View Full Version : Career Change?

05-14-2008, 03:58 AM
Hi All,
Im considering a career change, but its a big step. I cant really ask anyone at work :rolleyes: but I know there are people here who make a living from metal.
A bit of background:
Currently I write embedded control software, software that controls the power on railways, oil in pipelines, that sort of stuff. Im a Senior Development Engineer, so I get to develop the new stuff, not just configure the systems to customer specs. However after 8 years of this at 3 companies I find it really doesnt interest me any more :(
I ran across an ad for a Technical Instructor in a workshop environment. Teaching how to use machine tools, CNC, welding, and wood work ( :confused: ). Sound like a job I could do, and might enjoy. I have previously instructed Sailing and climbing, so I have *some* instructor skills...
However there are 2 downsides, firstly they want a time served engineer with formal apprenticeship and 7 years experience (machine shop /toolroom), which I am not. As it stands I do have a good understanding of tools and there uses, but no 'bits of paper'. I have had a gas welding set for 10 years, a lathe for 4 or 5, and a mill for about 2. I have quite an extensive collection of engineering books (My fathers side of the family are 'real' engineers), and the CNC side doesnt phase me (its just software ;) ).

Secondly the pay is not to good (comparatively to current job) they are offering 20-25K GBP depending on experience and paperwork (so I guess Id be at the 20 end). Currently Im on about 30K, so thats quite a pay cut.

Plus sides are that I can cycle there (means we can got to 1 car), sounds like an interesting job, and they want the person to get qualifications / certs for various things.

I guess Im just asking for opinions, as I know that once I leave the software field I wont be easily able to make it back, this stuff moves so fast I have trouble keeping up when its actually my job, so Ill be out of date pretty fast.



05-14-2008, 04:46 AM
They say that if you can turn your hobby into your work, you have the best of both worlds. You just can't beat getting paid for something that you enjoy doing and would even do it if you didn't get paid for it.

I was fortunate that my hobby was my job and many a day thinking that I'm getting paid to have fun! Now that I'm retired, I can still do the same things. I retired becasue the bean counters were getting involved and it was no longer fun but getting to be WORK!


05-14-2008, 06:24 AM

What age are you? Is the family on side with a potential pay cut and stress of a new career. Going into instructing at a 'junior' level may require a change of mindset from someone who was previously a Senior player. (Change of pond size and fish size).

Have you sounded out the company or college where the job is to find if your vocational experience would be looked upon favourably? Not wishing to pour water, the vacancy may be a requirement to advertise despite the post being filled internally.

If push came to shove, could you remain reasonably 'current' in your present field as a fallback for a year or two until you decide if your new life is not for you? I'm not sure about where you may work but instructors aren't always loaded all the time as courses roll so you may have time to keep up.

These are only my idle devils advocacy ramblings which I think I'd consider.

Good Luck

05-14-2008, 08:18 AM
Im 31, married with 1 2.5 year old kid. It was actually my wife who showed me the ad, I guess Ive been whinging to much again :rolleyes:
From the ad it sounds like a reasonably responsible role, supervising /teaching undergrad students and also making one offs for research units. Its at a University.
Im drafting an email to the contact now to see if they would even consider someone who doesnt have the paperwork, but does have practical knowledge, and a 'can do' attitude. hopefully Ill be able to go and speak in person to them, cant beat the personal touch :)

Remaining 'current' in software should be possible. I used to really enjoy my job, but lately I dont.
I guess Im having trouble seeing where I can go from here. I nearly went part time a few months back to start my own custom parts business, but I think Im lacking the guts, as there are bills which have to be paid, and I quite like having some spare cash here and there....

Devils Advocate is what I need here, as I cant really bounce this of anyone at work, and my wife seems for it... Im just after some different perspectives I think.


05-14-2008, 08:28 AM

Sorry but I will pour water on your idea or at the very least advise extreme caution.

