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Engineers in America: Too Young, Too Old

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Lance A Jones
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Re: Engineers need a bit of cognitive psychology!
Lance A Jones   1/16/2014 5:29:35 PM
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Perhaps targetting was just a poor choice of words. What we posted for was anyone over 5 years of experience. We did not have an upper bound. We just expected that when we posted that we would get different distribution, especially since the systems we were looking for experience for have only been around for a little over 10 years. We ended up hiring someone with over 20 years overall experience, but also experience on the systems we needed requested the experience on.

Having said that there is a certain distribution you need in a company to stay healthy and well rounded. It is not a good distribution when you have either college grads or those of us closer to retirement and little in between. Culturally and for diversity it helps to have a good mix in you work force.

FlawlessTech
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Engineers need a bit of cognitive psychology!
FlawlessTech   1/16/2014 5:11:46 PM
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The first thing that came to my mind is WHY? After all, the author did say "We tried to target an experience level of five to 10 years for some senior positions." but then didn't adequately explain why this level of experience was the target. What's wrong with someone with 20 years? And what is wrong with someone who has 12 years (they fall just outside the target zone)??

The profession of cognitive psychology has told us that we, as humans, hold particular biases in our brains that cause us to make tremendous errors of judgement. This article smacks of erroneous bias.

I would encourage the author and everyone else to self-asses to ascertain what dangerous biases are held that can cause you to take a path to error.

cd2012
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Re: Think outside the box
cd2012   1/16/2014 12:14:23 PM
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What about linear systems theory?  Or, intro to circuits class that taught KVL/KCL, etc.?  Or, the beginning physics classes in E&M?  Or, linear algebra (which Google's PageRank uses extensively)?  I learned lots of great things in college.  I don't understand what's "broken" about engineering education.  Sure, the cost is escalating, but that's not a problem with the material itself.

 

 

 

 

 

prabhakar_deosthali
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CEO
good internship programs can help
prabhakar_deosthali   1/16/2014 9:36:48 AM
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When I graduated as an Electrical Engineer back in 1974, the word COMPUTER was associated with something like magic , here in India, even among the intellectual community.

But there was a growing demand for software engineers and no formally trained software engineers were available at that time.

The industry in India at that  time absorbed all those engineers and science graduates and sometimes even the non-science graduates  who were keen and having the IQ to get trained in computers and software . The senior people in all those companies and the organizations arranged for the training for all those novices and inducted them into the mainstream of the software industry.

This shows that if the industry is willing and has capable leaders in the middle management ,then it need not depend upon the rightly qualified engineers coming from the universities , but instead it can have the intern programs that will ready the young and willing graduates to become professional engineers .

daviddever
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Freelancer
Re: Think outside the box
daviddever   1/16/2014 9:19:12 AM
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If you've got a good, solid mathematics background (discrete math, numerical analysis and differential / integral / multivariate calculus) and are capable of self-disciplined learning on your own, yes, that's about all you'd need.  Hardly any engineering graduate comes out of school as a fully-formed, practicing engineer; a significant amount of anecdotal and application-specific training is required to be industrially productive.

In the bigger picture, the cost of a good university education has gone up dramatically, as the return on investment has dropped significantly.  There is no reason to be saddling twenty-somethings with the immense amount of student-loan debt as we do in this country.  This does NOT make better engineering graduates, only more desperate ones.

This is NOT to say that I did not gain any benefit whatsoever from my own university education, but I can only imagine what it would have been like to have had access to the online learning and research resources we have available today....

The current U.S. higher educational system is badly broken, and it is no surprise that foreign students and workers succeed where our students fail.  If you possess any desire to save engineering as a professional discipline in this country, it's time for a radical change.  Scrap ABET and the existing university model, and start with a clean slate.

cd2012
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Freelancer
Re: Think outside the box
cd2012   1/16/2014 8:50:07 AM
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@daviddever

Whoa, are you saying that job candidates don't need any formal education that might be gained in engineering schools?

I agree if all you want is people to write javascript or CRUD apps.  Let's face it, though, that's not engineering.

If you want people to design complex products involving semiconductors, RF or analog design as a few examples, enthusiasm and self-learning aren't going to cut it.  These areas require years of study to master starting with basic math.

Now, does the US job market reward those years of training?  Apparently not...

 

Jamie Patterson
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Freelancer
You need a job like an electrician or auto mechanic.
Jamie Patterson   1/15/2014 9:00:08 PM
You need a job that cannot be outsourced or shipped overseas. Something like an auto mechanic specializing in electrical problems. That job is H-1b proof too. And in todays market it pays better than many engineering jobs. I mean HP just laid off 5,000 more employees. You can use your smarts to actually run an independent auto repair business rather than working in the cube waiting for the pink slip. Become a master licensed electrician. Let's see that job shipped overseas.

daviddever
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Freelancer
Think outside the box
daviddever   1/15/2014 7:59:01 PM
Part of the issue lies with a total lack of understanding on the part of existing engineering managers AND educators as to what really makes a good hire, from a business owner's perspective.

The entrepreneurial track has overtaken the educational track as a path to success within high technology companies, and it's actually been this way for a while.  As a consequence, fewer talented STEM candidates are entering ABET-accredited programs (or completing them), in favor of jumping into the job market with both feet, using the skills they already have.  Others select undergraduate majors that will better serve their management roles during, say, their startup funding cycles.

