Where do you want to go today? – Part 1

I know it is an old Microsoft slogan, but it is indeed the most important question that everyone of us should ask ourselves.

So, where do we want to go today?

How many of us are in our career of choice? And, how many of us eventually grew to love our jobs?

Think back to the days when you were five, did you have an ambition? – How has that changed?

I wanted to be a rice farmer. I picked that up from a storybook and I thought planting rice was fun!

What about when you were 12? – Did that childhood ambition changed? How did it change?

And, when you were 18? – Did you get more realistic? Or, did your dream get bigger?

Did you give up on what you had always wanted to do? Or, did you grow out of it?

The permutation of questions are aplenty, but the point I am driving at is – “Every one of us, at one point or another had a dream on how we wanted our life to be”.

Notice that I did not use the words “Dream Job”, “Dream Career”, and whatsoever. That is because, it is not important at that point of time when we began dreaming. What we had dreamt of is the actual feeling of what we wanted to do.

It could had been the feeling of “greatness” as a scientist discovering the next breakthrough, or the feeling of “nobleness” as a doctor saving lives, or even the feeling of “bravery” as a fireman putting out fires.

What had we lost? Or, what had we gained?

Some says, we had lost our ability to dream, some says we’ve gain a perception of reality.

I had interviewed my fair share of fresh graduates and I felt sad to hear that many had not looked at their lives carefully and plan their career seriously.

Many choices were made basing on the basis of stereotyping expectations, and many were by peer pressures. Others were on the basis of short termed vision and the rest on chance.

To have invested all those years of their life studying, only to jump onto the wrong bus when the time has come to do what they’ve always dreamt of is a case of poor planning and terrible decision making.

Which brings us back to our question – “Where do you want to go today?”

Eric Wong


Where have all the engineers gone?

From the past few years of engineer recruitment, I noticed a common career choice among them. Most of my hires want to move up to a managerial role and not want to perform an engineering role in the long run. Why is this so? Am I looking in all the wrong places or is it a career misconception that in order to move up the ranks, you have to be a manager or director. 

It could have been somewhat of an Asian culture that holding position with certain managerial capacity is sign of accomplishment. Or is it the way engineering jobs are being marketed? Perhaps it is even the way engineering careers are being designed. I sometimes hit the wall when an engineering candidate asks me the question on what’s next after I become a Principal Engineer? What’s the job title after that? Is there such a title as Senior Principal Engineer? When do I get to be a manager? 

Are these title-chases healthy? Do they really know how an engineering career should be charted? Are they really taking charge of their careers? It is quite scary to think that engineers eventually want to manage and not engineer, causing the lifespan of an average engineer to be in the region of 8 to 15 years. The amount of experience that goes to waste when these experience folks take themselves out of the real action, focusing on people issues rather than engineering issues. 

Are there too many engineering folks wanting to “take the easier path” by being a manager? Even that, is a misconception on the role of managers. Yes, we do need good engineering folks who know what exactly is going on to lead, but not all are is cut out for that role! 

How many times have we come across managers whom are promoted beyond their capabilities? How many times have we seen managers not managing but “over doing”? The list goes on! In my opinion, the crux of the problem lies in:

1)      The cultural upbringing which resulted in an over glamorized role of being a manager

2)      Lack of an integration of the different engineering jobs to form a logical career path. This causes most engineering jobs to be rather ill position for long termed sustainability, resulting in a misconception that the end of the road is to be a manger.

3)      The product/ service life cycle of the high tech industry is getting shorter, causing a rapid aging of technical skills. This results in a push for engineers to switch to a more evergreen pasture, rather than looking at skills upgrade.

4)      Lastly, the industry growth and market demand for engineers creates a vicious cycle where a shortage of skilled engineers in a given area is deprived of the opportunity to cross train for other areas. This result in engineers being stuck and over specialized in a single area, thus resulting in lowered market value and volatility as compared to their counterparts in the “management” capacity. 

Thoughts anyone? Cheers

Eric Wong.