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Career/Major Choices
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tavilach
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Dec 30, 2005, 07:19 PM
 
How did you figure out what to do with your life?

Personally, I've always assumed that engineering was the best choice for me. I'm an (hopefully) intelligent, scientific person, but I love to design and be innovative. I'm most likely going to continue and get my degree in electrical engineering, but I'm not sure where to go from there. I might want a job where I help people a bit more than that, but maybe not. What's the best approach to finding a career that'll make me happy? What did you do?
"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." -Archimedes
     
The Godfather
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Dec 30, 2005, 07:23 PM
 
Don't procrastinate on getting the best grades, projects and internships from the start, otherwise you will simply glide to whatever job you may land.
     
isao bered
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Dec 30, 2005, 08:23 PM
 
Originally Posted by tavilach
How did you figure out what to do with your life? <snip>

What's the best approach to finding a career that'll make me happy?
i think your first question is the most important one. i'm not so sure that looking for the right career is the thing that will make you most happy with life.

perhaps you should first try to determine the kind of person you are (or want to be) and not only what you want out of life, but also what you want to put into others' lives. for instance, a major goal of marriage and raising "eleventy" children could lead to a different career choice than a major goal of marrying later in life after a generation of vagabond adventuring.

y'know. choose the work you will enjoy that also lets you be who you want to be; not necessarily becoming what the work you choose allows. but do talk with your best friends and close family members and see what they think. often enough you'll find that those close to you know things about you that you can't recognize in yourself and will offer valuable input.

be well.

laeth
     
SirCastor
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Dec 31, 2005, 12:51 AM
 
copied from a Livejournal posting I made last month:

03:06 pm - Professions in the US and out of the US...
Today in my English class we had a bit of a discussion about choosing a profession. In some countries, a person chooses their profession at the age of 15. They continue onto a school that focuses on that and are essentially locked into that line of work for the remainder of their lives. In the United States, people get a degree in History, and work as a manager somewhere, or got a degree in engineering, and went into professional painting, all kinds of things.

At this point, Brian, the oldest member of our class (55) says to me: "That's why Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. They're looking for ideas."
---

There are some professions you need a degree for: You cannot choose to be an engineer without a proper education for it, or enough experience to justify. I've found that it's quickly becoming a degree or nothing scenario, as fewer companies are willing to hire someone so that they could gain the experience.

Some professions, on the other hand, don't need a degree. You can learn the technical aspects of the film industry in a couple of weeks. The rest of it comes with knowing people, and personal drive.

I worked at intel for a bit more than a month before school started. They'll get you in Entry level and train you up. Where you go from there has a lot to do with what you're willing to put into it.
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euchomai
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Dec 31, 2005, 01:32 AM
 
I've noticed that things will be slow, then BOOM, a ton of "open doors" just fly into view. I try to ask people that I look up to. My father, my minister and my brother are all people that I bounce ideas off of.

If you really commit yourself and impress people you will move up the ranks quickly. I read something in, I think Fast Company (or some mag like that). That the majority of promotions in a corporation go to the person who might be less qualified, but more personable.

If people enjoy you, they'll take you on the ride with them. In my business, I've found that to be true.
...
     
ledzeppelin
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Dec 31, 2005, 01:38 AM
 
....
( Last edited by ledzeppelin; Jan 29, 2006 at 11:53 PM. )
     
MacTiger2006
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Dec 31, 2005, 01:49 AM
 
Personally, I've always assumed that engineering was the best choice for me. I'm an (hopefully) intelligent, scientific person, but I love to design and be innovative. I'm most likely going to continue and get my degree in electrical engineering, but I'm not sure where to go from there. I might want a job where I help people a bit more than that, but maybe not. What's the best approach to finding a career that'll make me happy? What did you do?
If you are still young, go get an MBA, you can write your own ticket and have options out the wa-zoo with an IE and MBA degrees. Just an IDEAR
Real Patriots Ask Questions
     
The Godfather
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Dec 31, 2005, 02:08 AM
 
Originally Posted by euchomai
That the majority of promotions in a corporation go to the person who might be less qualified, but more personable.
And this is why I have to learn the damn American Football fast before my boss figures it out
     
euchomai
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Dec 31, 2005, 02:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by The Godfather
And this is why I have to learn the damn American Football fast before my boss figures it out
Exactly right!
...
     
turtle777
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Dec 31, 2005, 01:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by euchomai
That the majority of promotions in a corporation go to the person who might be less qualified, but more personable.
What a coincidence that I'm a Packers fan, and my boss is, too

-t
     
Dakar
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Dec 31, 2005, 01:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by euchomai
If you really commit yourself and impress people you will move up the ranks quickly. I read something in, I think Fast Company (or some mag like that). That the majority of promotions in a corporation go to the person who might be less qualified, but more personable.
My downfall till the day I die.
     
