Dual Career Ladders: You Can Have the Best of Both Worlds

By Sharon Richardson

Shaping an Engineering Career ” Book 2: Dual Career Ladders, written by Raymond E. Floyd and Richard H. Spencer, is the second e-book in IEEE-USA’s Shaping an Engineering Career e-book series.  In Dual Career Ladders, Floyd and Spencer give a brief summary of their backgrounds; write about their experiences in a “dual ladder” career; what they learned along the way; and they offer some insight to the reader who may be considering a “dual ladder” career.

In the introduction, Floyd and Spencer share that at some point in an engineer’s career, they may discover what is known as the “dual ladder” in the corporate structure.  A “dual ladder” is having the choice of working on the technical side of a career, or the management side of a career-or both.

The authors write that, in some cases, the engineer can move from one to the other depending on the needs of the corporation they work for; however, the choice is not simple, as you will come to understand from the experiences that they share.

Raymond Floyd was born in Los Angeles, California, shortly after the Great Depression and just before World War II. His family moved to Louisiana when he was eight years old.  He shares that the news headlines at the time read, Roosevelt Dead!, Victory in Europe!, and Victory in Japan, and the first nuclear device had been used to end the war.

Floyd, became interested in chemistry and photography as a young man. Actually, he had a “love of chemistry.” His desire at that time was to become a chemical engineer. But working with his father as an ironworker apprentice, he decided that he was much more interested in pursuing a career in engineering.

Trained in missile guidance and auto track radar systems in the Air Force, Floyd started as a radar team leader for Vitro Weapons Services, supporting a variety of electronic tests in Eglin AFB. It was then that he decided electronics was another opportunity, and he decided to become an electrical engineer.


Floyd moved from Vitro Weapons Services after two years, and accepted a position at Philco Technical Representative Division as a field engineer. It would be years later that Floyd received his degree in engineering from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. With ten years of experience, he was invited to join the IBM team in 1966 as a Senior Lab Specialist, the highest position available to IBM at the time.

After working several years and many positions later, Floyd accepted a position working with the co-author of this e-book, Richard Spencer, at the Product Test Group in Boca Raton, Florida, as an Advisory Test Administrator–which was still on the technical side of the ladder system. Shortly after joining the group, Spencer asked Floyd to move across the “dual ladder” into management. It was in this position that Floyd learned to work with managers reporting to him, helping them to become better managers through his mentoring efforts, rather than direct involvement. In this role, Floyd writes, a 40-hour work week can easily expand to 70+ hours.

Floyd writes about several of his experiences at IBM, moving from a managerial role at the company to a technical role, and back again. After 26 years at IBM, Floyd retired and formed his own consulting/engineering company, Innovative Insights, Inc.–with emphasis on RFID systems design, integration and test.

In his final remarks, Floyd writes “My final claim to fame is that I found that you can teach old dogs new tricks. I’ve never grown tired of learning new things”. In 2009, he received his doctoral degree in Management.

Richard Spencer was born in Southern California in the midst of the Depression. He shares that his father was a Civil Engineer, who prompted him to seek a career in engineering.

During his studies, however, World War II erupted. Spencer joined the U.S. Army, and became a combat photographer.


After the war, he entered the University of Southern California as an engineering student, receiving his BSEE in 1950. Spencer’s first position after graduation was with IBM, as an entry-level engineer working with customers and customer equipment.

Spencer earned the title of Senior Associate Customer Engineer, and IBM asked him to move to New York as a Staff Engineer in the Product Test and Human Factors Laboratory, writing, conducting, managing and testing new IBM products.

Then he took his experience as a Customer Engineer into a new field”Human Factors. After five years as a project coordinator and test engineer, he made is first move across the “dual ladder,” becoming a Project Engineer with Product Test Laboratory–with engineers, technicians and human factor specialists reporting to him.

After 10 years, Spencer moved to Boca Raton Florida, where he worked as an Administrative Assistant to the Director of Product Test. This position, he writes, moved him back across the “dual ladder” to Advisory Engineer. Spencer would have a few rounds of moving across the “dual ladder” at IBM, until his retirement from IBM.

After retiring, he formed his own company, Author’s Service Group, consulting on a variety of projects concerned with usability, systems integration and test, field demonstrations, and other special projects.

Spencer writes that he continues to pursue his interests in photography “You never grow too old to serve in one capacity or another”.

Floyd and Spencer share that there are many opportunities to work “dual ladder” careers–from private industry to the federal government. However, they caution, many companies are careful about using the words “engineer” and “manager.” For example, an engineer that has been given a particular project assignment may be referred to as the Project Engineer, or the Project Leader, but not as Project Manager. The rational, they say, is that such a title may give the impression that the individual has all the responsibilities of a manger–but they don’t.

Floyd and Spencer share the lessons that they’ve learned from having “dual ladder” careers– the greatest one being that they both agree that the “dual ladder” careers at IBM permitted them to enjoy both their technical and management roles.

Download Shaping an Engineering Career ” Book 2: Dual Career Ladders for the IEEE Member Price of $7.99. The non-member price is $9.99.

To purchase IEEE members-only products and to receive the member discount on eligible products, members must log in with their IEEE Web Account.

Ideas for New E-Books

IEEE-USA E-Books invites IEEE members and volunteers to submit queries for e-books they may want to write. If you’ve got an idea for an e-book that will educate other IEEE members on career guidance and development topics for engineers, e-mail your e-book queries and ideas to IEEE-USA Publishing Manager Georgia Stelluto or E-Book Chair Gus Gaynor.

IEEE-USA advances the public good and promotes the careers and public policy interests of more than 210,000 engineers, scientists and allied professionals who are U.S. members of IEEE. IEEE-USA is part of IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional society with 375,000 members in 160 countries.

Learn about the many benefits of IEEE membership

Sharon Richardson is IEEE-USA’s communications coordinator, and editorial assistant for IEEE-USA in ACTION.

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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