Cannibalize your present to optimize your future.

I hate to be a killjoy. So apologies in advance for starting off on a negative foot.

The bull run for engineering opportunities in aerospace has ended.

For most of the last two decades, good- to well-paying work opportunities in the western aerospace industry have not been hard to find. Indeed, the opportunities usually came hunting for you. and when one gig ended, there were five more lined up outside, waiting to snap you up.

Not any more.

I personally know four aerospace engineers who are out of work. I’ve never seen that before.

None of them are rookies, either. Two are stress/structures engineers, one systems, one an aerodynamicist. And I myself have worked outside aerospace for over a year now.

I’ve encouraged application of the Three S’s: Stress, Systems and Software. But I’m beginning to wonder if it should now be just the latter two.

Airbus has no plans to launch any new design for the next decade. Boeing might do a 737 replacement. Bombardier is in damage limitation mode with the C-Series. Embraer isn’t doing anything big. Mistubishi and AVIC are struggling with their respective programmes.

On the military side, there are lots of security threats, so governments will have to do some defence investment. But they are hobbled by debts and shrinking tax revenues.

Don’t be surprised. This is aerospace for you. The industry is notoriously cyclical. Indeed, it’s amazing that the bull run has lasted as long as this.

However, I don’t think it necessarily means a bear run has started. The vast majority of engineers I know are still employed or in freelance gigs, across all industries.

Opportunities are still to be found. You just may have to turn from being a passive recipient to an aggressive hunter. You might have to move. You might have to change tack.

You might have to change industry. You might have to switch from engineer to procurement or manager. Gasp!

You might have to get out of your comfort zone. You might have to change.

(Hint: That’s a good thing.)

The price you pay for wanting to work on animated flying objects is, You get typecast as an animated flying objects geek.

Hedge your bets now. Think ahead. Don’t wait for the axe to fall. Think like an entrepreneur.  Where is the change going to happen next? Get ready to ride that wave.

Cannibalize your present to optimize your future.

7 thoughts on “Cannibalize your present to optimize your future.”

  1. Hello. I’ve just started grad school for aerospace engineering. Which specialization (controls/aerodynamics/structures/propulsion) do you think would be the best in terms of future job prospects across various industries? Personally, I have an interest in both structures and controls though structures seem a bit bland sometimes. Controls on the other hand seem to have a wider job market. Does doing controls under aerospace restrict me to other industries since its mostly flight dynamics based? Need your professional opinion please.

    1. Of the four options you listed, Structures and Controls have the widest cross-industry potential currently, and my personal favourite is Controls, simply because it falls within the general category of systems engineering.

      No matter which one you opt for, I would also encourage your to think, Software. Software goes with all four, and will open doors for you that non-Software doesn’t. The mantra to remember is Marc Andreessen’s line, “Software is eating the world!”

      Good fortune go with you!

      1. Would doing controls under aerospace limit my access elsewhere? I’m asking this because most of the controls jobs outside aerospace industry ask for a degree in electrical or mechanical. Mostly electrical.

        Also, when you say software, do you mean software that an aerospace engineer would use (FEA or CFD software, Matlab etc.) or simply learning to code like a software engineer? If it’s the latter, I have no clue where to begin.

        Thank you for the informative responses. It is nice to hear the views of someone who has a lot of experience in the industry.

        1. Would doing controls under aerospace limit my access elsewhere? I’m asking this because most of the controls jobs outside aerospace industry ask for a degree in electrical or mechanical. Mostly electrical.
          Also, when you say software, do you mean software that an aerospace engineer would use (FEA or CFD software, Matlab etc.) or simply learning to code like a software engineer? If it’s the latter, I have no clue where to begin.
          Thank you for the informative responses. It is nice to hear the views of someone who has a lot of experience in the industry.

        2. Would doing controls under aerospace limit my access elsewhere?

          – Possibly, if you restrict yourself to responding to posted job adverts. (Hint: Don’t do that.) Recruiters post job requirements like “electrical engineering” to cut down on the volume of applications they have to sift through. “Electrical engineering” is just a convenient and defendable way of dong that, but it’s arbitrary and artificial. The reality is, with an aerospace degree and some good aerospace controls experience, you can hack your way into any controls-oriented industry you want to. Just don’t play by the “hiring rules” than the Human Resources machine try to slot you into!

          Also, when you say software, do you mean software that an aerospace engineer would use (FEA or CFD software, Matlab etc.) or simply learning to code like a software engineer?

          – I was thinking of coding like a software engineer, though being an expert in FEA, Matlab, etc, is plenty good too. The advantage of software engineering is, so much work that is currently done by people will, in a decade or so, be automated by software. All those people will have to reinvent themselves. But if you can code, you can be the automator rather than the automated.

Leave a Reply