Career Advice for Long Time Controls Engineer


Thread Starter


Hello everyone:

I really need some career advice. I am an EE with 15 years experience in industrial automation and controls. I have been struggling with a career decision for some time now. I have been working at a good company for 4 years with great benefits and good/ok compensation.

The issue is, I am not using a great portion of my experience that I believe defines an industrial controls engineer, such as PLC programming, HMI development, Servo and motion. I really enjoyed PLC programming, closed Loop control and Drives. The Kind of work I do now is more hardware focused and with lots of interconnect, cabling, Bill of materials, kits, a tone of manufacturing support and things of that nature. The software is PC based (.net, etc) now, so I have no involvement in it. I tried getting involved with the software but I don't think I have a path. The work is extremely boring with a few interesting things at times and so it becomes very difficult to stay motivated and focused at times. In general the technical ladder is not very strong and I don't see a career path in the long term. I am not currently interested in management either.

I have a family and kids and so the benefits and the security are important to me and that is why I have stayed so far.

So, my question is; do I stay or go find something that I enjoy that may not have the benefits. I am also concerned that in long term I will lose skills that I believe makes me marketable and define me as a controls engineer. The longer I stay the harder it will get to break away and obviously there is no guaranteed employment either.

What is the best solution in the long term?

Has anyone ever been in this situation?

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thank you

Bob Peterson

I used to say I was mostly a software guy because I rarely did drawings. Almost entirely PLC, HMI, and SCADA programming.

Somehow I ended up mostly designing loadbanks and motor control panels that often have 1200 or 1600 Amp main circuit breakers, and don't do anywhere near as much software.

The reality is that a lot of industrial programming does not require a great deal of skill or experience. Even poorly done software works well enough to get by (and a lot of industrial software is really badly thought out). But, there is only one way to acquire the experience you have.

if you really dislike what you are doing it is best to find a way out or it will eat at you. if you just miss the "good old days", remember that the good old days included a lot of weekends and nights spent out on the factory floor getting a new program debugged and working. maybe the good old days were not really all that good.