For many years I carried out "leaving interviews" in an attempt to reduce the high skilled staff turnover from a very large aerospace engineering facility. I saw a surprising number of them a few weeks later when I also did the reinstatement interview, these could be funny or quite sad depending on what they had said the first time. :)

Secondly, as you have already seen an interest or hobby can get stale very quickly when it becomes work. Believe me, training has it's frustrations and pressure like all jobs and it will turn into "work" sooner or later. The other issue is that engineering is moving on only a little slower than software development, the production/development environment would be unrecognizable to someone who trained only maybe 15 years ago and had lost touch. The techniques that we use and enjoy in the hobby world were, in the main, left behind by the engineering industry over 30 years ago.

Thirdly, a reduction in income is difficult to deal with and you may find that without the necessary practical experience or qualification your new career could be capped at a very junior level. This happens a lot in the aerospace world and can be one of the most frustrating situations to get into.

The difference in pay will buy a reasonable amount of toys for you to play with at home and thus keep the hobby interesting and a good diversion from the "money earning" daytime job.

In general in the UK, engineering training is not a highly paid world (compared to software development) and most jobs are aimed at someone who is coming to the end of a career when money is less important than the satisfaction of passing on what you have learnt. As has been said before beware of the "vacancy" that has been advertised due to legislation but the criteria have been written round a specific "skill set" of a targeted candidate. It happens all the time. :(

I have a number of friends who have turned their hobby into a profession but most of them are 50 plus and are looking for a few years work to supplement their "semi-retired" income. I also have one much younger friend who made the move 15 years ago in his early thirties; he has been successful and has created a good income but his "hobby" became work some 7 or 8 years ago and he has found new ways to relax.

Sorry, and only my opinion of course for what it is worth, but you did ask. :D

Best of luck with whatever you decide to do


05-14-2008, 10:49 AM
If you can stand to drop $10,000 of income then get an interview without sending an email. If you email them they will probably flip you off. A face to face interview is better than anything else.

If you like to teach it may be a great spot but you have to REALLY like to teach.

05-14-2008, 01:53 PM

I'll have to second KMP's opinion. Though I would say it doesn't hurt to try something different even if it is just for the short term. Just don't toss out the education and training that you have currently! My current title is senior software engineer. My degree is in electrical engineering. I've been an engineer for 25 years. What keeps me sane is variety. I do a fair amount of job hopping - 11 positions during that time. The longest was for 6 years; the shortest was 5 months.

I've had many different experiences, listed in chronological order and duration: flight test engineer (1 year), systems support engineer (2.5 years) , embedded hardware and software development engineer (6.5 years), software test and test lab automation engineer (2 years), marketing product manager (eek - 2 years), embedded software developer (2.5 years), embedded hardware and software developer (.5 years), embedded hardware and device driver developer (5 years), electronics developer (.5 years), project lead/software developer (2.5 years) and finally embedded software developer (.5 years). The industries have spanned from defense to industrial automation to telecommunications. I picked up a masters degree in business administration along the way and have used it on occasion - most recently as a project lead and also in the marketing position.

My work can be drudgery at times, much like yours. I look for opportunities to enhance my skill set. I have done a fair amount of CAD work and it is the design of computer controlled equipment - marrying electronics, software and machine tools - that helps me keep going. I would like to start a small business building CNC components (servo motor / stepper motor drives, power supplies, control software) but the harsh reality of bills and risk have kept me from doing so. My side projects help me through the drudgery of the workday (that's why they call it work and not fun).

Long story but I can empathize with you! Try something different, even if it is for a short time and doesn't work out. The experience will help you grow and will enhance your skills! Being well rounded is not a thing of the past in this age of specialization - it is needed more than ever!


05-14-2008, 01:59 PM

The hobby turned profession may affect you differently than others. I turned my hobby into a full time job 10 years ago and I make very good money at it, but when the day is done (sometimes even sooner), my former hobby turned day job is the last thing I want to think about. The whole hobby aspect is gone and I just want to distance myself from it as much as possible. I can't immagine how I would feel if I wasn't a good living at it. Just a little more food for thought.

