PDA

View Full Version : OT I/T vs. Metal trades



rmack898
01-10-2009, 12:37 AM
I have noticed here and on other sites that there is a siginificant number of folks that have day jobs in IT and are heavily into metal working hobbies. I have also seen a good number of guys that get burnt out at an early age in IT jobs and make mid-life career changes into welding and machining trades.

I'm trying to see the corelation (sp) between the two. Is it because the industrial arts programs in the public schools were mostly eliminated and repalced with computer based programs? Are computers the only other option for folks that have a natural aptitiude for things mechanical? It seems that folks in the IT fields seem to burn out after a shorter period of their working life than those with more traditional mechanical career paths. Am I missing something here? I'd like to hear from those that have been there and done that. I have a 15YO son that has interests in both areas and I want to provide guidance without bias (I've always been a motorhead), so I'd like to hear the other side.

dp
01-10-2009, 12:57 AM
Wages in IT have skyrocketed since 1995. It is easily possible (well, prior to the current financial debacle) to earn better than 6 figures 3 years or less out of college, and college is not always necessary. It is a volatile industry but not nearly what it was like between 1998 and 2002. The workplace is generally very nice - no noise, relaxed hours, work from home, clean, lots of meetings, aggressive schedules, lots of meetings... :). I retired from IT far from burned out. I still do it 8 hours a day or more at my own web hosting business now and it makes my wife crazy.

I don't know what it's like to be a staff machinist as I've never done it, but from what I've seen of earnings and concerns for job security there's not a lot to like. But paychecks are not everything and job happiness can mean a lot.

tony ennis
01-10-2009, 01:24 AM
It seems that folks in the IT fields seem to burn out after a shorter period of their working life than those with more traditional mechanical career paths.

It seems to be true. The reason is simple - IT people are worked like mules. Generally 9 hard hours a day, on call 24x7, unreasonable expectations from management, errors are not tolerated. Overtime is expected. CYA paperwork galore. Shifting requirements, crushing deadlines, clueless and unsympathetic managers. And then perhaps 40% of the time our work is obsolete or rendered un-needed before the software ever launches. Demoralizing.

In addition to this, IT people are getting squeezed by outsourcing so there is always fear about being laid off. And wages have been dropping. I make less now than I did 10 years ago, adjusted for inflation.

Further, the amount of knowledge IT people are expected to have keeps increasing like mad. Every new whiz-bang technology comes with a universe of additional skills to learn. You have to read all the time to keep up and it is exhausting because ultimately you don't get much for the effort.

Finally, people have ever increasing expectations about the elegance of programs. Now users expect web pages that act and feel like PC applications. These are exceptionally difficult to write and difficult to maintain.

And the longer you've been at a company, the more code you produce. You're expected to be responsible for it all, forever. So your load just keeps increasing.

And don't forget we wear a lot of hats. We are operations, we are data analysts, we tease out requirements, we are help desk. We're expected to do it all.

Yes, if I was good at anything else except programming, I would quit it in a heartbeat. I have had enough but it's all I can do.


The workplace is generally very nice - no noise, relaxed hours, work from home, clean

Ummm... well the workplace is warm, clean, and reasonably quiet. Most places don't support relaxed hours. You're expected to be there. I haven't had to punch a timeclock in a while however.



Wages in IT have skyrocketed since 1995.

This isn't my experience in the Midwest. Wages have slid backwards since 9/11. I don't know if there's a correlation.


It is easily possible (well, prior to the current financial debacle) to earn better than 6 figures 3 years or less out of college, and college is not always necessary.

Easily six figures for 3 years is untrue, adjusted for cost of living. I don't know any programmer of any level of experience making close to that in my area. Maybe if you're the top of the class from Cornell and you take a job in a high-cost area like NYC... maybe. But I wouldn't classify that as 'easy' or common.

College isn't necessary but it is hard to get a job and hard to get more pay. Your resume usually is pruned in round 1 of you don't have an education.

dp
01-10-2009, 01:55 AM
I should probably add that my entire IT career has been spent in Seattle which is a very IT-oriented place. Clearly location accounts for quite a bit. I do know that my peers in London, Chicago, and NYC were always pretty grumpy compared to the Seattle operations.

dan s
01-10-2009, 01:55 AM
I can't speak for everyone, but is not always that bad.

