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How would you train to maintain job security? - RF Cafe Forums

Because of the high maintenance needed to monitor and filter spammers from the RF Cafe Forums, I decided that it would be best to just archive the pages to make all the good information posted in the past available for review. It is unfortunate that the scumbags of the world ruin an otherwise useful venue for people wanting to exchanged useful ideas and views. It seems that the more formal social media like Facebook pretty much dominate this kind of venue anymore anyway, so if you would like to post something on RF Cafe's Facebook page, please do.

Below are all of the forum threads, including all the responses to the original posts.


HighSpeedTest
Post subject: How would you train to maintain job security? Posted: Wed Dec 29, 2004 4:26 pm

Lieutenant

Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:36 pm
Posts: 3
This is more of a question about job security in the U.S. in an outsourcing-happy industry. Given what you know now about the demand in your present and other industries, what would you do to make sure you are still gainfully-employed in the next few years, even if it means switching jobs/industries? In other words, what technology jobs do you think will remain hot, but not require a PhD or 10 years of direct experience to acquire?

Here is my situation:
I have a BSEE, EIT cert, working in the semiconductor test/ATE industry for 5 years, specializing in signal-integrity test of high-speed devices (>6Gb/s), particularly SerDes. (I know, this doesn’t come close to the speeds seen in defense and space applications.) This has allowed me to gain exposure to RF, DSP, software development, mixed-signal test, etc. However, it does not appear to have provided the level of experience desired by purely defense or communications-based companies to make a lateral switch.

Based on the need to stay competitive and grow technically, but hampered by limited training budgets, I could:

A) Get an MS in Computer Engineering, with an emphasis in embedded systems - would mean switching jobs and essentially starting over, although I would think this would be at a level at least a little higher than entry-level due to the advanced degree and years in industry gaining HW and SW experience. However, these job prospects seem to have the same risk of being outsourced to countries with lower labor costs.

B) Get an MSEE, with an emphasis in Communications and Signal Processing - most directly-applicable to my work now, which would be of little use if this work ends up being shipped overseas. This may be a viable option for switching jobs if there are companies willing to bring on people lacking extensive, direct experience, but this does not appear to be the case at the moment.

C) Take the PE exam, become registered, and switch to an industry that is more power and utilities-focused, or one that requires such registration - almost certainly leads to entry-level work, but seems like it would be the most outsourcing-resistant. Also, appears to allow one to live in a greater number of locations than just high-cost technology centers like the Silicon Valley. Having PE registration should account for some increase in salary over entry-level (After all, we still have to pay the mortgage).

D) Get an MBA - seems to have the most latitude, but also seems like there are a million people getting them.

The masters and/or PE would be acquired while remaining at the present job, so this could take the next few years to complete. So, what would you do if you were in the same shoes, knowing what you know about the conditions of your industry and others?


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HighSpeedTest
Post subject: I guess that was a lot to readPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2005 10:07 pm

Lieutenant

Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:36 pm
Posts: 3
Wow....I thought somebody out there would know all the answers. I know I work with a few who think they do.

Okay, let's make this faster. How secure do you feel in your industry?


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I am Spartacus
Post subject: Posted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 10:17 pm
How about option E?

If you are worried about job security, go out and start your own company.

You are going to have a job as long as there is a product to sell. Then when the company that you are working for, outsources their production or has a "downward trend" in their financial records, then guess what? The worker bees, regardless of P.E., PhD or just plain old Joe - will be laid off.

It's not fair to Engineer's because we love what we do. Unfortunately, we are not here to innovate and live a happy life with lots of $ and job security. Nope - just the opposite. You study your ass off and spend lots of cash on a top-notch education. Then you spend - what seems like an eternity - interviewing and telling everyone "your 3 good points and 3 three bad points". After that you get an offer letter for a junior level position for about $10k less than you were looking for (but keep in mind that they said that you were the best candidate that they interviewed).

The economy sucks so you say "I do". Then on your first day of work, HR does their song and dance about the company's "dress code" and moral conduct polices. After which you are shown your cubicle. Yep, you guessed it... Your very own 30 something square feet of floor space that you can call your own.

So at this point, you: know all about sexual harassment, casual Friday's, the reasoning behind "Well, the cost of health insurance is constantly rising, so you can expect your premiums to go up by the second quarter" (HR loves to lay this one on you the first day... but don't forget - it's PRE-TAXED), AND you have a cubicle!

Now, if you are lucky, you have a PC at your desk, but the login won't be available for at least 2 weeks, for whatever reason. So you sit in your cubicle staring at a computer that you can't use. At this point you wish it did so that you could go to monster.com or rfcafe and check out the job postings ( I have to get the hell out of here).

