There’s no rule that dooms engineers to dwell in a Dilbertian cubicle hell. Quite the contrary. As the 10 technologists we found for this year’s ”Dream Jobs” report all prove, engineering occurs in some amazing places and offers incredible experiences. It’s just a matter of pursuing whatever interests you—tenaciously.
One thing we learned from our 10 engineers is that you don’t need to have your entire career mapped out from the start. Andrew Paris, for example, took the first job offer he got after college. But he quickly fell in love with the work. Just like the fictional investigators on the TV show ”CSI,” he spends his days picking apart crime and accident scenes. Rabih Moussa wasn’t too happy with the jobs available in his native Lebanon, so he immigrated to Canada. Now he travels the world providing Internet access to isolated communities. (And fishing, when he isn’t working.)
An early passion can lead to a rewarding career. Gregory Makhov turned a childhood fascination with lasers into a livelihood designing light shows. Nels Peterson wanted to work on dinosaurs, but first he had to convince his paleontology colleagues to give him a chance. Now he’s developing radical new techniques to get more information out of digs.
In some cases, adversity can be transformed into opportunity, as Dale Joachim found after Hurricane Katrina swept away his lab and much of his life’s work. He soon landed at MIT, where he’s using cellphone technology to track owls in the New England woods. For Christian Anténor-Habazac, it was a volcanic eruption that gave him his opening. Now he designs and maintains a seismic sensor network to protect the population of his native Guadeloupe.
Sometimes, the trick is to combine two interests. Vasik Rajlich dreamed of becoming a chess grandmaster but realized he’d never make it. Instead, he’s using his talents as a programmer to write the world’s best chess software. Frédéric Kaplan’s passions are biology and engineering; now, as a researcher in artificial intelligence, he’s finding new and provocative ways to meld the two.
Expect the unexpected. Mary Lou Jepsen was interviewing for one job when she was offered an entirely different one: designing a cheap, durable laptop for developing countries. Ian Wright’s career as a telecom exec made him piles of cash, but when a friend suggested he try designing electric vehicles, he jumped at the chance. Now he gets his thrills doing 0 to 130 kilometers per hour in a single city block.
So even if digging for dinosaurs or staring down a volcano isn’t quite your thing, there’s a great big world of technology out there. By pursuing your passions and maybe taking a few risks, you, too, can find a fulfilling career that’ll get you out of bed in the morning (and make you the envy of your friends). And if you’re already living your dream job, let us know: write us at