Grateful, despite everything


Summer in Zwolle, edited 72dpi

Update: I scanned the drawing above and adjust the color using Photoscape. After finding Photoscape, I am no more satisfied with iPhone picture. It depicts Zwolle in a sunny day.

Nearly two weeks ago I left my job as an project/process engineer. Not having a job is never easy, especially because you’ll never know when will you have a job again.

During my 1.5 years working here, I have realized since the beginning that this is not the job I want to do for the rest of my life. However, when I was applying for this job, I also realized that despite my long study years, I have gained little experience on life outside academia. I have taught chemical engineering subjects and supervise plant design, I had no idea about the real “engineering”.

Now I know. And that is a valuable experience. Now I really understand how money is being made in the engineering. I have learned to apply my engineering knowledge. Being a foreigner, I have mingled well in a “very Dutch” environment. Not unimportant, now I really can say that I know what the heck “project management” is. Looking back, I am sure that it was very good and healthy for me to do a job that was completely different than what I have done so far (researching, writing, teaching). It has enriched me. The fact that it was a relatively small company was also an advantage, as they let me do the real work directly without first following several courses, as that would be the case in large companies.

I also need to mention that the financial support I gained from this job was great. The salary was not really high, but good enough. Usually I don’t have many expenses but at the moment I finished my PhD contract, I was busy with my driving lessons. My motoric is not very good, so I needed many hours.  The salary allowed me to finalize my driving lessons and get my license without being broke. And I could spare some money to buy my very first car.

This job did not challenge me intellectually and it turned out to be a good thing. Whenever I came home, my body was exhausted but my mind was not … so I still had some brainpower left to write my thesis (with the help of energy drinks). My PhD advisor was not so happy that I took this job before finishing my thesis, but hey, I was not the one who had 25 PhD students (and hence no time to check the chapters).

But I cannot avoid disliking my job. It is not only that I missed the chance of learning new things (I will talk about this in the next post), I also had the feeling that my time here is not blessed. It is like the one above is telling me “you should be here right now, but this is not your place”. Why did I thought that I was ought to do the job? Because of this: when I started working, my first client was a research institute that just ditched my job application. I felt like somebody was making a joke of me. And why did I realize that it was not my place? Because all but one projects I have been working with eventually turned into a no-go. There were no big issues (failure in fabrication or so), mostly they just suddenly thought that the project was too expensive and they didn’t want to continue. Or they just lost interest in the project, which was quite possible as the projects were mostly research-related.

So when the engineering manager said that “your future is not here, you have many capabilities but you cannot apply it here..” before saying that he was not going to prolong my contract, it was a curse and blessing at the same time. My original plan was to quit after finding another job. However, it would also give the impression that I am ditching them because they are not good enough for me, so this could leave a bitter aftertaste. This is not an ideal ending since they have treated me very well. Not to mention that it would feed my arrogance. But now we can say “goodbye” in a courteous way. No guilty feeling on my side.

As Lrrr have said it, I am free. I felt relieved.

When the manager finally broke the news on my last week via the mail, it came as a surprise to my colleague. Some colleagues gathered round my desk and said that they were sorry to see me go. Very sweet.

The last day was rather difficult – I have prepared to say goodbye, but it was not easy to prevent my tears from falling. I cleaned my desk, than started shaking hands. First I said goodbye to the technicians in the construction hall. I have spent many long hours with them, so they knew me quite well. Then to fellow engineers and the managers. I have worked closely with some of them. Too bad that at that day my direct superior was in Russia for a project, and the engineering manager was ill. My direct superior sent me an email from Russia, and the manager even called me to apologize that he could not give the farewell speech. Both were thanking me for the work I have done, and mentioning that they will sent me a reference letter. I have not received the letter, but it was good enough that I could use their names as my referees.

Then I took a last look of the company, wiped my tears, and drove home.

I am grateful that I have been given the chance to do the job, that I have decided to took it, and that it ended well.


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