I have found that it helps to be overly aggressive with the non technical people. So many of them think of IT people as the pimply geeks from the 80's movies, that can be pushed around. They act a lot differently, when they think you might knock them across the room.

BillH
01-10-2009, 01:57 AM
I think it is very simple. What we do in a machine shop we can also do on a computer. The only difference is one is tangible, the other is not. With software you can piece things together to do something useful. With machine tools, we have a grown up version of an erector set, we can do anything that we can dream up.

Mid life career changes are nothing unique, as human beings we get bored. I fly a freaking airplane every single day for a living and all I can think about is going back home to play with my machine tools. Yeh, I guess I ought to shut the hell up with that one...
My dad used to be a dentist, we had a workshop growing up, he was always trying to invent stuff. Dentists at one point made up the largest segment of inventors according to some statistic, not sure if that is still the case or not.
The point being is that we get bored, if we had the hottest girl in the world, well after the 300th time of banging her , it's still the same *****. It is just human nature.

dp
01-10-2009, 02:06 AM
I can't speak for everyone, but is not always that bad.

I have found that it helps to be overly aggressive with the non technical people. So many of them think of IT people as the pimply geeks from the 80's movies, that can be pushed around. They act a lot differently, when they think you might knock them across the room.

I definitely don't fit that pattern - I'm an old gray beard who rides a Harley, tatoos, and don't take any board room crap. And I know the business and Unix inside and out. That last part is the important part cuz that's what saves their a$$es time and again.

Fasttrack
01-10-2009, 02:29 AM
It seems to be true. The reason is simple - IT people are worked like mules. Generally 9 hard hours a day, on call 24x7, unreasonable expectations from management, errors are not tolerated. Overtime is expected. CYA paperwork galore. Shifting requirements, crushing deadlines, clueless and unsympathetic managers. And then perhaps 40% of the time our work is obsolete or rendered un-needed before the software ever launches. Demoralizing.

.

Sounds like Nuke-E's. Just substitute "Nuclear Engineers" for "IT people" and "NRC" for "CYA"

My dad is starting the 10 pm - 8 am shift for an upcoming outage. Last time, during this shift, he was asked to design a temporary inlet cover that would close off one of the main cooling water inlets. It was a 48" diameter pipe at the bottom of a pond. It would be in place for approximately 8 hours. He had to crunch the numbers and make sure that it was safe in the event of a 7.0 or less earthquake or a tornado of some magnitude. The purpose of this plate was to allow a valve seat to be repaired. The valve was in a pump house where flooding would not cause any serious damage. It was not critical to the safety of the plant, begging the question, why would anyone be working on a valve set during a 7.0 earthquake!? .


Dan S. - That's what we call an "inferiority complex" :D Only joking. I find the best way to deal with those people is to be friendly, polite and exceedingly stubborn. It doesn't take very long for them to notice that you might be friendly, but your also not going to take any crap. You don't have to be beligerent, just confident and steady. ("You" is collective and general, not talking about Dan S. specifically. I often use you in a general sense, so don't take offense if it seems like I'm singling you out!) 'Course IT guys probably have to put up with alot more sh*t than physicists ever do.

barts
01-10-2009, 02:53 AM
I've got a BS and Masters in mechanical engineering, but over the years spent a lot of time doing software, first for simulations and then for industrial robotics... I ended up working at a metrology software startup and moved to Sun Microsystems doing manufacturing software, and now I work on the Solaris operating system. I've been at Sun twenty years....

I doing machining and steamboating for a hobby; the computer work pays the bills, and is pretty interesting to boot(:-)). I ended up doing so much software because I like clever designs, and one gets to do a lot more of that in software than in hardware, at least in this area.

One of these years I'll get into CNC; I built some custom CNC software for Lawrence Livermore Labs 25 years ago to drive their measurement machinery for front surface mirrors on the Shiva laser fusion project... two of us wrote all the code, in assembler to read the encoder boards and most of it in Fortran to do path planning and drive the servo routines... given that it ran on a 1 Mhz DEC LSI-11/24 under RT-11, doing this today w/ a 2.6 Ghz Opteron and the real time and multi-processing/multi-threaded capabilties in Solaris ought to be a lot easier....

dp
01-10-2009, 03:26 AM
I've got a BS and Masters in mechanical engineering, but over the years spent a lot of time doing software, first for simulations and then for industrial robotics... I ended up working at a metrology software startup and moved to Sun Microsystems doing manufacturing software, and now I work on the Solaris operating system. I've been at Sun twenty years....

