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Topic Title: Career help for Electronic Engineer
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Created On: 15 September 2010 08:15 PM
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 15 September 2010 08:15 PM
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rjc3656

Posts: 15
Joined: 10 February 2009

Dear All,

I am looking for some career advice from fellow electronics engineers or others who have been in a similar position.
My background is in electronics and software design and I have worked in this field since leaving uni back in 2002. I have worked for 2 small sme companies in this time for 5 years and 3 years.
In the first company, I was basically taught on-the-job how to design PCBs, design and simulate electronics, coding in C and designing with microcontrollers and FPGA's. Working at a small company, obvioulsy I have been in many areas of development such as design, test, customer support. In my view I have a good range of skills and am very hands on.
Unfortunately due to the recession this company suffered and redundancies including myself were made.
My current situation is that I work for a mainly electromechanical company and after 3 years of being the electronics "expert" in this company I have decided to try to return to a more high-tech electronics company as some of the projects I have been working on are fairly basic in their electronic element and I would like to get back into microcontroller/FPGA design.
This is where my problems start. I have been to 3 interviews, with slight variations on electronics design engineer as their job titles, in the last 3 months and have made 2nd interview at 2 of them.
The feedback I have been given is that I give a good interview but I either don't have the correct level of experience or cant hit the ground running!
Neither level of feed back really gives me any clue to how I can improve myself.
The most recent postion I was rejected from was due to the fact that I have no experience in high volume manufacture - does anyone in the UK have experience in high volume electronics anymore!

So my questions are: What can I do to improve my employability? Are their any courses I can take? Will going for accreditation help?
I have bought an FPGA development kit to try to refresh my memory and bring my VHDL skills upto date but the only jobs I have seen are for Senior Engineers with loads of experience in very specific areas such as approvals specific to a particular industry sector.

Could I maybe aim a bit lower, maybe go for a technician role in a large company and aim to move up this way? Does this work these days and how would I explain to HR/agency recruiter that I want to be a technician when I have been a design engineer?

I would be grateful for any help or guidance I can get as I dont really know any other Electronics engineers in my family or socially so is difficult to obtain ideas.
Anyway thanks for reading
RJC3656
 16 September 2010 03:30 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Only one personal view, but here it is...


Originally posted by: rjc3656
The most recent postion I was rejected from was due to the fact that I have no experience in high volume manufacture - does anyone in the UK have experience in high volume electronics anymore!

But many companies design for high volume manufacture overseas. And design/engineering for high volume manufacture is slightly different from design/engineering for low volumes. So, although it is not rocket science, candidates who have done that type of work before will have an advantage.

So my questions are: What can I do to improve my employability? Are their any courses I can take?

Any courses at all won't harm you, but it sounds as if it is your experience that is more of a problem.

Will going for accreditation help?

Frankly, no (although I'm sure the IET management would disagree with me here!). It won't do any harm though.

I have bought an FPGA development kit to try to refresh my memory and bring my VHDL skills upto date but the only jobs I have seen are for Senior Engineers with loads of experience in very specific areas such as approvals specific to a particular industry sector.

Yes, absolutely. I have agencies phoning me constantly offering me FPGA engineers, the woods are full of them. And companies will really want to see your experience in industry. But, yet again, it won't do you any harm and it may well help if you go for...

Could I maybe aim a bit lower, maybe go for a technician role in a large company and aim to move up this way? Does this work these days and how would I explain to HR/agency recruiter that I want to be a technician when I have been a design engineer?

It is almost the only way to move sideways. You're quite right, it can be hard to explain, the point is to find a job which you genuinly want to do - maybe because it is in an industry that you have a stronger interest in - then it will be clear why you want to move. If the recruiter thinks you're applying for a technician's job just to get an engineer's job they won't touch you; after all, if they wanted an engineer they'd have advertised for one! BUT if they think you'll fill the technician's role well with potential for moving on when the company needs it you have an 'in'. And this is where gaining your FPGA experience, accreditation, etc come in useful - they may not get you in, but they may get you up once you are in.

Good luck! It is a very very tough job market out there, and companies are under so much pressure that they won't take risks in recruiting - hence if you don't tick all the boxes they would rather go without altogether.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 16 September 2010 06:49 PM
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rjc3656

Posts: 15
Joined: 10 February 2009

Thanks for your feedback.

I certainly don't underestimate that it is a very tough jobs market and I don't think it will improve anytime soon.

Its good to hear from people working in my field, the response I get from friends/family is that you are an engineer, isn't there a skills shortage? you should have no trouble etc.

With regards the high volume manufacture scenario I completely understand where the company is coming from however its again a case how is one supposed to obtain this specific experience without working for a high volume manufacturer.

You mention that FPGA designers are all around, what in your opinion are the most sought after skills at the moment?

Are these skills that that one could learn at home for example?
 17 September 2010 12:44 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Originally posted by: rjc3656
Its good to hear from people working in my field, the response I get from friends/family is that you are an engineer, isn't there a skills shortage? you should have no trouble etc.

Yes, I think many of us are frustrated about that. There are two issues here:
1) There is an anticipated skills shortage in the future because not enough young people are following science/technology education at the moment
2) Companies are finding it hard to recruit the staff they want, but it seems (to me at least) that - as I mentioned above - it is because they are so squeezed that they cannot afford to train or mentor staff, so they have to look for the perfect fit, which of course is hard. Every company seems to be hoping that someone else will solve this problem.

