Many people have been asking why I gave up my engineering career in the government. It took me over six years of hustling to work my way up to the dream engineering projects; these dream projects were a secret goal of mine since graduating from engineering school. My government position also had room for career progression, personal growth, and travelling opportunities. It also paid well with tons of benefits, a great pension and perks. So why did I leave? Here’s a brief history of my career to explain why.
Jumping into Engineering
Like most kids in high school, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I tried to take a wide variety of classes to figure that out, like law, psychology, physics, and math. I even volunteered for an entire year at a local hospital to see if I could see myself as a doctor. Nothing interested me. In fact, I was getting very, very bored with school. The only things that I liked were physical education and physics. Physics was actually my worst mark out of the three sciences in high school. What fascinated me about physics was the ability to visualize and solve problems in the natural world around me. A month before graduating, I had a heart to heart discussion with my physics teacher about loving physics but not wanting to be a physics teacher (no offense to my teacher). He told me about engineering. So I immediately jumped into that idea, shadowed a female environmental engineer (who also worked for the government) and decided to major in environmental engineering. It took two weeks to decide what to do, redo my university application and enroll myself in summer school to make sure I had all the pre-requisites for engineering. I was excited and RELIEVED to finally figure out what to do and never gave a second thought whether engineering was the right profession for my personality and skill set.
Demanding Consulting Career
I was very lucky because I had no problem finding a job straight out of university. I even had a government job offered to me with a great salary, but I decided to go with engineering consulting to build my technical skills and “get my hands dirty” (i.e., engineering field work). The first five years were fun, but demanding. Sometimes I worked all-nighters (in the office) and I averaged 50-60+ hour workweeks. Additionally, I moonlighted as a tutor and a model to pay for my student debt. This amounted to at least 75 hours per week. The work was tough, but an additional reason I stuck with the career was the awesome social and team environment. Unfortunately, several years into the consulting life and side hustling in two jobs as a model and tutor, I started to experience health problems in my late twenties.
I decided to leave consulting and join the government. For the next 7+ years, I focused primarily on project management for some really cool projects. I loved the projects I worked on. However, there were things that bugged me, which indirectly showed up in my health. I worked a lot and expected a lot from others, too. The inefficiencies started to bother me so much that sometimes I tried doing things on my own time, and well into the night, to make projects more efficient. I really, really tried but I was spending enormous amounts of energy and hardly making a dent. Plus, I was investing in real estate, learning the ropes as a landlord/property manager and starting a family. In the end, I realized that I was constantly filling an empty pit with work.
Reasons why quitting my engineer career was the best decision:
- I gave birth to twins and I didn’t spend nearly as much time with them as my husband or nanny. I realized that I was working or traveling all the time and having someone else take care of my kids.
- More and more of my time was spent in meetings, teleconferences and traveling. In order to prepare for these constant meetings, I worked at night. I was rarely “present” with my kids nor with my husband and my career became my identity.
- I lost interest in engineering. I’m not sure why, but I’m not really interested in the environmental engineering side anymore. One of the main reasons that kept me going into the office was because I had already invested years for a very near-term opportunity to move to the next level.
- Pension, benefits, and perks were never a driving factor for me. I went into government because they had the dream engineering projects, they had the funds for mega-scale environmental engineering projects, but I started losing interest in my dream project.
- My physical and mental health deteriorated… imagine having a racing heart and heart palpitations.
- I realized that I have a way of constantly attracting responsibility, which comes with stress. I started wondering what it would be like to readjust my work responsibilities (and stress levels) to pursue my own interests as an entrepreneur, become more efficient with time, and consolidate my energy to pursue my interests. If I was going to be stressed out, why not stress out over my own desires and building my own businesses?
- My real estate investments already grew enough to take care of my twins’ post-secondary education needs, cover basic housing expenses and my retirement. I was also getting tired of working for a paycheck only to reinvest the majority of my income in investments.
- I realized I had a strong entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve been living a double life for the past 15 years with a keen interest in making extra income through investments or through self-employment while juggling a daytime career.
I decided I needed a change. I took a sabbatical to refresh, recharge, and focus on my family. Once my twins started school full-time, I dove straight into my other interests and realized the government career wasn’t for me, nor was environmental engineering. It took eight months of constant self-awareness and reading before I had the courage to give up my lucrative engineering career in the government.
If I were to go back in time, I would still have done engineering, but with a minor in business. As for jumping into the government, I don’t regret that decision at all, as I had the right intentions. More importantly, in my government career, I built up my real estate investments via diligent savings which enabled me to pursue full-time entrepreneurship at the age of 35.
I am likely going to join the workforce again in the near future but on my own terms, with self-employment, and when I am ready.
I hope this helps my readers who have aspirations to leave their careers to pursue their interests full time.
Originally published at financialnirvanamama.com