As a teen in high school I had little to no idea what I actually wanted to do for a living. I knew that my ultimate goal was to be happy, have a job that I enjoyed and paid well enough to keep me comfortable, and that I wanted to be just a little different. I searched through all the books and guides for teens took the personality tests and aptitude tests that really told me absolutely nothing more than I already knew. In the end I took some of the careers that had stuck out and that sounded interesting and searched them online. Much to my disappointment I couldn’t find anything that really fit me. I like to fix things, I have a curious nature (yes it gets me in trouble), I love science, arts, literature, and history, I don’t mind manual labor, but I can’t draw at all, I’m not stellar at math, and just over all I tended to be (and still am) a bit of a mish mash of things that don’t seem like they should go together.
So I started out in computer engineering and I loved doing the hard ware work, but hated the software. I couldn’t see spending 40 plus years doing something like that so I finished the program and moved on to electronics again I loved the hardware and even the software was better, but to be able to make a good living at it I’d have been tied to a desk doing the programming, and it just wasn’t, enough to keep me entranced for that stretch between college and retirement. So I ended up stepping away from it as well and going to school for what was at the time first called industrial engineering and later was changed to engineering technology. Lucky for me the program accepted my first degrees and I built upon those taking classes in varied subject from design to machining and every place in between. I thought it was great until I realized that again I was a mix match and I needed a job that fit my mix match.
Lucky for me I figured it out, but people don’t know about all the types of engineering there are, there are literally tons of different types and divisions of engineering.
My mix matched self ended up fitting into the position of process engineer. So what is a process engineer? A process engineer is an individual given the task of developing, maintaining, and/or streamlining a production process. It is in essence an industrial engineer, but industrial engineering is more of an umbrella term as was my degree it covers a little of everything including safety, quality, environmental, and process engineering. So, what exactly does a process engineer do? That varies by company and by department within that company; some level of design and redesign is often required on the level of the product being produced or on the production process itself. This is determined by several considerations the engineer and company must take into account. Some of these companies have been using the same production processes for twenty or more years and it is up to process engineers to update and upgrade these processes to make sure that the company can keep up with demand, quality standards, and be profitable.
In order to be able to accurately keep up with the demands of the industry a process engineer must most importantly understand the product and the current production process, before making any changes. This can take a large amount of time investment depending on the complexity of the product and production process. Having this in depth understanding allows for the engineer to make educated decisions as to what will affect the quality and production time of the part. For example, with ceramic grinding off to much stock to quickly can weaken the part, so while it may take more time it is more efficient to move at a slower stock removal rate to reduce scrap or reduce the amount of stock to be removed all together if possible. Having a wide knowledge base has helped me in this area, because I have enough to build off of that I’m never having to start entirely from ground zero, when I’m introduced to a principle. That’s not to say that I know everything I need to know to make the best decisions, but I have some ideas about where to look for the information based on what I learned in college.
One of the things that many people I’ve noticed forget is that there is never I stop to learning, if you stop learning you stop growing and if you stop growing you start dying. Having only a general base coming out of college left me at a disadvantage in some ways, but in others it left me with the openness to absorb as much knowledge as possible from every source available without any sort of expectations that I already knew it all. I can only hope as I move forward into a new arena in my current work place that I will continue to use these strengths appropriately. I say this because now even though I am still a process engineer I am now going to move away from an existing process and move on to developing new production processes, elsewhere within the current company. I’ll keep you all updated on how this works out.