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Back to You
What’s really interesting when we do these surveys is that we get a chance to tune into the career psyche of our readers. We ask a range of questions that help us understand who you are and how you feel about your jobs. If you recognize yourself in the profiles described on pages 49 and 51, please don’t feel you are typical—even though the word is used to describe our average respondent. There is nothing “typical” about you or your process engineering colleagues in arms. When compared to the rest of humans on this planet there are so few of you who can actually do the things you do.
Your cumulative knowledge and experience is what helps the rest of us duffers get the energy, water, shelter, transportation and food we need to survive. Sheesh! Never in the history of man have so many owed so much to so few (thank you Winston Churchill).
Although our readers are predominately male, the women who responded really shined with most matching or besting the most successful career paths of the men. Kudos go out to the women in processing because there’s no doubt that they probably had to work just a little bit harder and a little bit smarter to get where they are today.
Diversity is still not a strong suit of the profession in the U.S., but survey responses revealed rainbow has most colors, even though some stripes or wider than others. Several who filled in the “Other” box for this question wrote in “human” which says something about the attitudes of some of your colleagues regarding race.
Domestically, 85% said they were married and there were fewer divorced than single (.5% vs. 10%). Considering the average age of survey respondents (over 40) those with a sense of humor might say that once you marry an engineer you’re stuck for life! Most also have kids. Fortunately, it looks like salaries are set to keep pace with college tuition hikes and the cost of Ipods. Perhaps some of our more prolific respondents will take solace in that.
Where You Work
Our readers responded primarily live in the U.S. and most every one of the 50 states was represented by someone. States with larger groups reflected the industrial regions and population centers with respondents from Texas and Illinois leading the numbers.
As mentioned in the profile, most respondents identified themselves as working in the chemical industry sector. Food & beverage came next with oil & gas trailing closely by respondents who indicated they work for instrument & controls suppliers. Helping the overall quality of the survey’s findings was the fact that respondents were fairly evenly distributed among the categories (pharmaceutical, textile, pulp & paper, chemical, oil & gas, energy, water & waste water, mining, metals, stone/clay/glass, plastics, independent engineering firms, instrument & control suppliers and other). Respondents checking “Other” could write in their affiliation; notable here was the number (about 1 in 10) indicating they worked in the automotive manufacturing sector.
Engineering design and construction was the description picked most by those surveyed (33%) followed by production and plant operations (19%). Plant maintenance personnel came next (17%) trailed by corporate management and research and development tying for fourth place (7%). About 14% checked “Other” and number of the write-ins identified themselves specifically as control/process systems engineers, consultants and titles that associated their job activities with that growing hybrid category that combines control systems management and IT.
Job Angst Abating
When we did the survey last year, there was a distinct undercurrent of resentment from respondents. Many of the comments received expressed ill-will against employers with warnings to stay away from the profession.
This year, responses were somewhat more positive. For instance, worries about job security and the economy’s effect on their jobs seem to be abating. This year 54% responded that they were not concerned about job security, an improvement over last year where just over half indicated they were concerned. How is the economy affecting your company? When asked, 39% responded their companies’ were hiring, 30% said more overtime was being laid on, while 25% said layoffs were still occurring. Twenty percent of the survey’s responders said their company’s were handing out raises—perhaps indicating those respondents’ organizations are feeling pressure to retain engineering talent by offering them more money.
The over 200 comments we received to our “Please chime in about any workplace issues or observations you may have, good or bad” query really let us know what was on your minds. Several distinct threads became apparent:
OK, so it’s not all a bed of roses. Remember though, these kinds of virtual chat sessions invite the disenfranchised. Regardless, what’s heartening is there were several who wrote in very positive things about the profession and their workplace. Here are a couple of samples: “Our company owner is very open about financials driving this company. Everyone in the company shares that information and feels part of it. That has lead to very little turnover or dissent.” Another commented “I work for a company with very flat management that trusts employees and does not nitpick their every move. Mistakes are encouraged. The attitude is ‘if you are not making mistakes, you are not doing anything.’ It is a great environment.” And one more. “Great place to work. Lot’s of growth. Lot’s of new projects and opportunities.” But even when things are really going great there’s always somebody who can lever out a complaint: “I live in Nirvana, but it’s boring right now …” Ah well, you can’t please everyone, but hey it’s a living.
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