The State of the Art - Embedded.com

The State of the Art

The embedded industry is in tatters.

After reviewing the responses to the polls taken on this site, I can only come to the conclusion that we are unhappy, dysfunctional, overworked developers producing largely crappy products. Or so the numbers would suggest.

A whopping 74% of us took zero or just one lousy sick day last year. Are we especially healthy? That's hard to believe given our pizza/Jolt diet. And the fact that 58% of us are overweight.

Maybe the reason we're at work so much is the schedule: 80% of us put in uncompensated overtime. I bet the total amount of free overtime we work is staggering.

But we don't compensate with vacation time — not if 76% take two weeks or less per year. No doubt those lucky Europeans, so many of whom get four to six weeks as a matter of course, skew this number even more. Remove them from the poll and the plight of American engineers will look even worse. Vacation is a partial cure for burnout; clearly there are a lot of run-down developers. Tired folks make mistakes.

And it seems we do screw up. A lot. Forty-four percent of poll respondents have had an important firmware recall. And 42% are cavalier about testing and bugs. It's interesting how closely these two numbers correlate. Add to that the 8% of us who ship with no testing at all.

But why test if we're building silly gadgets? 66% feel half or more of the features in our products are frivolous, a waste of time and effort. Demoralizing? You bet. At least we can go home (after all of that unpaid OT) and dump on our spouse.

Or maybe not. Like spies with top-secret clearances we're unable to talk about our work at home. Eighty-three percent of our spouses have either no idea or just a glimmer about what it is we do. If we bother to say anything, we're speaking gibberish.

If the spouse doesn't have a clue, we can talk to our peers. Exchange ideas, learn new things, get recharged and ready to tackle the next project with enthusiasm and additional skills. Except we don't. Eighty-six percent of us are too busy or too broke to go to an embedded conference this year.

The numbers are indeed discouraging. Yet 45% of us expect to have more fun on the job this year. Sixty-two percent feel the economy is looking up. And 87% feel our skills have improved either a little or a lot.

I guess we gripe a lot, but in spite of all odds, we're an optimistic lot after all. Except that 72% hate our jobs.

Good thing these polls are for entertainment purposes only.

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 .

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