My OS of choice - there's 5 servers downstairs running it right now and I have a Solaris VM running on this Mac. Keep up the good work! :)

moldmonkey
01-10-2009, 03:27 AM
I have this pet theory that the reason you hear all the horror stories about young mechanical engineers without any practical knowledge or common sense is that anyone in this day and age with the desire and drive to tinker and invent and make things will go into electronics, computers, etc. because that's where the opportunities and the cutting edge is at. After all its pretty hard to come up with a truly new mechanical idea. (Unless you are RJ Newbould) This would tie in with why these same IT/EE/computer people are also attracted to being a HSM.

I've worked with an electrical engineer who liked to tinker, build things, wanted to know how things worked and always had some kind of project at home. This made him a good engineer with practical knowledge. At the same time we worked with a mechanical engineer who went into engineering because he liked cars. He did work on his own cars but only at the bolt-on some kit level beyond that he wasn't interested in things mechanical and wasn't very good with his hands, tools, or designing. Lots of dimensions to 4 places, blind dowel holes, 3" deep tapped holes, etc. when all that wasn't necessary (he was a good project/people manager however)

On the staff machinist comment, I work as a R&D machinist (in-house fixtures and automation). The pay is OK (after leaving for six months and then coming back after they couldn't find anyone and getting a good raise to come back) but I'm not exactly getting rich. I would consider it low now that we have no engineers on staff and I'm doing the design also but that makes the job even more fun and satisfying. I hope it lasts as I don't know if I could ever find another job like it. While IT jobs are everywhere.

Astronowanabe
01-10-2009, 04:57 AM
allot to agree on it this thread :)

This past week I was accepted into and began a Masters program in Computer Science here at the University of Oregon where I have worked as a scientific programmer for the last 10 years (and was a CS student here before that).

My take on it is we like to build stuff. in digital land we are building stuff that often has no physical manifestation and is never *DONE*. Even if we do a perfect job on a particular program the operating system can be changed out from under you.

Machining is very similar in that you get to conceive, plan, breakdown, execute, all these steps to create something but when you sweep up the chips there is a good chance whatever you just created will outlast you.

and Thanks Bart
I have been a happy Solaris user since, well, before it became Solaris:)

dan s
01-10-2009, 02:48 PM
No offense taken,

I'm usually a very laid back guy that will bend over backwards to help you. What sets me off is someone try to blame/force/ something on my guys that's inappropriate. That's when I drop the sledge on them if you will. Usually said individual quickly, reverts back to acting in a professional manner. Hence how I earned the reputation of being someone not to mess with.

I have my B.S. in computation physics, and spent two years as a paid research assistant, and I can say from experience that physicists have a lot less crap to put up with. The only time I can remember the PHD's wigging out was when it came time to renew grants.



Dan S. - That's what we call an "inferiority complex" :D Only joking. I find the best way to deal with those people is to be friendly, polite and exceedingly stubborn. It doesn't take very long for them to notice that you might be friendly, but your also not going to take any crap. You don't have to be beligerent, just confident and steady. ("You" is collective and general, not talking about Dan S. specifically. I often use you in a general sense, so don't take offense if it seems like I'm singling you out!) 'Course IT guys probably have to put up with alot more sh*t than physicists ever do.

RancherBill
01-10-2009, 03:47 PM
RMack

My take on your question is you have to look under the hood.

My wifes a teacher and she is talking about the 11 kinds of intelligence. I think you'll find machinist, welders and IT guys have very high conceptualisation and visualization intelligence.

IT guys get a loosey goosey definition of what is needed. They can see it in there minds eye and proceed. The same with welders here some metal make me a trailer or machinists here's a block of metal make me a steam engine.

All of those things require the ability to visualise and convert the abstract to reality.

