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6 minutes read
18 April 2017

10x your engineering career and job satisfaction with this simple habit!

6 minutes read

Engineering is a great field! To me being an engineer is a pleasure, and each day I wake up happy (if somewhat tired!) to go to my job and learn new things.

It wasn’t always like that – just a year or two ago I was really burned out and borderline depressed. Luckily for me, by sheer accident, I came across ideas that changed my life.

If you don’t feel that engineering is great or you are searching for a way to advance your career… make yourself a cup of coffee. I think you should read this.

Long story short

A few years back I got my Ph.D. degree, and you could think I was off for success. It was easy to work in a company I co-founded and simply do projects for the rest of my life. I felt there was something missing, but I couldn’t pinpoint it back then. This state lasted for a few years. Each week I was feeling slightly worse but we rarely notice small changes do we? It came to the spot where I would come to my own office and actually complain about how bad our field is with my team (and I was the one complaining!).

I was really in a sorry state and borderline depressed most of the time. Luckily for me when I was bored I used to watch TEDx talks. Eventually, I found a talk of Scott Dinsmore that started something in me. And what a journey this is!

Gaining skills + knowledge = fulfillment

Scott’s talk moved something with me – I realized that I love engineering and that somehow my dream engineering job turned into a nightmare of sorts (in my own company!). The work was not challenging anymore, we had to do all the projects that we could to stay afloat, most of them (apart from few great exceptions) were basic and tiresome. I stopped learning new things and simply entered a slumber-like state where I did what was required and went home tired.

At that stage a year ago I started this blog. The initial idea was simply to write about FEA which I really enjoy as a break from my work (even though I did FEA designs back then as well, they were scarce). I did it mostly for myself – to keep me motivated to learn. And this felt great! At that time I wasn’t aware that it was about learning, I assumed this was about doing something “different”.

After few months I realized I enjoy doing FEA so much that I simply need to focus on this field. We were doing FEA consultancy at the time, but this was not the main thing. To make it short: I left my own company and started Enterfea.

Now I can do what I really enjoy, and I do my best to learn something new each day. It feels like it takes ages, but I’m certain that in few years all the small pieces of knowledge I gather now will compound into something useful. It’s like Steve Jobs said in his Standford commencement address:

Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.

Learning gives perspective

I do my best to not only work on my job, but also on my skills. I tend to learn new things, even if I don’t have to. Everything I learn now can come in handy later on. Logic is simple – if a chance to do something awesome presents itself it will be too late to start learning (usually deadlines are too tight for that)… but I will be ready! Just like Les Brown said:

It’s better to be Prepared for an opportunity, and not have one. Than to have one and not be Prepared!

But there is also a second thing here that is as important to me if not more.

In the beginning, I wrote that most of the projects we did in my old company were tiresome and not challenging. You don’t think that changing a company suddenly changed the projects I have access to do you?

Sure I learned a lot, I focus far more on what I want to do, so naturally, I get more interesting work (this feels great!). But it would be naive to think that I will do only awesome projects till I retire… there will be more tiresome projects as well.

My situation didn’t change all that much, but I did change a lot! As Jim Rohn said:

For things to change, you have to change

I can see now that when I do something I don’t enjoy, this builds my skills and my business so that I can do even better and more challenging work in the future! I have a goal in mind: I want to do very challenging FEA projects.

Each day I try to make small steps toward that goal, and I feel the “movement”. This way regardless of what I do, I simply treat it as a preparation for the coming challenges. Such an approach makes even the tiresome, mundane tasks ok.

What you can do today

Now you know I’m writing this from my own experience:

I was frustrated and tired, felt that nobody cares and that things will never change. I didn’t saw any possibilities (despite my relatively good position!). This is a dark place for sure.

Do you feel the same? Or maybe you simply wish to change something for the better?

