A Non-Linear 3D Printing Career

By on February 7th, 2019 in Ideas

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 [Image: The 3D Printing Nerd]
[Image: The 3D Printing Nerd]

Non-linear, nontraditional career paths are becoming more of a norm. Let’s take a look at content creation in 3D printing.

The workforce makes the industry, and in a fast-growing field like 3D printing that workforce is changing all the time. Jobs in additive manufacturing are on the rise, and they span a broad gamut. Interested in engineering? Materials science? Marketing? Investment? Communications? Event planning? Software development? Design? Metallurgy? M&A? R&D? Just making cool stuff? There’s probably something to be found.

There are a few ways to come into 3D printing as a career focus, and sometimes that journey doesn’t look like a job path from generations past. New technologies enabling these new jobs aren’t limited only to the actual 3D printing processes. The internet, not just the Internet of Things, brings a feeling of community to a truly global industry, and that’s changing everything.

This has been on my mind for a little while, as last month a friend of mine asked to have me as a virtual guest speaker for a class she teaches college freshmen. The Career Exploration class is one I wish I’d taken at 18, as instructor Michelle Bennett takes her students on a journey with professionals from various fields and tracks. We were specifically focusing on soft skills and transferable skills gained through a non-linear career path, as very little about my double major in English and theatre, and Spanish minor, suggested that I would go on to work in 3D printing.

This week I watched a video from Fabbaloo friend Joel Telling, The 3D Printing Nerd, that also shared a look into his journey. Joel presented a Q&A to respond to community questions asking about how he got to where he is today — the video was released to celebrate his first anniversary as a full-time YouTube content creator.

It turns out Joel and I also have some overlap in our stories, and it occurs to me we’re definitely not alone in some of these similarities as the 3D printing community is full of adventurous creators and creatives.

So what kinds of concerns and considerations come into a creator-type role in 3D printing?

“Be a positive force in the community that you want to get your content recognized in,” Joel said in response to a query about how to get content seen. “It won’t go as fast as you want, I guarantee it, but you will make traction and you will make a difference and you will get your content seen.”

Here’s where some of those soft skills Michelle and I discussed come into play. That positivity is a huge, very real factor. The internet is full of enough Debbie Downers; if you want to shine, come in with a platform of positivity.

3D printing is still a small community, and word travels. Especially for people working in media platforms like YouTube and news sites, word travels. Do people like working with you? Do they feel like they can trust you? Can they trust you? People notice good things, good resources — good people. Be someone people want to work with, and you’ll find that more people want to work with you.

Another interesting line of thought specific to content creation came in regard to questions about Joel’s journey from a steady, well-paying day job with Adobe to jumping to self-employment and full-time content creation. Realities of what a “job” means come into play here as well — because it doesn’t always look like a standard 9-5 office gig.

“The tipping point for me was I was essentially working two full-time jobs,” Joel said, describing his life working at Adobe and building up his 3D Printing Nerd channel. Ultimately, health concerns stemming from that stress balanced out with an exploration of how to “make sure everyone could eat” and “everyone in my family could go see a doctor” with the move to dedicated content creation for Joel. It’s one thing to have a job; it’s sometimes another thing altogether to have a good job.

But what makes a job good? That’s different for everyone. Some people will only accept a job with a certain prestige or salary attached, while others would rather have the best work/life balance possible that might mean a lower income but more time off.

For Joel, “the highs really overpower the lows” for his new lifestyle as a content creator. There are, though, still lows. He shares thoughts on self-employment taxes and Impostor Syndrome in particular, both of which are very real concerns, and are concerns that I definitely share. The financial aspect is an important one, as new ventures mean new considerations (this evening I will be navigating around some new-to-me forms for my 2018 taxes as, like Joel, I am also the sole proprietor of my business; another soft skill to keep in mind is knowing the right people, and I’m very grateful for a well-informed accountant).

Impostor Syndrome is also an interesting one. Joel mentions that all YouTubers have experienced this, and I’ll vouch for a good many journalists, as well. Fortunately in 3D printing, so much happens so quickly that it’s always new to everyone; we’re learning together. On-the-ground experiences and many, many talks with people much smarter than I am proved the best teachers, and neither of these resources is going to dry up.

When it comes to content creation, it’s also important to know who you’re creating for: who’s your audience?

“The internet has democratized the ability for people to consume the content that they want,” Joel said of his channel. “We’re finding, at least for me, that it doesn’t matter where you live in the world. If you want to see a certain type of content, you can find it. So now all we have to do is find who wants to see what kind of content.”

YouTube analytics helps Joel understand who’s watching his videos: mostly guys (with a 92-95% male viewership) and relatively young (a strong majority aged 18 to 44 years). At Fabbaloo, we wanted to know that, too, hence our annual survey (for 2018, respondents were about 85% male and pretty spread out age-wise, with about 40% reporting more than five years of 3D printing experience). Know thy audience; content creation is a business, and understanding who’s reading and who’s watching can help guide strategies.

There’s plenty more from Joel as he discusses his experiences in his first full-time YouTube year. We’re looking forward to much more to come from the 3D Printing Nerd!

Check out his anniversary Q&A:

Michelle and I did have a full class-length discussion as well about soft skills and a path to an unexpected career. You can check out our chat (which I did not realize ahead of time would be a video recorded after work on a Monday) here:

Thinking about a job in additive manufacturing? Women in 3D Printing maintains a global jobs board with some interesting open positions.

By Sarah Goehrke

Sarah Goehrke is a Special Correspondent for Fabbaloo, via a partnership with Additive Integrity LLC. Focused on the 3D printing industry since 2014, she strives to bring grounded and on-the-ground insights to the 3D printing industry. Sarah served as Fabbaloo's Managing Editor from 2018-2021 and remains active in the industry through Women in 3D Printing and other work.