I’ve recently received a couple of notes from individuals looking at starting a career in reliability engineering. One is a student looking at a career path, another a working engineer with an interesting in reliability.
Both asked how to land a position given no reliability engineering experience.
Hum, I don’t know anyone that had reliability engineering experience before they got started working in reliability engineering. Not counting taking apart the family toaster and trying to repair it before Mom got home as a kid.
The fortunate part of reliability engineering is we all have some experience. If you’ve considered how to design or build something so it didn’t fail right away, you’re doing reliability. If you looked up reliability reviews before a purchase, you’re doing reliability. If you investigated what something failed, you’re doing reliability.
Most of you innately think like a reliability engineer, it’s the addition of reliability statistics, a few tools like FMEA, HALT, predictions, failure analysis along with curiosity and willingness to learn that makes a reliability professional.
Many reliability engineers started in some other field, from manufacturing engineering to electrical engineering to history major…. And, some went to school for degrees in reliability engineering – there isn’t one path or story, except the most successful generally are doing reliability because they like to do it. Find it fun, challenging, and rewarding.
Reliability engineering is a pretty interesting field as it deals with the math of time to failure, failure analysis including material science, design and assembly practices, etc. I’ve worked on hot tub siding and heart valves and most everything in-between. The same set of tools and same basic questions, yet each situation is very different.
The expanded or Google resume
To get started as a reliability engineer, I would use the knowledge you already have with the area you know or studied and apply reliability practices as you identify opportunities. The skills of working with the engineering statistics daunts many, and if that is a strength for you – be sure to look for those opportunities.
A key part of RE work is influencing teams or leading teams – which you may already have some experience.
To build on just resumes and interviews, you should create an online (the Google resume) presence. I have found Linkedin a good platform and along with Twitter. On Linkedin flush out your resume and include your note on following your passion into the study of reliability engineering. Join a range of groups related to reliability – ASQ Reliability Division, Society of Reliability Engineers are two pretty active ones based on a professional society. Also, there are groups for reliability and various industries, like railroad, aerospace, oil&gas, mining, etc. There are also groups on design, manufacturing, etc. All have regular discussions on reliability – join the conversations, post questions about reliability topics, etc. This gets you visible to those running programs and maybe in the areas you find of most interest.
Create a blog or guest blog (you would be welcome to post on one my blogs creprep.wordpress.com or nomtbf.com) with suitable content. You can find a listing of reliability related blogs at reliabilitycalendar.org/reading under blogs. I think there are around 60 or so listed now. Some are more active than others, and some welcome guest posts – find one that fits your interests and write an essay or two for them. Again, it helps to create visibility and can provide the draft for articles for trade journals or technical articles.
Send papers to conferences in the market of interest. Again there is a short listing of conferences on reliabilitycalendar.org – and there are many more depending on what industry or focus you’d like to pursue.
Building a career one project or opportunity at a time
To see what is open, check out www.fmsreliability.com/openings. I set up standing searches on a few job sites and post them on this page plus to the Twitter account @fms95032 – there’s a lot of openings across many industries.
Looking forward to a career in reliability is not too optimistic, and you may find ways to apply the RE topics within your existing field or role. May do an accelerated test, or detailed failure analysis and build experience by adding value while using reliability tools. That may open other areas of design and maintenance considerations within your industry and by applying RE tools help with the engineering aspects.
I got started in reliability engineering in my early thirties from a base of work as a manufacturing engineer with an interest in statistics and desire to minimize field failures. I just worked on projects and took opportunities the allowed me to follow my interests. Plus, continued to learn every step of the way and am still learning today.
Plus, continued to learn every step of the way and am still learning today.