I did computer repair for a long time. On customers walking in the door I saw lots of interesting things. Some occupations that came in were Engineers, Electricians, Mechanics. People that never came in were Carpenters, or Plumbers. It was the wives of Carpenters and Plumbers that came in. Their husbands never touched the computer.

danlb
01-10-2009, 04:15 PM
The way I got into was machining bass-ackwards. I like figuring things out, so I taught myself the basics of the locksmith trade. A lock is just a neat 3 dimensional puzzle. Many of the tools used in locksmithing are unique to the trade and hard to find or expensive. My itty-bitty mill was purchased with the thought that I could build some of the tools I needed to play with locks. My 7x12 lathe was purchased so I could make high tech flashlights. Now I make whatever I want.

I think most of it's been said.

But.... there's always more.


I have long held that GOOD computer guys are somewhat twisted. We are the creative left brain types. We like to create things LOGICALLY. We don't create works of art that are just pretty, but we make some really useful things that turn out to be pleasant on the eye. I've actually been complemented on the elegance of my code. How's that for strange?

Working through a sticky piece of legacy code is like working a giant logic puzzle. We are good at it; some of us are obsessive . Figuring out the best way to machine a part is also a giant puzzle. The best tool, the right speeds, the DOC and the fixtures to hold it all come into play.

Many IT folks get into such hobbies simply because we can. We enjoy many enablers when it comes to HSM. We either get paid well or we get copious free time (seldom both). Some of us take an early retirement or get laid off. . With the money you can afford the expensive tools that machining seems to demand. With free time you can actually use them!

I think I'll go out to the garage now and see about adding the dedicated circuit for my mill.

Dan

Fasttrack
01-10-2009, 04:43 PM
No offense taken,

I'm usually a very laid back guy that will bend over backwards to help you. What sets me off is someone try to blame/force/ something on my guys that's inappropriate. That's when I drop the sledge on them if you will. Usually said individual quickly, reverts back to acting in a professional manner. Hence how I earned the reputation of being someone not to mess with.

I have my B.S. in computation physics, and spent two years as a paid research assistant, and I can say from experience that physicists have a lot less crap to put up with. The only time I can remember the PHD's wigging out was when it came time to renew grants.


Ahh, I gotcha. I don't blame you; IT seems to get a bad rap no matter how good they are. I think people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to computers.

ckelloug
01-10-2009, 05:09 PM
I'm a research engineer at a large not-for-profit research institute. Almost everything I do involves software that isn't very research oriented but is highly technical. It's maddening to build systems composed of software logic with no physical manifestation.

My biggest successes in the company have been in emergency reverse engineering of file and data formats. In one of my favorite and most recent projects, I had to reverse engineer the data format of an electron microscope to be able to use it for research measurements in a way the manufacturer never imagined. I then implemented the software to convert the data to another badly documented format so that it was compatible with the researcher's analysis tools on which I took over software maintenance.

The most frustrating thing to me is to build technologies that just work as they were supposed to even when the situation is complex. It is frustrating because everyone thinks the answer is obvious and that it's a two week project when in reality you have to make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

The worst one of these projects entailed 80hours a week plus for two years. It looked simple but among the tasks, I had to reverse engineer the disk format for the disk of an ancient unix system and write a driver of sorts for it under solaris. Then, when I had the data, I realized that I needed to write a recursive descent parser (the front of a compiler) to pick out the needed data. The data was not designed to be machine readable and human readable data by virtue of its inconsistency is very hard to parse. It was made worse by the fact that it had to respond to messages it hadn't seen before and that I did most of the development in a hotel room. All this was accompanied by constant bitching, schedule changes and design changes from the client and the user. Oh and did I mention the months of travel to dumpy hotels outside of dumpy military bases? The best however was the contractor cabal that once tried to manipulate the government into having our team arrested for embarrassing them by blaming us for an imaginary security violation.

Hours spent under extreme pressure using a hex editor desperately trying to figure out data formats (like that scene from The Matrix where they look at the raw data on the screen and learn to interpret it) probably take years off your life.

Doing machinery work and epoxy granite research on my own is much more fulfilling to me and seems more likely to make something of lasting value than pushing bits like ever shifting piles of sand. What I have learned from the experience is that if you don't seek out new ideas and implement them, and instead wait for someone to tell you what they want done, then you risk becoming a slave once you get bored with the situation.

--Cameron