs. When new graduates say they are unable to get a job, I keep telling them to look at these programs. These programs can teach more in 2 years than 5-7 years working as a "traditional" Chemical Engineer. As Chemical Engineers, we are taught to design and develop new products. This hands-on approach of having the resources of seasoned people can teach more to enthusiastic engineers that normally wouldn't get these experiences working in areas that are on the downturn. We must always be looking forward rather than backwards. Working in these environments, you can work in more cutting edge areas rather than areas that might have already plateaued, cutting down or being outsourced. With a more robust, variety of experiences, a younger engineer can be more competitive in this global competitive world.

advantagemarketing's picture

Nemoy, thank you for your insights, especially with regards to what younger engineers can do to get employment in cutting edge fields.