SVass
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Dec 31, 2005, 02:02 PM
 
As a now retired electrical engineer, I enjoyed continuously changing jobs. I worked on rocket launchers at Cape Canaveral, Navy ships, Air Force bomber avionics, and unmanned aircraft contols. Along the way, I played with early stereos, tv sets, and computers. The same education applies to all fields-reading, writing, and arithmetic. (Spelling, grammar, and mathematics really do help one in life. Personableness only adds to ones qualifications.) The paper (degree) is the entry fee.

Variety adds to the fun. Working at the same job on an assembly line, in the back room of an office, or as an engineer on one chip design for Intel would drive any sane human batty. sam
     
wdlove
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Dec 31, 2005, 03:50 PM
 
Getting good grades starting early is important, Then any career is possible.

"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense." Winston Churchill
     
tavilach  (op)
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Dec 31, 2005, 06:05 PM
 
Originally Posted by SVass
As a now retired electrical engineer, I enjoyed continuously changing jobs. I worked on rocket launchers at Cape Canaveral, Navy ships, Air Force bomber avionics, and unmanned aircraft contols. Along the way, I played with early stereos, tv sets, and computers. The same education applies to all fields-reading, writing, and arithmetic. (Spelling, grammar, and mathematics really do help one in life. Personableness only adds to ones qualifications.) The paper (degree) is the entry fee.

Variety adds to the fun. Working at the same job on an assembly line, in the back room of an office, or as an engineer on one chip design for Intel would drive any sane human batty. sam
You see, that sounds exciting. I keep getting confused about electrical engineering, because it seems that all my classes and all research opportunities revolve around circuits. I understand that circuits underly everything, but I don't want to only be dealing with small circuit components for the rest of my life. In fact, that bores me to death. If I can be an electrical engineering, yet deal with the big picture, I think that would be ideal. I'd really appreciate some input on circuits vs. big picture in your career .
"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." -Archimedes
     
SVass
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Dec 31, 2005, 06:44 PM
 
Originally Posted by tavilach
You see, that sounds exciting. I keep getting confused about electrical engineering, because it seems that all my classes and all research opportunities revolve around circuits. I understand that circuits underly everything, but I don't want to only be dealing with small circuit components for the rest of my life. In fact, that bores me to death. If I can be an electrical engineering, yet deal with the big picture, I think that would be ideal. I'd really appreciate some input on circuits vs. big picture in your career .
All careers start out small; but, many big companies have multiple fields of endeavor. My ability to work in many areas comes from an ability to express thoughts clearly in writing as well as a knowledge of physics to aid in my understanding of phenomena. Large engineering corporations with both civilian and military products always have new products in development. Essentially I left "electrical" engineering long ago; but, I defined detail specifications and requirements for the designers of hardware and software. I was continuously working with and learning from experts in other fields. My last five years were with a core of about forty expert engineers (supplemented by a large cadre) who designed a new airplane. http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Pho...95-43271-5.jpg
There were only a couple of EEs and a few Aero, MEs, Software, Flight Control, Hydraulics, etc.

Aerospace companies can be fun. (PS- When young, the bars at the Cape were nice.) sam
     
tavilach  (op)
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Jan 3, 2006, 06:34 PM
 
Any more advice would be fantastic .
"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." -Archimedes
     
greenamp
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Jan 3, 2006, 06:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by tavilach
How did you figure out what to do with your life?

Personally, I've always assumed that engineering was the best choice for me. I'm an (hopefully) intelligent, scientific person, but I love to design and be innovative. I'm most likely going to continue and get my degree in electrical engineering, but I'm not sure where to go from there. I might want a job where I help people a bit more than that, but maybe not. What's the best approach to finding a career that'll make me happy? What did you do?
If you're into engineering, but also like to express yourself through design, maybe you should give Industrial Design some thought?
( Last edited by greenamp; Jan 3, 2006 at 06:49 PM. )
     
Doofy
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Jan 3, 2006, 06:48 PM
 
Originally Posted by tavilach
How did you figure out what to do with your life?
Decide what three things you most enjoy doing, in order. Then shoot for a career in the third one (leaving the first two as purely for your own enjoyment).
Been inclined to wander... off the beaten track.
That's where there's thunder... and the wind shouts back.
     
