Throughout my career I have been fortunate enough to meet some wonderfully skilled and impressive people, but few compare to the people I meet in the world of engineering. It’s incredible to me but I have yet to meet an engineer who is not impressive, engaging, or dynamic in some form or another. What an impressive bunch!
What confuses me further to this is that the skills shortage that exists in the engineering space is a constant worry for organisations across the globe. I find this staggering considering the value these people provide to us on a daily basis through leadership, innovation and creativity. Why is this? I believe that beyond most factors driving the skills shortage in this space is the lack of women choosing to enter the field. In a recent study in the US it was estimated that women made up less than 19% of the global engineering workforce. I found this staggering and it is certainly a major factor that is driving the skills shortage in the field. Could you imagine if that number became 50%? If it were to get closer to that percentage it is estimated that it would add over one million new female engineers to the global engineering population which would certainly help with our skills shortage.
I was recently approached by a family member who is at the point in their young lives where they are considering a career path to chose. When speaking, we discussed my thoughts on how impressive I found most engineers I have met and was then asked why I thought that he should consider becoming one. For the most part, the following are some of the thoughts I shared with him on why I felt a career in engineering should be seriously considered.
Yes I said it, and let’s get this out of the way early. Now I know that this isn’t something that should drive you solely when choosing a career. You should choose a career that you are passionate about, and try to spend every day doing something you love. But, the reality is that engineers get paid quite well. There are a number of factors for this (not least the above mentioned skills shortage driving the premium to secure talent); and surely, though not a sole driving factor, is certainly something to consider when choosing a career path. Did you know that in the US alone, a career in engineering is the highest paying qualification in the country? If you are an engineer in America you can expect to earn an average of $3.4 million over the life of your career. So while the financial factor shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when thinking about a career in engineering, at $3.4 million lifetime earnings on average – you certainly shouldn’t ignore it!
Engineers have a true global impact
This, for me, should be one of the biggest aspects you should consider when weighing up a career in engineering. There are very few other career paths that you can choose that delivers such a global impact to the society in which we live. Almost all aspects of the work of engineers benefit us in our day-to-day lives. They design and build bridges, infrastructure, and equipment used to produce medical and health products that save lives. Their development of technologies delivers our clean water, our power, and our toys and gadgets we love so much. Wherever you are sitting while reading this, take a moment and look around you – I’ll bet that 90% of what you see was born out of an engineering breakthrough. The beauty of this is also that as an engineer you can chose the impact you wish to have with your career by choosing the projects you would like to work on. Whether it’s working on new and innovative ways to allow the disabled to communicate, become mobile, and enhance their lives; to working on the next level of global communication; it’s really up to you. It’s often said that it’s difficult for one person to change the world – well engineers do it on a daily basis, and they have fun while doing it.
Your career possibilities are endless
Engineering is one of the most dynamic careers imaginable; you literally can achieve anything. I read recently from a report by the Harvard Business Review that of the top 100 global CEOs, 24 were engineers. This is a staggering statistic. Engineers have a unique way of looking at business and the world around them that allows them to be extremely effective leaders. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has grown the company by US$140 billion in his 20 years at the helm of the organisation. And what was his background? Yes, you’ve guessed it, he’s an engineer.
So what is it about engineers that make them such effective leaders? The best answer I have found comes from Harvard Business School’s Dean, Nitin Nohria:
Engineering is about what works,” he says, “and it breeds in you an ethos of building things that work — whether it’s a machine or a structure or an organization.
So this is a career in engineering; a dynamic, world changing journey that could lead right to the top of the world’s largest organisations. As I’ve stated above, there are few career paths outside of engineering that allow you this mix of opportunity and innovation, and certainly fewer that allow you to truly change the world around you to such a degree. If you are at that point in your life where you must chose a career, I would urge to consider a career in this field; you may just be surprised where it takes you.