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Staying in a Professional Lane

When looking back at my career so far, one thing has jumped out at me: I am rubbish at staying in a professional lane. I haven’t picked one professional niche and stuck with it.

I started out working in operations at a food factory. I spent a small amount of time doing mini project improvements and controls before leaving. I went back to working in operations, but this time at an oil refinery. My job was to cover one particular unit, though I found I got the most out of the tasks and projects that involve complex interactions with the other refinery units. After doing that for three years, I switched to working as a control engineer which has been my job title for the last four years.

But even then, I haven’t stuck to typical control engineer tasks. I have used the knowledge of programming and web development that I have picked up through stuff I have done in my spare time to work on other projects around the refinery. These projects have included building slides on the TV screens around the site that incorporate ‘live’ process data. I have been involved in investigating performance problems of a large webapp used on the site, and I have even built a webapp to translate and transfer data between two systems.

I enjoy combining the knowledge and skills I have learnt and applying them in other areas. Even though I formally left operations over four years ago, I still find myself thinking like an operations engineer whenever I am invited to a HAZOP, LOPA or any other review as a control engineer.

I love learning about new things whether it is a new discipline or a new process. I love mixing this knowledge and applying it to new areas. One of the frustrating things is knowing that there is so much still to learn. I fear that I may be too quick to jump into a new lane, before fully mastering my existing lane. I suppose that as long as I am still learning, I am still moving forward, no matter which lane I am in.

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