As it happens in life, if you stick around for any length of time other people start giving you responsibility. It happened in Boy Scouts, it happened in high school clubs, it happened in college clubs, now it is happening in engineering. Suddenly I have more experience looking at stress contours and fracture mechanics for the assembly in question than anyone else. Suddenly, decisions I make have the ability to save money, risk failures, add weight, and reduce manufacturability. They may only be small things, but they are profitable professional things.
I really like being the one in the room that has the answer, but I know from experience that if I make enough decisions, I will eventually decide wrong. This time there is more at stake. They could fire me. Lest anyone get the idea I am guessing the answer is not typically only A or B. Do we need a bigger weld? Do we need thicker plates? Do we need a doubler? What shape doubler? Do we need to change the contour? Do we need to use a different material? Do we need to change the way several plates weld together? Typically the answer is a combination of those factors.
I suppose life is the process of learning and then doing, which I am. The curious part is the progression is nonlinear, yet my brain plans things very linearly. I also understand linear things better than nonlinear things. I am still coming to grips with the reasons that I spent 57 weeks after my masters degree unemployed or working for minimum wage. Of the over 400 jobs that I applied for and eight or so interviews I had John Deere and RFA spent the least time interviewing me yet offered me the best opportunity.
While I do feel useful at work and as though I have something unique to contribute, being unemployed helped me realize that I am replaceable. You can not replace the whole package that is me, but there are plenty of other engineers who can do work just as well or better. The fear keeps me hungry.