Then your manager or "coach" comes by and welcomes you to the company. Your "coach" then takes you around and introduces you to everyone in the cubicle farm. You couldn't help but notice the look on each of their faces. It is an unmistakable "I hate this damn place" look.

So now it is the end of your first day and you get in your car so that you can sit in traffic for an hour (or more) - so that you can make it back to your high mortgage house that kind of reminds you of your new cubicle....


After all of this, your only hope is that your coach doesn't show up at your cube with a cardboard box and an HR rep. The dreaded "downsizing". There isn't an extra day in college that can protect you from this event. It doesn't matter if you have the entire alphabet after your name, if a company is hurting, you're gone. Bottom line.

The decision is usually made by someone who dropped out of college and started that business (who happens to be sitting on a beach in the Carribean, when you get canned).

Job security... Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. Got an equation for ya.

Engineer != job security




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kpainter
Post subject: Posted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 11:36 am

Colonel


Joined: Wed Aug 20, 2003 11:47 am
Posts: 47
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
>If you are worried about job security, go out and start your own company.

Given that at LEAST 65% of start ups fail, it seems to me that "Option E" is anything but a secure way to go.

Your dirscription of the cubical world makes me think you are sitting in the cube next to me right now. Makes me want to put the ol' .45 in my mouth and "redecorate". Just kidding

Seriously, whenever I am having trouble getting something to work, and management is pacing outside of my cube chanting "is it done yet? is it done yet? ...." - I look skyward and ask the lord almighty "why o' why didn't I become a truck driver?"

To this day, I haven't come up with a satisfactory answer to that question... and yet, I am still an engineer... go figure.


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HighSpeedTest
Post subject: Someone took my red Swingline staplerPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 1:48 pm

Lieutenant

Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:36 pm
Posts: 3
Okay, so far, all signs are pointing to.... go get the MBA, move to a different position, say "Yes" to everything the customer asks for, have a bunch of engineers put in lots of crazy hours to meet the ridiculous goals and deadlines that I've agreed to (while I'm dining with the customer or sucking up to the VP's), either take credit (along with bonuses and/or stock options) for this incredible accomplishment or find someone else to blame (usually the engineers) if it fails, jump to the next ship when this one sinks. If that ship happens to be in a different industry, it won't matter, because I really didn't know the technology in the previous industry to begin with. I'll still get paid much more than the guys doing the real work. I don't know...something about this bothers me. Oh wait, it's a conscience. Damn ethics!

Ya, I'm thinking Option E is pretty unlikely until I've done A,B,C, or D, and have acquired some new expertise. But it will be a big waste of time if there are no job prospects for entry- to mid-level experience in the new specialization. In any case, I worked my ass off while the business majors were partying all night at the bars and frat houses, not to mention all the times spent on the test floor till morning. Upgrade skills so that I can change industries if that's what it takes to stay employed? You bet your a__. If I'm going down, I'm going down swinging.


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Guest
Post subject: Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2005 11:57 pm
WOW! I thought I was the only malcontent out there! I have a similar background - semicondictor test. In my experience the semicinductor industry is notoriously unstable. I've gotten the axe from two semiconductor companies, so no more of that for me! It's particularly sensitive to currency exchange rates. The work is way too easy to export - unless the employer has a firm commitment to stay domestic (Hee hee!)

After FIVE layoffs, each of which was like a train wreck for a career, I have decided that Engineering is not a viable way to make a living and maintain a "Normal" lifestyle. I am sick of chasing a paycheck all over the countryside. I am pursuing several completely different options.

I tried your Option D and found out that you're still condemned to the chicken-and-egg experience problem when looking for your first job out of school. That may be less of a problem if you get an MS in engineering. But you will be learning more and more about less and less. If that niche disappears for whatever reason (automation, outsourcing, buyout, obsolescence, etc.) , well....

Banks and mortgage companies don't like to think they're gamblers. Your ability to pay your mortgage must be as predictable as gravity. Don't be at all afraid to look around outside of engineering. The closer you are employed to the FOOD, SHELTER, CLOTHING, and MEDICAL areas (I heard that nurses can make $45/hr!!!) the more stable your employment is likely to be. And SOMEBODY has to provide the population with insurance, food, housing, mortgages, heat, air conditioning, cars... the stuff we use every day. There will be some temporary instability in all of these areas, but I can't imagine them being outsourced. And people EVERYWHERE need all of these. Compare it with the insanity of chasing a vanishing technological "Leading Edge."

