Job opportunities in the new millennium - Embedded.com

Job opportunities in the new millennium

Message from the company president

Dear Prospective Employee:

Don't even think about sending us your resume unless:

  • You have 10-to-15 years experience designing high-speed digital circuits using VHDL or Verilog.
  • In a recent incarnation you were a PCB designer, and became expert at all aspects of manufacturing engineering.
  • You breeze through Windows and Linux application, DLL, and driver programming.
  • In your spare time you became an expert at

both DSP and MPU programming, using advanced signal processing algorithms, in C, assembly, and Esperanto.

  • An MBA is a
  • must — if you can't figure out what the customer wants, and deliver the entire package on time, we don't want you.”We might be interested in you given, all of these Godlike qualifications. But guess what? Engineering jobs are all moving offshore. You're competing with someone making $12k/year. Work here (we're a great outfit!) and you'll earn a pittance. More than those overseas competitors offer, of course, but even if you've got 30 years of experience — uh, rather like our qualifications demand — then we'll pay you about what the average new grad makes. Maybe a bit more, perhaps a little less. Accept your lot and stop whining.”

    I work 86 hours a week and so should you. If your project is late plan to eat and sleep here. Your kids won't miss you all that much. And you should have known better than to start a family when there's work to do!

    Okay, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it does summarize and only slightly parody a real employment ad sent in by an alert reader. At least I guess it's real; the ad could be a pretty decent, if bittersweet, joke.

    I sent the URL to various friends for comments. Engineers were uniformly horrified. However, some managers sheepishly admitted that the ad reflected an intensified view of their own take on hiring today.

    Capitalism is a great thing; it has brought us the phenomenal quality of life we enjoy today. But lim(as capitalism -> infinity) creates its own array of problems. The goal of any corporation is to make money for the shareholders. That means adroit management will maximize profits using every legal technique. A successful CEO will therefore minimize labor costs while getting the most productivity from the workers.

    But this ad is egregious. It stinks of Nike's deplorable Asian employment policies.

    An attitude like the one expressed at this web site undermines the profession of engineering. If this is the future of our line of work, how many intelligent people will get their EEs or CEs? Brilliant students will become lawyers or Madison Avenue types; only the mediocre will become engineers. The superprogrammer of the future would be one who vaguely understands pointers.

    I do admire the author of this particular missive for being utterly up-front and honest. The dark subtext of engineering employment has long been OT. Does the company pay for overtime? Is it expected? How much is normal? Accept a job with this outfit and there's no doubt what management expects of you.

    Is this ad representative of a new pattern, or is it just an unusual curiosity? What's your experience?

    If you want real salary info and not just what's offered on an offending web site, check out the EE Times salary survey.

    Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. He founded two companies specializing in embedded systems. Contact him at . His website is .


    Reader Response

    I agree with your article except for one detail. The person with all those qualifications (30 yrs. equivalent experience) only gets to have an interview, an interview where the company attempts to pick his/her brain for free for say 3 – 5 hours. Then some bogus follow ups where the company really wishes the candidate would just “go away”. They already got what they were after so they can direct the next 12K a year imported engineer they hire to do the real work.

    In today's job market, if your in an interview and the interviewer implies that lots of people BS on their resumes, and therefore you should explain something in heavy technical detail that is pertinent to that company's specific problems, decline. Let them struggle on their own. After all, if you want those 30 yrs. equivalent experience to be worth something, you can't give it away to the every bullying company you happen to meet.

    David Beberman
    CEO
    Corporate WaveNet, Inc.


    We are now entering the new world of 'gladiator economics', where the spectators (investors and politicians) watch as the poor workers are forced to fight each other to stay employed in the workforce. It's not a pretty future. Everyone better have lots of swords (multiple engineering expertise) and they better be sharpened night and day, meaning having to work 24/7. Last one out of engineering is a foreigner.

    Matthew R Powenski
    Bottom Feeder
    Slash and Burn Inc.


    I think Mr. Brower is rather courageous for his stand. Let's face it, the tasks completed by a majority of engineers are not in the $100/Hr category. Given the proper tools, specifications and other support structures, a 65k per year engineer is probably a perfect match for a position at Mr. Browers company. Additionally, Dallas is not NY, MA or CA when it comes to the cost of living.

    I avoided the stratospheric salaries of 2000, watched my friends get “rich”, and then bankrupt, while I have consistently held a job. Yes, I do make more money than Mr. Brower is offering, but then again, I work in a very different environment, where an even wider skill set is needed. To be honest, I wish there was a Mr. Brower in New England. I would love the opportunity to work on a real team of talented and hungry engineers, not the group of prima donnas that inhabit most firms up here.

    What is a fair salary? How do you measure engineering productivity? What does a senior engineer bring to a task that a junior engineer doesn't? What is the value of a MS versus a BS versus 20 years of experience with no degree? These are the questions we need to answer, and the issues we as engineers need to settle, by ourselves, without the “help” of the IEEE and similar organizations. Otherwise, as we watch our jobs flow to India and other countries in the Far East, we will only have ourselves to blame. Thank you, Mr. Brower, for your courage, and starting a long overdue, and perhaps too late to matter, discussion.

    Brad Stevens
    Sr. Systems Engineer


    The weak economy has affected everyone, but I think that many companies had weak business models that were artificially hidden by the boom economy. Now that times are tougher, these companies are not able to support reasonable product development costs, thus forcing the long hours and the need for an expert workforce at low pay.

    The economy will recover. When it does, I suspect Mr. Brower will find that he has even higher development costs as all his talented engineers flee his working conditions and he has to train new engineers. Companies reap what they sow — engineers will remember how they are treated during this downturn, and will take their talent elsewhere when they can.

    Tracy Thomas


    Re the “job ad” from Signalogic:

    And I thought slavery had ended in this country in 1863!

    I doubt if he'll get very many takers with that approach. Also, I can't imagine a company with that approach ever succeeding in the marketplace for very long, but, who knows, maybe he will.

    This just shows how ruthless some managers can be, when they're put in the driver's seat. This has to be a complete historical rerun of the reasons why the formation of labor unions was so necessary in the earlier part of our country's history. Then it was unskilled manufacturing, service, and mining workers who were being taken advantage of. Now it's happening to skilled engineers. Same problem, same screw-you-to-the-wall attitude if we can get away with it, just applied to a different group of people now. Not pleasant, if you're the one being screwed to the wall. A lot of things that are unethical and morally repugnant are still technically legal. This seems to fall in that category. This does nothing but accelerate the exodus of American engineering jobs to low paid engineers in other countries. Too bad.

    Hal Lowe
    Bell Labs, then Tellabs
    retired/unemployed


    Mr. Brower seems to be reacting against the notion that Engineers are entitled to ever increasing salaries and benefits regardless of their actual contribution to the company. Fair enough.

    But Mr. Brower should examine his own expectations. It is not reasonable to expect to employ only Super Engineers who can build entire profitable products single handedly. Mr. Brower seems to think that he is *entitled* to profit from such Engineers. Why would such Engineers work for you – an evident AH – when they could build and market their own products?

    I can easily imagine the culture at SignalLogic. You didn't hire carefully and now you're bitter. You can't be bothered (or you don't understand the market and/or technology sufficiently) to decompose the product development process into chunks that can be attacked by varied experience levels. You think that your ineffectiveness in defining profitable products can be overcome if you can just get rid of the whiners and hire the right people. The notion of career development and internal advancement for your employees threatens you personally.

    Good luck, Mr. Brower. Run your business in any way you choose, but don't pretend to communicate anything to The Profession other than your own limitations.

    Chris Pylant

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