I was fortunate that just out of college I got a job at a company that made pressure sensor for the engine position indicators for one of the Mars projects. Later when I worked for Huges SBRC I had designed some high speed hybrid for a military project and the space group found out that I new how to miniaturize designs and actually build these hybrids, they asked if I would help them out. Since I had always been interested in the space program, I of course said yes. The service that I provided for them was I had an engineering hybrid lab that I set up. I could take what they had and design and build it without having someone looking over my shoulder. I could design and build things on the fly. There was another hybrid lab at the company but if the paper work wasn’t filled out with a finished design they didn’t want to work on it and if they did take it on it would be put at the bottom of the list, which meant that they would have no idea when they would get there project done.
I would say learn everything that you can in the field of interest you have but don’t be afraid of trying new thing and make sure you know how to build what you design. It makes a big difference when you can bring a finish design to your boss that you build. Some engineers that I have worked with are great engineers but they don’t build or test there own designs. I get more satisfaction knowing that some of the hardware in space I design and built with my own hands.
I have added a picture of one of these hybrid designs to give you an idea of what I was talking about. I did the complete design from the package to the circuit and layout.
Make a difference. Commercial buildings consume 40% of America's energy. This is more than traffic. Of those buildings, The lighting and HVAC systems make-up about 70-80% of the building's energy use. With training, experience, and talent you can make a big difference and create happy customers. They pay well for this :) It saves them money and it creates a good public image for them as well as for you.
I have been in the Opto electronic industry since the 1970 doing design work for military, Nasa aerospace, industrial and medical applications. I have enjoyed working on everything from Scilab, the space shuttle and military aircraft. The best part of working in this industry is the variation of applications for Lasers, LED and detectors for different types of sensing. To me it has been very challenging to work out a design with a customer that has an idea or a concept of sensing something but doesn't know how to do it. So I can say from my prospective I would highly recomend the industry. If you need any more information feel to email me. firstname.lastname@example.org