I'm sure that all of the others who replied here have very good info. (I can feel the vitriol!)

But seriously, for an easier career transition check your state's Department of Business Regulation, Department of Licensing, or whatever they call it for a list of trades or professions that require licensing. You'll almost certainly find something you've never thought of. (If everything really goes to hell in a handbasket, wouldn't you like to be an auctioneer?) Often, the requirements are much easier, cheaper, and faster than your options A, B, and C. You can get some of them through months, not years, of part-time evening training. It sure is a nice feeling to have at least one, and preferably more, state licenses in your back pocket for when hard times hit. Go for a few that are totally unrelated.

I am working in the real estate industry now and it is an eye opener to learn how people get them!!! Good luck!


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Guest
Post subject: Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 10:36 pm
That is some really good advice. Maybe a backup plan is in order. I was hoping to hear from someone that their particular niche of engineering has good prospects for growth and allows them to earn enough to have at least a middle-class lifestyle. From what I've seen, that's not possible in places where engineering jobs are prevalent- San Jose, Southern California.....(add yours here), unless you were there early enough. If anyone makes enough to pay a $500K-$600K mortgage, please let us know what line of work you are in.

Maybe the topic should have been "Why Do We Put Up With This Crap?"


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Guest 6
Post subject: Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 9:02 am
Oh, you forgot about the best part... you go to school to learn engineering because you like to design and create. You get to your job, with the 30 sq foot cube, stuck in the back of the warehouse-like building with no windows and reporting to three or four bosses (Go watch the movie Office Space for a realistic view of this).

You get one assignment after another that IS NOT design related, it's more troubleshooting some offshore vendors supplied part that was never spec'd right and administrative monkey work.

I've also been a nomad touring the country, going from job to job in search of something stable and interesting, but I've come to the conclusion that all US based companies are run the same. They only have a quarter to quarter outlook, and nothing else, so they dont invest in R&D or engineering. It's too costly.

My garbage man seems pretty happy. I wonder what he makes?


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Guest 6
Post subject: Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2005 9:03 am
Oh, you forgot about the best part... you go to school to learn engineering because you like to design and create. You get to your job, with the 30 sq foot cube, stuck in the back of the warehouse-like building with no windows and reporting to three or four bosses (Go watch the movie Office Space for a realistic view of this).

You get one assignment after another that IS NOT design related, it's more troubleshooting some offshore vendors supplied part that was never spec'd right and administrative monkey work.

I've also been a nomad touring the country, going from job to job in search of something stable and interesting, but I've come to the conclusion that all US based companies are run the same. They only have a quarter to quarter outlook, and nothing else, so they dont invest in R&D or engineering. It's too costly.

My garbage man seems pretty happy. I wonder what he makes?


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aspiring RF Engineer
Post subject: sentiment resonates...Posted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 7:49 pm
hey guys......this certainly feels like home. the same sentiment resonates.
i know of ppl who after having their M.S. in Electrical Engg degree are still working as RF Technicians.......soldering, testing, aligning circuits.....getting paid a measly 30K to start with.....i have recently graduated with an MS myself specializing in RF/Microwave and the way things are going, i might have to sail in the same boat as them......sad but true.

i hope i dont have to give up my love for engineering and join IT or something lucrative just in order to pay my loans back. That day I will have sold myself to the world....coz "baby, sometimes passion just ain't enough". Eagerly awaiting Judgement Day.

An aspiring RF Design Engineer.


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IR
Post subject: Posted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:02 am
Hello to all the pessimistic guys,

Every good RF Engineer is doing the tasks which are described in the last post. Unless you want to become a manager, who is writing emails all day long and attends useless meetings of cost budgets.

Without getting into details of earning this or other education level (which I think that one is doing that for his own benefit at first place), from my experience no matter what applications your company is dealing with (excluding RFIC) a job of RF Engineer at the board/module level will always entail technical tasks - and I don't think that this kind of work degrades anyone and should be done by technicians only. This kind of view is very limited and wrong. The times aren't easy now, but I am sure that they will improve as economy will return back to the right tracks. The economy and thus the high-tech industry are like big sine wave...

- IR


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Trevor
Post subject: Posted: Sat Mar 05, 2005 9:47 pm
Lets face it people. The big bucks are not in designing, unless it is your own product that someone is paying you to make and mass produce. That is how engineers strike it big. Like how doctors start their own practice. Unless your like einstein, your destiny in engineering is not extremely hopeful, but you can make a descent living if you find a job in your niche. That is my two cents for what it is worth.





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