Want talented engineering staff?  Get rid of that MSEE or BSEE requirement in your job postings, evaluating your hires based on technical aptitude and demonstrated skill, not on the degree (or GPA) requirements laid out to you by your corporate HR person.  This might be very difficult at first, but it is likely that you'll soon be able to gauge the aptitude of a potential hire rather quickly.  (We've been doing this in the developer community for a long time.) 

Chances are, you'll find an eager pool of candidates that will grow with your company and will perform their work as if they had something to prove, judged by the quality of their work and not by their educational qualifications.  You will get better bang for buck AND provide them with the experience that makes their (subsequent, elective) education more relevant.

If you are an educator reading this post, let me make this clear–as a business owner, it is less expensive for me to hire someone whose formal education may be incomplete but possesses a greater desire to succeed based on their own merit, than it is to hire someone whose career expectations have been unreasonably set by their college guidance counselor.  You must add value, both to the student and to the industry that they will be helping to build and sustain.

SiliconValleyEngineer
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Rookie
Continuing on with the same subject . . .
SiliconValleyEngineer   1/15/2014 12:43:57 PM
If I were to go into more taboo subject of who is hired and what is the demographic of the people getting hired, I think H-1B visas are really screwed up many U.S. citizen and Green Card holder NCGs, at least at this public university in Silicon Valley.

I used to attend this university's job fair, and whenever I waited in line to speak to a representative of high-tech firms for internships, etc.

Pretty much I was the only white person in the line.

Everyone else looked Indian descent, and I was lucky to see a few east Asians in the line . . .

I have done this for a few years, and I got maybe 1 or 2 interview.

Yet, when I look on LinkedIn, I do not have too much difficulty finding Indian descent graduate students having done internships at firms like Cisco System, Intel, etc. who graduated from this university.

Is there a secret favortism game going on at Silicon Valley firms for who gets hired?

I have discussed this with my friends, many of them are not Indian descent, and pretty much most of them agree that there seems to be some kind of preferential treatment going on for Indian descent people who will be on H-1B visas.

I do understand that this is a taboo subject that many Indian descent people reading this will not like want to hear, but at least this is how many of my friend and I think of this situation in Silicon Valley.

SiliconValleyEngineer
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Rookie
I have known this and seen this in Silicon Valley for several years
SiliconValleyEngineer   1/15/2014 12:30:31 PM
Finally, someone admitting what my friend and I have known for several years.

My friend graduated in 2003 (BSEE) and 2007 (MSEE) from a public university in Silicon Valley (easy to guess which one), and he ended up not finding a career job after graduation.

Many, if not all of his friends, who graduated around that time were like that.

All he got was 6 month contract he and there, and he ended up being on federal UI extension for about 2 years in 2008 to 2010.

However, he noticed that substantial number of foreign students (i.e., students from India) in graduate school seem to have found some kind of job at least until 2011 or so.

Until about 2001, people who received BSEE from this university pretty much were guaranteed to find work in engineering at graduation or within 6 months of graduation.

It is no longer like that and the enrollment has been decimated in the past few years (The EE department used to graduate about 150 to 200 undergraduate per year, now it is more like 60 to 70 per year.).

I take courses part time at this university, and honestly, I am losing interest in graduation due to the way job market has been for more than 10 years.

The degree from the university I attend seem to be getting treated like an associate degree from a junior college by employers in Silicon Valley, and that weighs on me.

I had a different friend who used to work at major FPGA vendor A (not X) from 2001 to 2003, and he told me that employees in Silicon Valley hated the existence of Penang, Malaysia operation, which was this firm's outsource design center.

This pretty much guaranteed that NCGs were not able to get an entry level job around here to start their engineering "career."

Of course, the management, especially the CEO, is in love with Penang because it tells the employees in Silicon Valley that they need to keep their salary expectations down while he made $10 million in stock option during 2010-2011 period.

When I was an "intern" (My skill is really a mid to senior contractor level because I learned to design with FPGA on my own, but I needed money, so I got in as an "intern.") at major FPGA vendor A in 2011, the management has outsourced so much work to the point that Penang was designing most of 2 of the 28 nm process FPGAs (low and mid range).

Silicon Valley people at this firm had the lowest employee satisfaction rate according to their internal employee survey, and I was not surprised to see this (Interestingly, Penang had the highest satisfaction rate even though they get paid 1/3 of Silicon Valley employees.).

When I did an interview with a memory chip startup in 2013, one Indian descent early 50s looking engineer told me, "Wow, it is really hard to find someone with VLSI background in your age group. They tend to go to Internet or software companies. You are really rare."

I ended up getting turned down by this firm (I am a white U.S. citizen.).

The way the Top 1% of the Silicon Valley is running these firms are similar to how Wall Street banks and brokerages are ran which is short term cost oriented financial management is their No. 1 concern, and considering that the knowledge in engineering trade is not being passed down to older babyboomer generation to millennial generation, I am not too optimistic that Silicon Valley or U.S., for that matter, can compete with countries in Asia in 10 to 20 years in the hardware design area (manufacturing is largely lost, especially in Silicon Valley).

As for myself, I no longer plan to work for an employer and I plan to start my own FPGA-related design service business.
I am likely going to have to struggle in my career and life, but I rather do this than working at a retail store.

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