Cal Poly Pomona - IME 499 Engineering Colloquium Speaker Series - Winter 98
What a Young Engineer Should Know About...Career Strategy
Written by Samson Chen and John M. Kord. Photography by John Kord. Edited by Phil Rosenkrantz
February 2, 1998
 
Career Strategy Panel Discussion
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Marv Abrams  David Marcroft  Phil Rosenkrantz
 "You cannot 'manage' your career as such. But you can be prepared for changes and opportunities and try to benefit from them." "Find several mentors who are 15 or more years ahead of you in the company. Seek their wisdom on situations and opportunities within the organization." "The best career strategy is always being prepared for the next position or a position somewhere else. Remain marketable. Be a trustworthy person."

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The Topic of Colloquium #3 was Career Strategy--Coping with Ups and Downs in Your Career. We often do not have control over some of the things that happen to us. We can, however, anticipate some of them and be as ready as possible for the unexpected. Our three panelists each give their recommendations on how to prepare yourself for these inevitabilities.

Dr. Marvin Abrams, Ph.D.
Dr. Abrams' background included work in the aerospace industries at such companies as Lockheed and General Dynamics. His last position in industry was as Chief Scientist for Lockheed. Currently, Dr. Abrams is Director of Sponsored Programs for the College of Engineering and enjoys teaching Chemistry as well.

In his lecture with the IME 499 Cal Poly Pomona students, he discussed ways to cope with the ups and downs of a professional career and ideas to manage it.

Plan and be ready for changes - He stressed that in reality, a person cannot "manage" a career. Instead we can only plan for a career and attempt to be professionally and mentally prepared for changes that will take place that affect us. These changes include new job opportunities that may arise. Dr. Abrams suggested that a person within a professional career be aware of circumstances that may affect the job, finances, and personal life. Situations such as these should be managed as they occur so they will not snowball into larger problems.

Challenges may be opportunities in disguise - Always look for the opportunity in what may appear to be a bad situation. Sometimes an undesirable assignment can lead to a positive career opportunity.

Maintain your technical competence - Continue to expand your career base so you are flexible, versatile, open-minded, and ready to make a move. Read things you like and when something seems interesting, dig a little deeper. Be intellectually curious and ask what is going on with others.

Have a "be of service" attitude - Help others even if it means going out of your ways at times. This is gratifying and it enhances your reputation.

Be active professionally - Take pride in what you do. Being a member of the related professional organizations is a way of doing this.

Be straightforward - Do not go around always looking over your shoulder wondering what may be going on behind your back. It wastes too much of your energy. Be honest and open with others. It is good for you to have a reputation of being a genuine and "up-front" person.

Some people are "bummers" - You will encounter people throughout your career who are difficult to work with or who cause you problems. However, not many. Do not dwell on them.
 
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Mr. David Marcroft, B.S.M.E., M.S. Quality Assurance

Mr. Marcroft's background includes working for the U.S. Navy and teaching part-time at Cal Poly Pomona in the IME and ET departments.

Set your goals early - Mr. Marcroft recommends that you set goals for a career at an early stage of life. Try to set some sort of goal for 5, 10, and 15 years ahead - "decide where you want to go and go there." Evaluate your career on a yearly basis and update your resume. He emphasized that students and career professionals alike should always keep a resume up-to-date so that it may be distributed on a moment's notice. Prior work experience such as projects and any specialized training should be included in the resume. If you wait too long between updates you will forget some important things for your resume.

You are not an island - You must be able to be a valuable part of the organization. This includes being replacable...training your replacement so you can move on.

Find a mentor - Another goal young professionals should set includes seeking mentors that have at least 15-20 years more experience in the organization. Mentors will be more able to advise with their wisdom and perspective on career changes or career opportunities. Occaisionally you will be offered an assignment with an organization that may not be in your best interest in the long run. Your mentors can help you evaluate these situations. Work on developing relationships.

Specialize in your job and broaden for the next one - Mr. Marcroft also suggested that as a professional you should specialize in a particular field, learn as much as possible associated with the job, look for more training, and look for a career path. Don't forget training in writing, presentations, computing, and teaching.

Additional recommendations - Mr. Marcroft summarized his presentation and gave several examples from his own career. He then added the idea of truthfully building a career while in no way undermining others' careers in the process. Be tenacious, but not overbearing. Be ready to be tested but do not be discouraged by "no's". Take calculated risks and ask questions of people who work around areas or people you may be working with in the future.

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Prof. Phil Rosenkrantz, P.E.

Phil Rosenkrantz is the IME 499 colloquium instructor. Professor Rosenkrantz presented his career as an example of being prepared for the future. Professor Rosenkrantz had previously worked with General Motors for almost fifteen years. His last position at GM was Industrial Engineering Supervisor. He has been at Cal Poly Pomona in the IME department for over fifteen years. He served as IME Department Chair from 1990-97. In addition to echoing the comments made by the previous speakers, he emphasized the following:

Set goals and always be qualified to get another job or qualify for something else - In his presentation, he mentioned that he set a goal to attend college on a scholarship when he was only a freshman in high school. His parents insisted that he had to support himself through college and was able to do just that. In college, he received a co-op with General Motors through General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan. He described how he spent four years traveling between South Gate, California and Flint, Michigan as a coop student working on a total of sixteen projects. That experience qualified him for a job as an experienced engineer upon graduation. General Motors sent him to Purdue University to earn his masters degree on a GM Fellowship. Deeper into his career, a hardship came about in 1982 when GM decided to shut down the plant he worked at in South Gate, California. He was qualified for and applied for several good jobs, including a tenure track position at Cal Poly Pomona, and was offered a job in all but one case. He chose to switch to academia because of personal goals for his family and professional career. He claims that because he picked up his Professional Engineer Registration and Community College Teaching Credential along the way, he was more qualified for the tenure-track teaching position at Cal Poly Pomona. Strong letters of recommendations also helped. Two years after he started at Cal Poly Pomona he went back to school at U.C. Riverside and eventually earned an M.S. in Statistics. The additional education has served him well ever since in both teaching and consulting.

Avoid being locked in to a company or job because of retirement or financial reasons - Save, invest, and stay out of debt for anything that cannot be sold for close to what you owe on it. Sacrifice a little bit of your lifestyle in the first ten years of your career to save, invest (including buying a house), and improve your education. By planning for your own retirement and future independent of the company's retirement plan, you can leave a company for a better position and/or avoid staying in a difficult position.

Be promotion material - Develop communication skills and personal qualities that make you a strong candidate for a more responsible position. Be trustworthy and don't be a "complainer". If you bring your boss a problem, try to offer two possible solutions along with it. Watch your health, personal hygiene, and have a good attendance and punctuality record. Work hard on developing your personal qualities such as maintaining balance, a positive mental attitude, leadership, organization, teamwork and planning skills. Read books by leaders in these fields like Covey, Paul J. Meyer, and others.

Be Trustworthy - This is the number one quality you can develop and what all employers and customers look for. Do not "flake" on people. Older generations will not put up with it.

In closing of the day's presentations, Professor Rosenkrantz reviewed the main points offered by guest speakers Abrams and Marcroft, while stressing the importance of creating and maintaining a successful career strategy.

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