If so, find something you really enjoy doing in engineering (or any other field if you feel like it) and start to learn about it. If you do a small progression each day, you will soon start to see a direction. You will get a feeling that you are going somewhere… somewhere you want to go! This is why I start each day waking up at 5 am to learn… it feels great 🙂

This is a great approach to life in general… even if you have the best job in the world – you can always be better at it. The easiest way to do so is by learning new things and acquiring new skills 🙂

This way, when the opportunity will come (and it will!) you will be ready! It doesn’t matter if this will be a new business possibility or a new position! Whenever this opportunity will require advanced skills you will be SO MUCH ahead! Think about it – how many people you know actually learn something after work? This is why constant learning is such a huge advantage! After few years your skills will be so much higher that it won’t be possible to simply ignore them!

What do you think about it? You can let me know in the comments below.

Perhaps Finite Element Method is your “thing”?

This is GREAT! Just do me a favor and don’t try to learn everything with trial and error as I did at the start. This was a rather frustrating process for me! I’ve prepared a special free FEA course for my subscribers. You can get it below.

Author: Łukasz Skotny Ph.D.

I have over 10 years of practical FEA experience (I'm running my own Engineering Consultancy), and I've been an academic teacher for a decade. Here, I gladly share my engineering knowledge through courses, and on the blog!

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Comments (29)

chandra - 2020-03-24 11:45:42

It is really great text. As a fresher, we will demotivate ourselves for doing things. Which you mentioned in the article is very useful for the freshers.

You're motivating the demotivated people with this article.

Thank you for sharing with us this article.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2020-03-24 13:51:44

Thank you for the kind words!

I'm glad that you find this motivational :)

All the best
Ł

Reply
Lucajn Nastalek - 2020-01-17 11:56:14

Hello Lukasz,
Just out of curiosity: do you do any projects with composites, and orthotropic properties? I have been trying to find a way to 'homogenize' my fin structure with an orthotropic material, but unfortunately it does not seem to follow a simple linear elastic law. Any pointers would be great. I am a CFD guy doing structural out of necessity, but I do enjoy it. But in all attempts to try and bridge the gap in knowledge and skill can be a struggle.

An interesting post. I've yet to see the video (TedEx talk), but I feel similar to a point that when I don't learn something I feel physically sick.
LN

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2020-01-18 09:38:44

Hey Lucjan!

No, I don't work with composites or orthotropic stuff. I know that EN 1993-4-1 (for silos) has some equations on how to change corrugated steel into an orthotropic material, but I never needed to dig into that. So I'm afraid I won't able to help you with that.

But definitely let us know when you solve the problem!

Also, watch the video when you get a chance, it's a good one :)

All the best
Ł

Reply
Mihdí - 2019-08-16 15:29:44

Great post man! This really is what happens when you work doing engineering process for a long time, and learning is what really makes the difference. Besides, if you learn new things, you can do more and better things at your job and people will be very happy about that, and even compensate you. Because doing projects day after day usually does not give you time to improve your skills or learn new ones, besides "being good at doing projects".
Best regards!
Mihdí.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2019-08-17 20:27:49

Hey Mihdi!

Yup! Learning new stuff is so awesome! But applying it to the work you do is what turns me on. Even if it is not directly related to FEA (like how on earth to run a website?!) - learning is fun!

I'm not sure about the doing projects part though. I guess that in learning there is an exponential curve, at least in part. I get a feeling that for the very first 2-3 years of mine (maybe even more, it's hard to recall) I was just doing my work (and a Ph.D. during nights). But even as I did calculate similar things over and over again... I did them better. Through sheer repetition, I understood more and was able to do more. I sure know that I was pretty scared as a rookie, but after some time I started to trust in my ability to solve stuff. This trust helps me to this very day and will help me later as well.

