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How Do I Set-Up My Reliability Engineering Career?

Updated: Apr 5

One of the enduring beauties and mysteries of reliability engineering is that there is no straight forward definition of who a reliability engineer is. Proactive, successful organizations, employ reliability engineers in many different and tailored ways. Reactive, ‘barely solvent’ organizations use reliability engineers as over-qualified auditors, expected to clap system configurations through design review gates as quickly and quietly as possible.

So what does this mean for you and your reliability engineering career? Are you in a position now that you are not entirely happy with? Are you in an industry on a downward trend … meaning that sooner or later you need to move to a greener pasture? Or do you want to become a better version of yourself and feel more valued than you currently do?

The first thing you need to do is focus on the endstate. Which usually starts with your future employer.

Your perfect employer is out there. Somewhere.

There are millions of companies and organizations out there. There are millions of different bosses. Statistically speaking, there is at least one (and probably lots) of organizations that you would love being a part of. And you need to forget about the rest.

Why is this important? Because this becomes part of your endstate. I was recently talking to a reliability engineer facing a career conundrum. He wanted to put himself in a position now to get his ideal job later. He was specifically thinking about writing articles for a reliability engineering journal to flesh out his CV.

For those of you yet to experience the unadulterated joy of publishing your work in an academic journal, there are three ordeals you need to go through.

The first is coming up with something ‘novel.’ Not a case study involving an existing technique that (for example) generated millions of dollars in value. For today’s reliability journal, ‘novel’ invariably means developing some new statistical analysis technique. And because all the ‘easy’ ones are already identified in textbooks and previous papers, new statistical analysis techniques tend to be complex, involve mathematical hieroglyphics, and be relevant to an increasingly tiny fraction of applications.

The second ordeal is the process of review. This is where academically indoctrinated people critique your ideas to ensure they are novel enough.

The third ordeal is the writing process. You need to write things in an ‘academic’ way. Not something that someone reading a magazine would appreciate. And not the way your future bosses want you to write.

So back to my reliability engineering colleague. I asked him if his ‘perfect’ employer is looking for people who have generated millions of dollars in value through ‘good’ reliability engineering – OR people who have published 10 papers in an academic journal?

Then the flood gates opened. We really focused on his ‘perfect’ employer. Instead of writing articles for academic journals, I suggested he write articles for online professional media (think LinkedIn and websites). Articles that are simpler to write and simpler to read. Articles for readers that are more interested in generating value – and less interested in generating statistical techniques.

And we kept talking about lots of different things he could do now. All of them focused on his perfect employer and no one else.

But what about you? Who is your perfect employer? What behaviors will they want from you? Do they value an entrepreneurial spirit where you proactively generate value (increased revenue, decreased costs, increased number of missions et cetera)? If yes … then start acting this way wherever you are. Document your success. Do courses that help you become the perfect reliability engineer for your perfect employer. Follow people online with the same mindset. Don’t write CVs and resumes for organizations you aren’t interested in working for. You want them to ignore you!

Practice being the reliability engineer you want to be. And be patient. You may need to go through a couple of roles and positions and bosses to keep honing your skills. You will need some time to create your own case studies. And you need to learn how to sell these case studies to your perfect employer.

Because they are out there. And they are always looking for the reliability engineer you want to be.

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