Posted by Dan Pilcher:
to this posting on the Mentoring Board]
I recently started my first full-time job after receiving a MSEE in VLSI design. All my previous engineering experience (summer jobs) had been in academic settings, so this is my first taste of "real world" engineering. In my first two months on the job I have yet to do what I consider any real engineering work. Most of my time is spent wrestling with (seemingly) poorly maintained tools, and finishing other people's half-written Unix scripts. I have a design position and was really expecting
to do just that. Am I simply experiencing culture shock for having come from academia? Or should I expect more from my job?
A mentor replies:
to this reply on the Mentoring Board]
Welcome to the club, Dan. In school everything is cut and dried; not
so in the "real world." Out here you have budgets, the interests
of the support staff in a particular tool or methodology, or simply plain
lack of manpower to contend with.
Fresh out of school, you should not expect to receive any "real
design" work. You do not know the work flow the company uses, you
do not know the foibles of the particular tool you are using, you do not
know the people you are working with. As for the team, as Rob suggested
you are an unknown talent. There are many reasons why you cannot begin
to do any real design work. Too many to list.
You should determine if the organization you work for is truly interested
in the professional development of its engineers. You can do this by talking
with others in your group and in other groups. Talk to you manager as well.
Hopefully the organization wants to develop its talent. If so, talk to
your manager. Let him know you will do whatever is necessary to get your
hands on some true design work. Be ready, however, to accept some of the
grunt work you are low man on the totem pole. Talk to others
in the group also, help out where you can and earn the trust and respect
of the team. This is how you get what you want. Show the team you can complete
any task well and the team will increase the size and importance of the
If you determine you are working for an organization or a manager who
is not interested in your personal development but only in what you can
contribute, you must reevaluate your position. You may likely get stuck
with all the grunt work regardless of your abilities.
You will not get what you want overnight. That said, don't put up with
the grunt work for too long. Regardless of the type of manager you have,
if you continue to do the grunt projects without voicing your desires,
you will continue to be given grunt projects. Let your manager know your
desires and get him to agree to a timetable for increasing your responsibilities.
Then hold your manager to that schedule. If he comes through, great. If
not, then you have a decision to make.
Do not under any circumstances threaten your manager if you do not get
your way. This is a sure road to professional suicide.
Good luck and good hunting