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No one becomes an engineer for the cubicle view. Whether inspired by inventors like Edison or falling into engineering because of math talent, we don’t dream of paperwork and taupe upholstery.
Looking for more? Engineers at these great companies are changing the world and creating inspiring new technology. These are jobs we’re jealous of—jobs that are waiting for your application.
On the frontiers of technology, X lab is a testing ground for new ideas, from self-driving cars to space elevators. As a Product Manager at X, you can lead a team in taking products from inception to a market, like Don Montague, the co-founder and leader of X’s Makani, who came up with the idea for the kite-based wind turbines while kite surfing. Someday, you might even take over from X’s leader Astro Teller, the “Captain of Moonshots,” who has essentially no responsibility to make a profit—a rare honor in modern corporations.
Another top choice, Apple is always one of the companies to work for, leading innovations such as the first true personal computer, the iPod, and the iPhone. If you’re coming from cubicle nation and want to let off some steam, you might be perfect for the role of Test Engineer: Imagine getting paid more than $100k per year to “stress test” (i.e. break) computers. Feeling more creative? Try for a $120k per year role as a Product Design Engineer and design their next beautiful product.
3M employees are encouraged to spend nearly a whole day every week playing with new ideas. The most famous idea spawned from this culture of innovation is on your fridge right now: the Post-it note. Amazingly, the idea was originally rejected by 3M’s marketing department, but the inventor kept working in secret until the idea was developed. And as a 3M Staff Scientist, you, too, can practice the unofficial 3M motto: “Better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.”
Companies with “X” in their name are a good bet for excitement. Decades after NASA stopped really innovating in the field of space exploration, Elon Musk decided to risk his fortune to retire on Mars. At the time it seemed a crazy idea, but after more than 30 rocket launches, SpaceX has a remarkable track record of low-cost space flight. While open positions will allow you to work in nearly any engineering role, from software to mechanical to product manager, why not push the boundaries of your skills and become a Space Suit Designer with the Dragon team? Not only will you get to design, analyze, and test space suits—you could literally create star fashion!
Elon Musk isn’t just looking for a home on a new planet; he’s also doing his best to help save this one. If he had just created another boring, slow electric car, though, his company wouldn’t be on this list. Instead, Tesla makes the Model S, the electric sports car that puts Lamborghinis to shame with its 2.3-second zero to sixty speed—the fastest time for a production car ever. And Tesla’s not just competing for speed. With an early rollout of their self-driving technology, Tesla is racing to be the first with fully autonomous vehicles.
If you’re a car lover, look into a role as an A Class Surfacer to design the interior and exterior aesthetics of the next car in their expanding product line. Prefer software? Become an Autopilot Systems Engineer, helping usher in the world of self-driving cars.
Another car company with a finger—or, rather, entire humanoid—in robotics and simulated intelligence, Honda is developing the robot of the future: ASIMO, a robot that can play the violin, climb stairs, and even play soccer. Even more importantly, Honda is working on a version of the robot that can be used for disaster response—it’s ASIMO to the rescue!Joining this advanced robotics team may be a big challenge, but you can take heart from the advice of Mr. Toru Takenaka, Senior Chief Engineer with Honda R&D: “Try to have fun and foster your ability to think deeply and broadly. Trust in yourself to realize your dream.”
ASIMO has been pushing the boundaries of robotics for longer, but no robotics company is pushing the extremes more than Boston Dynamics. This company is developing a dog-shaped mechatron that can scramble up hills, run through the snow, and crawl over piles of rubble, which makes Boston Dynamics a dream company for any techie. Even if you don’t have an engineering degree, you can still work with these amazing robot animals: All you need is the strength and willingness to “wrangle” these robots and a strong work ethic to become a Robot Technician.
Are you more than a techie? Do you have an artistic side that computers can’t satisfy? Autodesk’s Artist in Residence (AIR) program is for you. Joining the program means gaining access to a thirty-five thousand square foot workshop filled with CNC machines, state-of-the-art wood and metal working tools, industrial sewing machines, and 3D printers, and also having the support of the staff and the 15 other artists in your cohort. Though only four months long, artists from this program have gone on to found successful startups, be named to Forbes 40 under 40, and even have their work featured in the Museum of Modern Art.
If the idea of working in any company makes you feel a bit less than excited, try an alternative: freelance engineering as a digital nomad. UpWork.com and Remote.com provide a steady source of projects, and developing prototypes is easier than ever with on-demand CNC and 3D printing. I myself have been doing this for several years, and enjoying the freedom of working from anywhere—I’m currently traveling through South America by motorcycle, working from mountain hotels and hammocks overlooking breaking surf.
If none of these companies seems like a good fit, why not start your own? Incubators like Highway1 and Y Combinator are famous for developing new startups—companies like Dropbox, Codecademy and Quora got their start with these accelerators. You could be the next person to go from “engineer with an idea in a cubicle” to CEO.
Maybe you’re not ready to to invent the next earth-shattering technology, but there’s no reason not to aspire to an amazing job. Want to prepare for a career upgrade? Check out our collection of engineering articles to build your skill set. Have a friend who’d want to join you in working in one of these dream jobs? Share these 10 amazing jobs with them today!