How would you train to maintain job security? - RF Cafe Forums
Post subject: How would you train to maintain job
security? Posted: Wed Dec 29, 2004 4:26 pm
Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:36 pm
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
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,
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
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?
Post subject: I guess that was a lot to readPosted:
Wed Jan 05, 2005 10:07 pm
Joined: Tue Dec
28, 2004 9:36 pm
Wow....I thought somebody out there
would know all the answers. I know I work with a few who think they
Okay, let's make this faster. How secure do you feel in
I am Spartacus
Posted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 10:17 pm
How about option E?
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
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!
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).
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.
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
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).
security... Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. Got an equation for ya.
Posted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 11:36 am
Wed Aug 20, 2003 11:47 am
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
>If you are worried about job security, go out and start your
Given that at LEAST 65% of start ups fail, it seems
to me that "Option E" is anything but a secure way to go.
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
To this day, I haven't come up with a satisfactory answer
to that question... and yet, I am still an engineer... go figure.
Post subject: Someone took my
red Swingline staplerPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 1:48 pm
Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 9:36 pm
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.
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
I am working in the real estate industry now and it
is an eye opener to learn how people get them!!! Good luck!
Post subject: Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 10:36
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?"
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
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?
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
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.
man seems pretty happy. I wonder what he makes?
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
An aspiring RF Design Engineer.
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
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...
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.