Hi all. I am a mechanical engineering grad who graduated from a top Canadian university. Metallurgical/materials specialist. I graduated 2016 June, working in Toronto.

I have worked in 3 different companies since graduation, all different roles. Other than the first one (which is an outlier), I dislike the work. I dislike the career trajectory even more. The thought of being stuck in middle management at manufacturing companies leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

However, I still am in love with the manufacturing sector as a whole and I'm completely sold on devoting my career to it.

Long term, I'd love to be in the position to help set up factories OR improve the operational efficiency of existing factories on a high-level, strategy/financial front. M&A, high-level sales strategy (purchasing factories/client sales) and operations strategy (think Lean, 6sigma, management structure, etc for supply chain/in house). I envy a few individuals I know who work in PE or consulting that do this in the manufacturing sector. I would have strived for this if I knew what I did now in school, but hindsight is 20/20 :(. I was mistakenly informed that people value "boots on the ground" experience for this.

Consulting at a boutique SME would be awesome. PE that explicitly targets the manufacturing sector would be great too (I'm not delusional, I understand how competitive it is + how IB experience is typically essential. However, the company I work for now has been bought by a PE firm. They have strategists in house from the industry to increase our company's value. I want to be that guy).

I'm totally cool with ending up in one of these roles 10-15 years down the line, but in order to avoid being stuck in middle management, I need to start planting the seeds to get there now.

I'd love to hear your guys opinions about transitioning into the types of work I have mentioned. Are my goals unrealistic? Do you think I should focus my efforts somewhere more valuable? Have any of you had similar experiences?

Comments (3)


Below is a bunch of supplemental information. Feel free to graze/skip

My current strategy:

-Continue to work in the industry, F500s. Get my P.eng, get my PMP. Seek "end-to-end" project management roles. Seek projects dealing with financials, continuous improvement and client relations. (I think targeting the Big 4 or others now would not be in my favor; a lateral transition to a beginner position and get pigeonholed. Maybe I'm wrong).

-Volunteer at boards in the industry. Pick one with the most high-level board members AND/OR small enough to climb the ranks/network with the top guys. Be a keener.

-(In progress) start my own small company selling niche specialty goods. (not sure how good this looks). Show how I know how to set up a business and handle cash flow, taxes, etc on a small scale.

-Network my ass off. Attend as many financial conferences as I can dealing with finance in the industry. Since my goals are long term, build long-term relationships.

-(potentially) get an MBA at a top Canadian school in 5-6 years. Not a fan of the 100+K investment; I'd like to see how far I can get before doing this. I would not have a company pay for it since I'd want to use it as a tool to pivot my career. I have a 2.9 GPA unfortunately too (3.8 last 2 years). I do have 2 top B school professors though (that I worked with, not at school) and an industry CEO that said they will write me letters of recommendation. This + crush the GMAT.

-(potentially) seek roles abroad to diversify my experience. Think Germany, Switzerland, Japan.

About me:

-I already actively invest my money AND 2 friends. 50K total. Made 15k return last year.

-All my electives at school were taken in business, finance and econ. I went to a top B school. I am actively learning more on MIT OCW (online lectures. Finance, accounting, econ, history). I apply this to my investments.

-I read about investing/business/IB/econ/history/current events all the time. Real stuff about how the world of money works, not personal stuff like 4-hour work week.

-Lots of close friends in the big 4 and mid tier finance (credit companies, commercial banks) as analysts. I've asked them to show me what they do on a day-to-day basis. I've done a lot of research into the work they do; I'm not just jumping ship because I see the "glamour" from the outside in.

-I have worked an avg of 80 hours a week in my first two jobs. I don't mind long hours (unless if I am not gaining meaningful experience to advance my career. Then I detest it).

My current career experience (for reference):

-A 10 person start up selling million dollar machines to tier 1 automotive/aerospace all around the world (consisting of industry veterans, not a bunch of 20 somethings). Typical "multiple hat" position; I did engineering design, "blue collar" skilled labor, marketing, and sales support at multiple B2B conferences/internal meetings. Worked for 6 months until the company ran out of funds. Worked with international engineering PhDs and business PhDs

-An operations supervisor/foreman in a big 3 automotive plant, supervising 20 people. 6-month contract. Offered full time, took another job. Great references in the industry.

-A supplier account manager at an industry leading tooling company (think Caterpillar, Komatsu) supplying to F100s. Client facing role (for our component suppliers, not F100s), deal with 50+ accounts. 2 months into another 6-month contract. Regular supplier plant audits and continuous improvement. 2 months into another 6-month contract.

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Best Response

Forget getting a PMP, it's a joke that nobody within operations actually respects. A professional engineering license would be good, as well as try to get certified as a Lean Black Belt. I would then take the GMAT and try to crush it (740+), but instead of going to business school just directly apply to top 10 consulting firms for operations specialist roles; get an in through networking and be sure to case prep. OTOH if you really want an MBA for the structure and network it provides then by all means do it.

As well, you can always look for operations specialist roles within certain PE firms as you have stated. There are a surprising number of roles here if you know where to look. In the end a change is certainly possible if you put your mind to it.

PS people and firms actually do value boots on the ground experience, but its all in how you frame it. You'd be surprised by how many finance and consulting people there are that don't know wtf they are talking about when it actually comes to implementing something in a manufacturing environment as opposed to a spreadsheet. Look at any decent MM or large PE firm that focuses on manufacturing and operations and most everyone in the firm has an engineering degree with some type of relevant industry experience.


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