So even as you do something over and over again, as long as you are doing things from start to finish I guess, you are actually developing your skills. Just be inquisitive. Don't do things because people always did them that way. Ask, and search for answers. And you will be fine :)

See you around!
Ł

Reply
Illimar Kalk - 2019-05-31 08:08:37

Hello Lukasz,

Yes that is experienced journey. It's easy to complain, but this is true: if you don't like something, then you change it and mostli you have to make changes inside yourself!

Have a nice day!
Illimar

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2019-05-31 15:32:35

Thanks Illimar!

Changing things isn't always easy, bah! may not always be possible I guess. But giving up never was my answer to stuff...

All the best
Ł

Reply
ovarlik - 2019-04-08 20:27:03

Hi Lukasz,
Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story.
Good luck for you.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2019-04-09 03:49:44

Thanks a lot!

All the best!
ł

Reply
Ivar KJELBERG - 2019-03-08 09:33:30

Hi Łukasz

I fully agree, having a job that makes fun is the best. I have too been lucky so far :)
Remains a "but": even then you can overdo it, I sometimes wounder how you manage not to overdo things as I'm reading many of your blogs. It reminds me about myself some 20 years ago :)
So, even having fun has some limits, it can become stressy ...

Good luck and PLS continue, but at a controlled speed, "life is a marathon, not a sprint".
Sincerely
Ivar

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2019-03-08 13:08:25

Hey Ivar!

Yea... about that :/

I do work long hours, wake up early and all that. This is a topic for a long conversation I guess, but there is definitely something to what you wrote. Costs to be paid and all...
The hard thing for me is to slow down. I either do stuff or don't do stuff. It's hard to do stuff "a little".

But we live to learn, and I hope I will be able to slow down a bit "at some point".

Thank you for your care, I really appreciate it!

If you have any advice, I'm more than open as well :)
Ł

Reply
Vikram - 2019-01-15 06:47:32

Hi Lukasz,

Sincerely and strongly appreciate this article, it has a motivating effect and validates something that i have very recently (and quite late in life) noticed, that "progress" can produce happiness. The trigger was Scott's TED talk for you, in my case it was the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

With lots of respect and admiration for your work and teaching,
Vikram

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2019-01-15 07:06:04

Hey Vikram!

Thanks! I really appreciate your words! It's so nice to hear that you liked it. I admit it's always "scary" to write something like that on a technical blog... you know, you never know how people will react and all...

I'm really happy that it was valuable for you :)

Have a great day :)
Ł

Reply
Alpha - 2018-03-16 09:09:09

Hey Lukasz,
Thanks for a great writeup,you have really shown me that there is a need to look West contrary to the always North focusing that we have been trained for.

I have noted your final paragraph as well about "weekend travel with the loved ones"
Have a great weekend,

Alpha.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2018-03-17 19:23:43

Hey Alpha!

I'm really glad that you like the article : )

Ach yes! - I just got back from a seminar... and it was supposed to be a 3,5h drive. We had such heavy snowfall that it took be 8h... no family traveling for me this weekend :P (But we were outdoors playing in the snow, so I kind of feel justified :P)

All the best
Ł

Reply
VJ - 2018-03-16 04:19:09

That was a great article mate !!
I did many FEA projects and found that I am a quick learner and hence used to finish the project before timeline. Amazing part was my FEA results matched with test labs with acceptable tolerance. I was on cloud9 back then as for any FEA engineer satisfaction comes only when the product is in market safely running. Paycheck is important but comes later.
And fast farward, I started learning Python (Udacity), which is also used in commercial FEA packages. Later wish to learn AI as well. I always want to do something new, and I am sure, one step each day and I will reach on the peak of mountain !!
Stay Blessed !!

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2018-03-17 19:21:46

Hey VJ!

Thanks! I'm glad that you like it!