With regards the high volume manufacture scenario I completely understand where the company is coming from however its again a case how is one supposed to obtain this specific experience without working for a high volume manufacturer.

Always the problem with all experience, again it's finding a company that has the resources to mentor you in the skills and can't find anyone else already with them.

You mention that FPGA designers are all around, what in your opinion are the most sought after skills at the moment?

Unfortunately I'm not the ideal person to ask as I work in a very niche sector. Basically I suggest looking at all the job sites with key words 'electronic engineer' - for example 'www.thecareerengineer.com' - and see what crops up most often.

Are these skills that that one could learn at home for example?

Certainly building andf debugging circuits at home may help you in an interview if - for example - you get a circuit diagram or lump of VHDL waved at you and you're asked 'can you explain this?'
You will probably be expected to have some competance in most of:
- One schematic capture/PCB layout CAD package
- Interconnecting logic circuits
- Power supply management (e.g. decoupling, use of on-board regulators)
- Processor implementation (e.g. use of 'C' on at least one processor family)
- FPGA implementation in VERILOG or VHDL
- EMC requirements
- Ideally a-d and d-a implementation
- and if you know anything at all about RF you have a huge advantage

You don't have to (and won't) know everything about these, but enough so that the employer can be sure that you won't collapse in a gibbering heap when you're asked 'just make us one of these'

All the best,

Andy

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 17 September 2010 12:44 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Originally posted by: rjc3656
Its good to hear from people working in my field, the response I get from friends/family is that you are an engineer, isn't there a skills shortage? you should have no trouble etc.

Yes, I think many of us are frustrated about that. There are two issues here:
1) There is an anticipated skills shortage in the future because not enough young people are following science/technology education at the moment
2) Companies are finding it hard to recruit the staff they want, but it seems (to me at least) that - as I mentioned above - it is because they are so squeezed that they cannot afford to train or mentor staff, so they have to look for the perfect fit, which of course is hard. Every company seems to be hoping that someone else will solve this problem.

With regards the high volume manufacture scenario I completely understand where the company is coming from however its again a case how is one supposed to obtain this specific experience without working for a high volume manufacturer.

Always the problem with all experience, again it's finding a company that has the resources to mentor you in the skills and can't find anyone else already with them.

You mention that FPGA designers are all around, what in your opinion are the most sought after skills at the moment?

Unfortunately I'm not the ideal person to ask as I work in a very niche sector. Basically I suggest looking at all the job sites with key words 'electronic engineer' - for example 'www.thecareerengineer.com' - and see what crops up most often.

Are these skills that that one could learn at home for example?

Certainly building andf debugging circuits at home may help you in an interview if - for example - you get a circuit diagram or lump of VHDL waved at you and you're asked 'can you explain this?'
You will probably be expected to have some competance in most of:
- One schematic capture/PCB layout CAD package
- Interconnecting logic circuits
- Power supply management (e.g. decoupling, use of on-board regulators)
- Processor implementation (e.g. use of 'C' on at least one processor family)
- FPGA implementation in VERILOG or VHDL
- EMC requirements
- Ideally a-d and d-a implementation
- and if you know anything at all about RF you have a huge advantage

You don't have to (and won't) know everything about these, but enough so that the employer can be sure that you won't collapse in a gibbering heap when you're asked 'just make us one of these'

All the best,

Andy

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 18 September 2010 11:15 AM
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rjc3656

Posts: 15
Joined: 10 February 2009

Hi Andy,

Thanks for your comments


You will probably be expected to have some competance in most of:

- One schematic capture/PCB layout CAD package

- Interconnecting logic circuits

- Power supply management (e.g. decoupling, use of on-board regulators)

- Processor implementation (e.g. use of 'C' on at least one processor family)

- FPGA implementation in VERILOG or VHDL

- EMC requirements

- Ideally a-d and d-a implementation

- and if you know anything at all about RF you have a huge advantage



I have experience in most of those areas bar RF, however I cannot profess to be an expert in any of them!

Having looked at various job sites on the net, I conclude there does seem to be a lack of jobs for people like myself who have some experience but may be need some training or coaching in specifics such approvals or application knowldege of a particular sector.

I believe I have two courses of action to take:
Continue to apply and be interviewed for positions that I may be a 50-60% match for (I it take most of these job specs are wish lists anyway) and hope I can do enough to prove I have got what it takes.

Secondly, also apply for slightly lesser positions and take a drop in salary to hopefully move forward .

Not an ideal situtaion but hopefully one that will improve with time


All the best

Rob
 03 November 2010 12:33 PM
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tribull

Posts: 6
Joined: 28 November 2002


"This is where my problems start. I have been to 3 interviews, with slight variations on electronics design engineer as their job titles, in the lst 3 months and have made 2nd interview at 2 of them.

The feedback I have been given is that I give a good interview but I either don't have the correct level of experience or cant hit the ground running! "

Hi I'd probably concur with a lot of the comments already but don't beat yourself up. Two 2nd interviews out of 3 total interviews is good. I accept that not getting either of the jobs isn't great for you but I'd say you must be doing a lot right to be getting that far.

I also do FPGAs/embedded C type work and would think that your current level of experience looks ok for a lot of positions out there. I didn't notice where you are based but if you are able to re-locate I think you'll find yourself getting back into FPGA work without too much difficulty.

Good Luck.



 10 May 2013 04:06 PM
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Tbone123

Posts: 2
Joined: 10 May 2013

I had some luck with getting a few certifications in electronics design from CIE Bookstore. They are kind of short but they are not expensive. Maybe worth a try.
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