Preparing for career changes as an engineer

Manufacturing operations are constantly changing, and engineers can stay ahead of the curve by volunteering and learning as much as possible.

By Sam Russem May 7, 2022
Sam Russem is senior director of smart manufacturing solutions at Grantek Systems Integration. Courtesy: Grantek

Learning Objectives

  • Manufacturing is constantly changing due to technology and cultural changes.
  • Engineers can stay ahead of the curve by being versatile.
  • Volunteer for new roles and challenges as much as possible.

Manufacturing operations are constantly changing. The uncertainty around COVID-19, supply chain issues and corporate restructuring and consolidation in the industry has exasperated that change. When it comes to career growth, embracing and preparing for change can be a key driver in career advancement.

Diversify projects, tasks, roles

Prepare for change by challenging yourself to take on many projects, tasks, roles and responsibilities. Doing this allows you to become a more versatile professional, while also sharpening a core skillset as you develop an appreciation for other aspects of operations within the organization.

Transitioning from a small to mid-sized system integration and manufacturing consulting company, Grantek needed to build leadership around strategic areas of focus to unite sales, marketing, engineering, delivery, and other company areas around industry solutions. With experience supporting each of those departments, I was in a strong position to thrive during a reorganization of operations.

Help when other departments ask

I recommend raising your hand when other departments ask for help. This way, you will get a chance to experience the challenges they face through the lens of something you are more comfortable with.

In my career, I leveraged technical experience implementing cutting-edge data collection and reporting systems to help the marketing department with webinar content, to support sales as a system architect and proposal generator, and support the consulting team with writing technical requirements. Early on, it was uncomfortable to engage in roles outside of my engineering focus (classic impostor syndrome), but by raising my hand and taking risks on new opportunities provides experiences for future career opportunities.

In my current position, I find myself in a better position to serve the company and clients because I can reflect on earlier work outside of engineering. These experiences give me a better appreciation of the needs and wants of clients, and the various stakeholders employed by clients, not only those working on the plant floor.

Sam Russem is senior director of smart manufacturing solutions at Grantek Systems Integration. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,


Keywords: system integration, workforce development


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Author Bio: Sam Russem is director of the smart manufacturing practice at Grantek and serves as the leader of the ISA SMIIoT’s Digital Twin and Simulation committee. Russem has been working in automation and Smart Manufacturing for more than a decade and focuses on the strategic and practical application of Industry 4.0 technologies for manufacturers.