I just reviewed the results of the latest Design News salary survey, and was struck by the shrill sounds of dissatisfaction emanating from the engineering ranks. Some 30% of you say that you are not happy with your career choice—triple the number of a year ago.
Sure, we all have lots of reasons to be unhappy campers these days—companies are laying people off, raises are nonexistent, and there are never enough hours in the day to get all the work done.
But to all you malcontents out there, I have one thing to say: "Get over it!"
If you don't think you make enough money, think about this: I just had a conversation with a substitute teacher in the Newton, MA school system. He told me that starting teachers make about $28,500. Those with 20 years experience make around $50,000, if they're lucky. With the average house in Newton selling for about $500,000, most teachers can't afford to live there. To make ends meet, many teachers he knows hold down part-time jobs, tending bar or waiting tables.
If you're unhappy because you have to make do with limited resources, consider what teachers like Kathleen Crowe are up against: A fifth-grade teacher at Jack C. Murchison Elementary School, she introduced robotics into her classroom two years ago. Instead of spending her last few summers working on a suntan, she was busy writing proposals and scrounging for grant money so that she could bring a few computers into the classroom.
If you are frustrated by having to cope with people you think are inept, thank goodness that's all you're up against: Recently, a parent walked into an elementary schoolroom in Boston and punched the teacher. A friend of mine whose wife is a teacher says that's all too common these days.
So why do teachers put up with such horrendous conditions? For the same reason, I suppose, that most of us pursued an engineering career in the first place: They were seeking an opportunity to contribute and make a difference. The most gifted teachers are passionate about their jobs. So are the most talented engineers.
It's never been about the money.