Long ago, fresh out of high school, I became a machinist apprentice. CNC machines were coming into the mainstream back then (like 3D printers are now), so I focused on developing both manual and CNC machining skills. After spending time looking at other people's lousy designs, I figured I could get an engineering degree and create my own lousy designs with an emphasis on ease of manufacture (nowadays called DFMA -Design for Manufacture and Assembly). I worked full time as a machinist on swing shift and went took care of my lower division classes during the day. Once I ran out of lower division classes to take, I transfered into Sac State's Mechanical Engineering Technology program to get my BS (and boy, was there *a lot *of BS as far as I was concerned).
During my senior year, I started working at Moller International as a Design Engineer on their rotary engine development program, where they immediately put my DFMA experience to good use. Once the money ran out there, I got to design, build, and demonstrate knee and hip surgery instrument at Synvasive Technology, then robotic components at Schilling Robotic Systems, then finally decided to settle down career-wise at Aerojet. After 10 years there, I got the start-up itch and went to work at Lighting Science, working on high end LED lighting systems - including work on the 2009 Times Square Ball (which should still have my kids' initals inside). After that company circled the drain and departed Sacramento, I went back to Aerojet (now Aerojet Rocketdyne) as a Manufacturing Engineering Specialist and focused on helping others design parts and assemblies for DFMA and leading precision assembly work on rocket engines, small thrusters, and other things that may or may not go boom.
For the past 5 years, I have worked on an Air Force research and development project called Hydrocarbon Boost (look it up for more info), and will continue to do so until they kick me out the door sometime in the second quarter of 2019.