Now I play with machine tools for fun:)

05-14-2008, 02:01 PM
Thanks guys, Ive been thinking about this some more, and its useful to have people not involved give me some perspective :)
I dont think Ill be going there, the loss of income (10K GBP - more like $20K) sounds like a big gamble vs the possibility of a job that I might or might not like... I think I need a challenge, which is not happening at work, so I think Im going to concentrate more on my hobby/custom parts business which is better in that I can pick it up and put it down when I want. I managed 1500 turnover in the 6 months I did it of last year in evenings and when I wanted, so the potential for growth is there, and thats free clear toy money, as reasonable expenses are tax deductible, and my business needs lots of tooling, and it covers the electricity etc ;)


05-14-2008, 02:36 PM

The hobby turned profession may affect you differently than others. I turned my hobby into a full time job 10 years ago and I make very good money at it, but when the day is done (sometimes even sooner), my former hobby turned day job is the last thing I want to think about. The whole hobby aspect is gone and I just want to distance myself from it as much as possible. I can't immagine how I would feel if I wasn't a good living at it. Just a little more food for thought.

Now I play with machine tools for fun:)

Amen, the hobby for job thing is a dangerous road.

I can't seem to have a hobby, without turning it in to an entrepenurial venture.

Granted, it's a lot easier to convince the wife you need something, when you really do need something...but if I could just have a job and a hobby, I'd go for it any day.

It all depends on the type of person you are, my parents are the same way.

05-14-2008, 03:01 PM

Show some pictures of the stuff you've done so I can be jealous! ;)


05-14-2008, 04:37 PM
I'd stay where I was. It's a job. Nobody said you had to like it. I hate mine but it makes money. I have a son in college and you will have one soon! Can I afford to retire or quit???? No, Even with a scholarship I have to come up with $35k to meet the present demands of the colleges in the East. Stiff upper lip, nose to the grind stone and all that. Stick with the demons you know. Fred

05-14-2008, 04:58 PM

Show some pictures of the stuff you've done so I can be jealous! ;)

The bits I make are mostly little bits of alloy for helis, I dont have pics of most of it, I just make it and post it out. I am in the middle of making a tiny helicopter, here (http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=810141) though, and if you poke about over there (Im small.planes there too) you'll find the odd photo.


05-14-2008, 06:16 PM
I say go and check the job out like you really want it. You have experience in an engineering field. you have experience with what the job seems to describe. You will be helping students learn about the practical aspects of what will be their lifes work. You wil;l be doing all kinds of special projects (mostly 1 offs) and working with students in a LEARNING environment and your experience in industry is of much more value than you might think. You will probably also like the vacation time. You get doing this and your wife may well decide the cut in pay was well worth it because your attitude will probably improve.

I taught machine tool practice and worked as an engineering lab tech for the 4 years I was in college (went back 10 years after I graduated from High School). I loved it and would have stayed if they had offered me a job. Got to work with some really interesting projects, got to work with some interesting students (and a couple jerks, but they learn that you work for the school and not for them and that they need to treat you with some respect or their project will not be your priority...) I'd love to do it again.

05-14-2008, 07:20 PM
Hi small.planes (Dave)

First of all, I sense that this is a "Government job".

If it is or if it is in a large industry, I'm afraid that kmp (Keith) has got it right in his advice/post #5 at: http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/showpost.php?p=356662&postcount=5

If a "Personnel/Human Resources" department is involved and if a set of "Selection Criteria" are to be adhered to and "ranked" from CV/applications to select candidates for the primary/initial interview, you may well not get an interview.

There may be several graded "cuts" to progressively reduce the number of potential candidates to reduce the number for final interview to just say two or three.

It will not help either if there is "preferred" person "in the wings" and the interview process is just a "cover" to have "due process" having been seen to have been adhered to when the "end result" is well and truly pre-ordained.

If this is the case it will take an extra-ordinary applicant to over-come the pre-selected/"preferred" person.

You can be certain that the assessors will want to know why you are prepared to take that sort of drop in salary!!

Also as advised by others - in the event that you are the successful candidate, make sure you have an "escape hole" and a Plan "B" as a "fall-back".

Never the less, I wish you well.