Defining a successful career in reliability engineering
Whether by design or by accident some of us become reliability engineers. Making a career in reliability engineering relies on your ability to make a difference and to add value. Being successful as a reliability engineer, while creating reliable products, permits continuation and growth as a reliability professional.
Your career motivation may be intrinsic or extrinsic . If you define success at work as
- attaining a milestone or accomplishment,
- working at the best of your abilities, and
- satisfying a sense of curiosity,
then you are intrinsically motivated, whereas if you define success at work as
- receiving a bonus or reward,
- achieving honors and accolades, and
- getting a promotion,
then you are extrinsically motivated. Of course, you may define success with some combination.
It is what you do and how you perform as a reliability engineer that leads to success however defined.
Add value to be successful
Reliability engineers may work as part of a team on a small portion of a project, or support an entire product development program, or be engaged across an entire organization. In each case, your success relies on your ability to make a difference and add value.
Much of the work of reliability engineering entails enabling design engineers and managers the ability to make informed decisions.
- Is the product meeting the stated reliable goals?
- What are the barriers and risks that would prevent the creation of a reliable product?
- What is the best (cost-effective and informative) reliability tool to use?
Whether you are providing an estimate or performing a detailed failure analysis, if the results influence the decisions that alter the design of the product, then we have made a difference.
Results do matter
The results of reliability engineering are obvious when in the hands of customers. The product either works (is reliable) or does not.
Unfortunately, many of the tasks we perform with the development team are investments to discover design weaknesses or to estimate product life. During the development phase, these costs are large.
Being able to identify and articulate the value of these investments followed by reliable products builds our credibility.
It is the combination of providing useful information, recommending solutions or best practices, and achieving reliable products that together means you have added value.
My mentor and his successful career
One of the most successful reliability engineers I know led an organization through a decade-long warranty expense reduction program, authored papers and books on reliability engineering, volunteered in professional organizations and mentored hundreds of engineers and managers.
Talking to him about a year after retirement, I found him to be happy and proud of the accomplishments of those he helped train or motivate.
He set an example for me of a talented professional that selflessly gave his knowledge to those who asked (or needed) his advice. Moreover, he was happy with his career, he had made a difference.