Three career tips for engineers

Engineering Leaders Under 40 winner Michael Horth offers advice for young engineers on how to succeed and thrive in the workforce.

By Michael Horth May 6, 2022
Courtesy: Applied Manufacturing Technologies

Learning Objectives

  • Being open to new opportunities is a great way for engineers to get their foot in the door.
  • Engineers should know their strengths and weaknesses and find what works best for their career.
  • Open communication and honesty can help engineers avoid potential pitfalls.

Engineers often need advice on the journey through engineering career planning. Heed the three tips below from an engineer early in an automation and controls system integration career. 

1. Be open to new opportunities

Being open to new opportunities when starting a career (not just engineering) can lead to many possibilities. After studying mechanical engineering in college, Horth became a controls engineer after learning about AMT, which was recruiting at his college’s career fair and made the company and engineering profession seem interesting.  

After an interview, during the hiring process, Horth met a representative from each department. During this process, Horth became intrigued by the idea of programming robots. Although without direct experience, he was offered the position and began the company’s training program to become a controls engineer.  

“I just fell in love with programming robots,” said Horth. “I didn’t plan on this career, but you have to be open to the opportunities you are presented with, and it has worked out really well for me. I’m a tinkerer by nature and my hobbies also involve programming so this job is a really good fit.” 

2. Know thyself

Engineers need to know themselves and understand what job situations will work for them and what would be a deal breaker. While there is no job that engineers will like 100% of the time, it’s important to enjoy the core task.   

“You need to take the time to figure out what will work best for you,” Horth said. “Do you prefer a large or small team? Will you travel? If so, how much travel? How much creative freedom do you prefer versus having a highly structured environment? Do you like overtime or a predictable 40-hour week? You should have an idea of where you want to be in five years. Will you keep doing engineering, or do you want to move to the management side of the business?” 

3. Keep communication open and avoid pitfalls

Staying open-minded to new ideas and possibilities is also crucial. “For several years, I was frequently on the road working at customer sites,” Horth said. “I used this as an opportunity to meet controls engineers from other companies and learn their tips and tricks to strengthen my skills. My advice is to not get set in your ways; be open to other methods of doing things.” 

Being open-minded is also critical in another way. “One pitfall to avoid is about constructive criticism and communication,” Horth said. “If you are offered some feedback, take it well and use it to improve.” 

Communication also should go both ways. “If you have a concern about a process or a task, don’t bottle up your concerns, let your manager hear you,” Horth said. “You might not get the result you want, but if you don’t communicate, you have no chance of things changing.” 

Following these basic tenets has helped Horth carve a path of success and start a career he enjoys and provide an example for younger engineers to follow. 

Michael Horth is a senior controls engineer for Applied Manufacturing Technologies, a CFE Media and Technology content partner. Horth was among 2021 recipients of the Engineering Leaders Under 40 award. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,  


Keywords: career advice, Engineering Leaders Under 40  


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Original content can be found at Control Engineering.

Author Bio: Michael Horth is a Senior Controls Engineer at Applied Manufacturing Technologies. Recognized by Plant Engineering as a “2021 Engineering Leader Under 40,” Horth was nominated by the AMT management for the significant contributions to the company’s success as an integral part of AMT’s systems integration group. Horth received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Ohio Northern University. While he had originally intended to work in the mechanical design department at AMT, Horth found that he loved programming, first in robotics and then later in simulation and PLCs.