Yea - that learning thing is an incredible journey. I started learning FEA for normal beam models, then I did some connections a bit more accurately (and I started my PhD at that time). Later I learned nonlinear stuff... and now I even know how to run a blog and a website, I understand basics of ecommerce and other things, and... I just got back from the first live event I organized... This is a bit crazy. Sometimes I wonder where this will lead :) we will see I guess :)

Reply
Manjunatha M - 2019-06-14 05:57:10

Nice to read your comment, can you share source or material for the FEA books

Reply
Z - 2018-03-09 17:02:01

Hi, Lukasz,
I like your "old-style" coffee. It's mostly disappeared here in the "new world".
We sometimes get tired and stop going to gym, or for a walk.
But, same as opportunity, we have to look for the one and get prepared at the same time.
They are then propelling each other, and we are better ourselves.
Einstein once said, "Try not to become a man of success, but to become a man of value".
If success doesn't come (mostly due to insufficient luck), nobody can take from you the greatness you got.
Regards,
Z

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2018-03-10 08:15:06

Hey Z!

Thanks for the comment! "old style coffee" - I feel bad sitting in a coffee-shop right now, realizing this digital-nomad American dream :P

I wanted to share something but didn't really know how and your comment gave me a chance:

I am SO HAPPY with my job. I simply love days like this. I woke up and drive to a coffee shop nearby, and I will prepare materials and examples for an event I'm doing. This is such a pleasure!

Have a great day Mate!
Ł

Reply
steve - 2017-07-05 19:16:56

Great read
I find myself many times wondering why I am always pushing myself to learn new things. I love the journey of taking on a challenging simulation or engineering problem and solving it but after I do I feel a low and let down as there is nothing left to solve once the problem is done. I found that I frequently was sucked into this high low cycle. Then I learned that leaning was the part that made me the most happiest and applying my new knowledge was a great joy. After I realized that learning was what really made me happy I started to strive to learn new things. Unfortunately I discovered a new revelation that if I had no outlet to apply the information and new skill I became low again. What began to happen though is if I stuck with studying new knowledge which I desired then opportunities using those skills began to present themselves. Pretty cool.

Your stated quote makes a lot of sense and I will look to it to keep the fires burning.

"It’s better to be Prepared for an opportunity, and not have one. Than to have one and not be Prepared!"

It is not easy to keep pushing yourself to study challenging topics that require you to connect the complex theoretical and mathematical dots (especially when it is voluntary and no job is pushing you to do so) but the reward is pretty awesome when you learn and get to apply that knowledge.

Thanks for sharing
Best wishes to you and yours
FEA is great and super fun when you have the right mind set on
Life is great when we can keep the right perspective
Thanks for sharing yours!

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-07-06 06:05:53

Hey Steve!

I'm very happy that you enjoyed the post :)
I agree that learning is great, even though it is very hard sometimes!

Best wishes for you as well!
Ł

Reply
Yudhi Somali - 2017-05-08 05:48:07

Nice post.
All the things you said in your story really reflect my situation. I guess it happens for every engineering student who still passionate to pursue engineering career once they complete their school.
I do agree with your perspective as there will be some sort of fulfillment once we gain something after digging deeper to keep advancing our skill. Even I started think we share similar interest by reading your story as the guy who keep enthusiast for engineering.

Good luck!
I hope I can learn something from what you share.

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-05-08 08:51:44

Hey Yudhi!

I'm glad that you enjoyed the post.
I will do my best to share things that will benefit you somehow :)

Have a great day!
Ł

Reply
Paula - 2017-04-24 11:38:41

Hi! A great text, thank you for sharing your story, it was exactly this piece of motivation and advice that I needed :) Thank you so much and good luck with your projects!

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-04-24 13:16:59

Hey Paula!

I'm so glad that you liked it!
All the best and good luck!

Ł

Reply
Goyo - 2017-04-20 17:33:16

As right as nice words!
You found passion and work all in one.
I am so happy for you!
Keep pushing!

Reply
Łukasz Skotny Ph.D. - 2017-04-20 18:24:21

Hey Goyo!

Thank you for kind words :)

Have a great day!
Ł

Reply

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