MUNICH, Germany – Engineers are feeling the pressure. Their number one concern is keeping their skills and technology knowledge up-to-date, according to a survey of engineers from around the globe conducted by UBM Tech, the publisher of EE Times.
They are also a maturing group, whose members see themselves as risk-takers who like to solve problems. They are generally contented with their lot and have a broad-range of interests. They also aware that their self-image does not necessarily match the geeky stereotypical one others have of engineers.
One finding of the survey is that shrinking design cycles and more complex engineering
tasks mean that many engineers feel they are working on more projects
than before – although in fact the survey reveals that there has been a
fall in the number of projects worked on.
In the survey, conducted in October 2012, engineers revealed that they are
now working on about 4.2 projects a year, on average, although 3 to 5 years ago they were working on about 6.7 projects per year. "The wins are
fewer but with higher stakes," said Kathy Astromoff, CEO of Electronics
at UBM Tech, as she presented the survey results during a breakfast
with electronics industry marketing executives held during Electronica.
which provides marketing services through conferences, exhibitions and
publishing, used its global network of licensees and joint venture
partners in Europe, China and Japan to augment its North American
database to contact thousands of engineers. Some 2623 useable responses
received make the survey the first of its kind to provide a global
snapshot of engineering attitudes and information requirements.
The results show slight but meaningful variations between major geographic areas and for the first time UBM also tracked variation between younger, "prime-time" and senior engineers, which showed clear variations in the likelihood of engineers using online resources.
The survey posed numerous questions about how and where engineers like to obtain data and engineering support. Vendor and manufacturer websites came out as the most popular source of information followed by industry publication email newsletters.
However, the survey has revealed differences. Just starting engineers, defined as being less than 10 years in the profession, are more likely to use online resources or participate in communities and forums. Engineers with 10 to 30 years' experience are more likely to use supplier or publication websites, printed publications and catalogs. Prime timers with more than 30 years in the industry tend to prefer meetings and seminars.
In a question and answer session at the end of the presentation, Astromoff reiterated one of the findings from the survey -- that accurate documentation, honesty and demonstrable value are the key things that help build engineers' brand loyalty with component and technology suppliers.
Astromoff said that while peer-to-peer information exchange dwarfs other interactions in terms of getting engineering problems solved, there is a mass of vital information present in supplier companies. "The challenge is to scale the know-how and help make it discoverable," she said.
One of the things that the study showed up is that engineers are very aware of the need to take charge of their own training and do it in their own time.
The anecdotal evidence was given that in China many engineers are not allowed access to the Internet at work. But that they seek out webinars and self-training opportunities online in their evenings.
Career development needs to be taught at Universities and Colleges. It's no longer enough to look after our jobs, we have to actively develop our careers, even if it means moving jobs short-term for the long-term benefit.
Unfortunately some engineering jobs are a career dead-end, and engineers need to be able to recognise these; and CEO's and HR Managers of companies also need to be more aware of developing their people and not just focussing on the product.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.