Written by: George Sendrey, P.E. Project Manager
Career change can be scary – it can also be gratifying. Sometimes it’s both at the same time.
I started my career as a young technical person right out of college, in the water treatment industry working in a water lab, analyzing water samples. It was not really my dream job, but looking back on it, I had the opportunity to learn about water treatment chemistry in excruciating detail. I was lucky enough to work for a great guy who mentored me and taught me the importance of water quality. He was a chemist, so details were his thing and by extension, they became my thing as well. He also pushed me and allowed me to be exposed to other areas of the company. It was through this exposure that I became interested in engineering since those were the guys designing the equipment that changed the water chemistry that I was so busy analyzing.
I was hesitant, but I decided to apply to the process engineering department at my employer and go back to school to get an engineering degree. Along with my biology degree, I was paving my path to long-term happiness.
The company that I worked for had a great back to school program and actively promoted this benefit to all of its employees, so I took advantage of the benefit and applied to school – again. As time sometimes gets you, I was juggling school, family, and traveling the world to design and start up the water recycling systems that I designed, and before I knew it, more than 10-years had passed.
While I was in engineering school, I decided that my dream job was working for a consulting engineering firm and designing water treatment systems. That, paired with my sales abilities drove me to get my PE license. Timing is sometimes perfect because after I graduated with my engineering degree, and before I became a PE, the company I worked for decided to close the division I worked in. I took this as an opportunity to find my dream job at a consulting firm.
I ultimately landed my dream job working at a small consulting engineering firm, and it was awesome! I started out as the technical guy, but based on my past experience, they asked me if I wanted to combine some of my sales savvy with my engineering expertise and take on the task of sales and marketing for the firm. I called on municipal clients all over northeastern Ohio, building my network of contacts, expanding my friend circle, and designing the occasional project along the way.
Again, time bit me unexpectedly, and I found myself 12-years along my career path, and the sad news our company was closing its doors stopped me in my tracks. This kicked off a tumultuous few months of soul searching, self-reflection and a certain amount of fear and uncertainty. It also gave me the opportunity to honestly reflect on my career and how I got to where I was and where I might go from here.
As a result of this reflection, I discovered that I was just treading water and I was not happy being “just a sales guy.” I reached out to my network of contacts and let them know I was looking for an opportunity that challenged my technical knowledge, but also provided the potential for growth on the administrative side of the business.
As a result of my network, and a little bit of self-promotion, I had the chance to meet and talk with several companies about the opportunity to join their organization. I went into these meetings with an enhanced sense of what I was looking for in a career (not a job). I wanted a position where I get to design cool things (water plants, water lines, sewer lines, wastewater plants, pump stations, etc.) and occasionally talk to people about it (sales).
When I initially met with Environmental Design Group, I was excited about the opportunity because they wanted an engineer, not necessarily a business development guy. But there was more to it than that – they also wanted someone to help grow the Water Resources Department.
I had meetings with other companies and even had several offers of employment, but what drew me to Environmental Design Group was the culture and the people. Environmental Design Group uses the tagline, “The Community Impact People” and this struck a chord with me. I may not have previously given it a second thought, but when I designed a water line or water plant improvement, I was improving someone’s life, even if they didn’t realize it. This was the life goal that I was searching for – using my talents to make peoples’ lives better or safer.
I am thankful for the opportunities of change that have presented themselves throughout my career because it forced me to stop and consider my current status and future career path.
If you are faced with a career change, use the opportunity to stop, reflect and plan for the future. If you do, I’m sure you will find it’s never too scary or too late to find that gratification in a job that you love.