Today begins my ninth year as a consulting engineer! It shocks me that I have now worked for myself longer than as an employee at any other gear company. It has certainly been an interesting journey.
Back in 2008 we were in the midst of a boom in wind energy. Order books were full and customers wanted better parts — cheaper and faster. One of my first consulting assignments was to a DOE conference — 20% Windpower by 2020 — in Washington DC. But by that September’s International Machine Tool Show (IMTS), the economy had started to tank and my decision to become self-employed did not look so sound.
Thanks to a supportive wife and some great clients, I have managed to persevere. While the financial side has not been as lucrative as I had hoped, the work itself has been very enjoyable.
My “employed life” took me into many corners of the gear trade that few people ever get to visit. This has been a real asset in the consulting business and clients are often shocked at the experience I can bring to bear on their problem.
Someone once pointed out that 45 years of experience is far different than repeating the same year 45 times. Few engineers really suffer through the latter, but even fewer are blessed with a wide variety of projects. Young engineers have asked me how to prepare themselves for a future in consulting. My answer is to take on as many different responsibilities as you can and to become a dedicated student of the gear art.
You may not need to keep up on every aspect of our business to perform your current duties. You certainly do not have to attend trade shows and read every technical paper Gear Technology publishes. But if you do, your future clients will thank you.
And the work doesn’t stop with just study — you have to “practice” your profession. That means getting out to job sites, visiting factories, attending conferences, serving on technical committees, asking questions, and when you can, presenting papers on topics that you know something about and upon which you have something to offer the gear community.