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Where is my career going?

November 8th, 2008 at 03:49 pm

Nearly 4 years ago I was recruited to a job that exactly matched my career ambitions -- team lead/manager of a small group of software engineers. One month later I got pregnant. It was a happy surprise -- we'd be dealing with infertility for 3 years and just didn't know how or when we would become parents. For many months the question on my mind was, "Should I give up this great career opportunity to fully enjoy my baby?"

3 years ago, having a blast being a SAHM to my little munchkin, my question was, "How long can I stay out?"

1.5 years ago, feeling a little restless and in need of some intellectual activity, the question became, "Will I be able to get back in when I want to?"

And now while working in an ideal situation -- 20-25 hr/wk from home -- the question changes to, "Where is my career going?"

The conflict I feel comes down to time vs type of work. My preference is to work 20-25 hr/wk now, perhaps increasing to 30-35 hr/wk when my son starts kindergarten. The president of the contracting firm I am with has been amazing -- in addition to 4 full-time engineers, he's taken on 3 women with small children who want to work part-time as well as a part-time guy who is moonlighting, and has been very willing to tailor the assignments to the number of hours we want to work. He is building the firm, and as long as he continues to bring in projects there will probably be work for me.

The work itself is ok, but not exactly what I dream of doing. It's writing software -- designing, coding, testing -lots of software engineers are perfectly happy doing just that. Clients bring us in when there is small project they don't have enough staff to handle on their own, or if they need some help bringing up Linux on new hardware. So far it's been mostly telecommunications equipment, some military applications, and some medical equipment. I'm learning a lot of Linux, which is great for the resume. If I'm doing implementation, my dream would be working on a project that has special meaning -- for instance creating communication assistance devices for autistic kids.

In my heart I would prefer to get away from programming. I'd love to be either a systems engineer who designs the architecture for the whole product, or to go back into team/project management and organize the efforts of 10-12 people to make the product come together. The road to those jobs is to rejoin the corporate world and work 50-60 hour weeks.

At some point, perhaps when my son starts kindergarten, I plan to put my resume out to some headhunters and advertise myself as looking for a job-share. Surely there is another woman out there facing the same delima that I am...

There IS such a thing as a part-time engineer!

September 24th, 2007 at 05:22 am

And it's now me! (See my previous post about the prevalent attitude that "there's no such thing as a part-time engineer".)

I've been away from the SavingAdvice site for awhile, and don't expect to have much time to post in the near future, but wanted to share my good news all the same.

A couple of months after I started contemplating looking for part-time work, one of my former employers (I left the company in 2001) shut down the R&D group and laid off a bunch of people. There were a bunch of emails about getting together for lunch on a regular basis, and in one of these a former coworker with preschool-aged children mentioned that she had found a part-time position with a consulting firm. She'd been working part-time at the old company for about a year, so I asked her if she'd be willing to get together for lunch or a playdate and talk about what working part-time was really like.

It turned out the consulting firm was looking for more people, and she offered to forward my resume. I landed an interview and a job! It's a small firm, with 3 full-time people and 3 part-time. Having the part-time people helps them balance out the workload. No benefits -- I'm technically a subcontractor.

I've been working 10-15 hr/wk, from home on my laptop while my son naps, and go in to the office one evening a week for a group meeting. I've just been given the go-ahead to increase to 20-25 hr/wk, and am interviewing for someone to babysit 2 hr/day while I work upstairs.

In 2 months I've made $5k. I set aside 40% for taxes and FICA, and the rest will give a nice boost to our travel fund. More importantly, I'm keeping my resume and skills fresh, which will help preserve my future earning potential. I can see this job evolving over the years so that I can be home when my son gets home from school in the afternoons.