Dork.
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Jan 3, 2006, 07:20 PM
 
Engineering bears very little resemblance to what you learn in school. In school, you learn how things work and the theories behind them. Once you get into the workforce, all that stuff is taken as a given and you are asked, "What can you create now?" I view engineering as a very creative process, only my creativity is expressed in state and timing diagrams, and in finding solutions to problems.

I'm essentially an IC designer, with a little bit of an IC test and verification specialty. And although I learned the basics of how boolean logic works and how a semiconductor is designed and manufactured in school, I think only about 10% of what I learned in school is directly applicable to my particular job. The rest is all on-the-job training in the design tools, practices, and techniques that I need to do my job effectively (including dealing with corporate politics). That's not to say the other 90% is unimportant, though: they provide a sort of base structure with which to try and understand things you're not directly involved in. I only do digital circuits, but the particular IC's I've worked on have mostly been mixed-signal, which means I need to understand at least the basics of how the other designers' analog blocks work in order to interface with them. And if I'm unsure about an analog concept, I can defer to someone with more knowledge, just like they defer to me on some topics.

If you're really having doubts whether you'll enjoy the job, try and get an internship somewhere. Make sure you take the time to get to know the people there, and ask them directly about some of your concerns....

Of course, the one sure way to make sure you'll stay employed is to learn Hindi.
     
tavilach  (op)
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Jan 3, 2006, 07:25 PM
 
As an IC designer, do you deal with products or designs as a whole, and then use your knowledge of circuits to implement them, or are you simply designing circuits for use elsewhere?

In other words, are you basically "writing code" for your "program," or are you "writing code" for someone else's "program"?
"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." -Archimedes
     
Dork.
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Jan 3, 2006, 09:50 PM
 
Well, technically speaking, all of the chips I work on are application-specific IC's (ASIC's). Often times, they are parts of a larger, specific project, and the requirements are dictated by the needs of that system. Other times, they're meant to perform a specific function, but be used by a wide variety of customers in their own systems. So, I guess to answer your question, it's a little of both. (As an aside, custom ASICS are very expensive -- the non-recurring engineering costs can amount to 500K to 1M before the first wafer rolls off the fab. More designs are turning to programmable logic like FPGA's because even though the per-part costs are higher, for low volume applications they can be more cost effective. I do designs for both technologies, since at my level of abstraction the design flows are very similar.)

In any case, you're always working in teams in this field, and there are always people working on different levels of abstraction than you are. The current mixed-signal ASIC that I'm working on is going into a Thingy that has a Doohickey board whose main job is to communicate with my chip. There are Other Engineers designing the Doohickey, and still more engineers in charge of making sure that all the parts in the Thingy know how to talk with each other, and that the final product will meet the overall system design goals.

The Thingy designers tend to be more experienced, because they need to be able to understand how all the parts work and be able to communicate their specifications to the rest of the team before all the details about them are known, as well as spot problems and devise solutions, and that all tends to come easier with experience. SVass has probably helped design a Thingy or two in his day!
     
mindwaves
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Jan 3, 2006, 10:25 PM
 
Some advice from a young electrical/computer/systems engineer who currently works for a large defense company. Not necessarily in order and there are exceptions to every rule:

1) Your major doesn't really matter in the long-run. Initially, it will to get you in the door, but later on, you realize it is "useless."
2) 90+% of the job is all learned on the job and not in school.
3) The larger the company is = less work per person.
     
Gettheballandwinthegame
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Jan 3, 2006, 10:26 PM
 
Originally Posted by tavilach
How did you figure out what to do with your life?

Personally, I've always assumed that engineering was the best choice for me. I'm an (hopefully) intelligent, scientific person, but I love to design and be innovative. I'm most likely going to continue and get my degree in electrical engineering, but I'm not sure where to go from there. I might want a job where I help people a bit more than that, but maybe not. What's the best approach to finding a career that'll make me happy? What did you do?
Thing with EE is that you're never going to be in the design field or doing anthing creative. DESIGNERS design. Engineers just try to figure out how to get their designs to work. Hence why I left engineering.
     
wallinbl
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Jan 3, 2006, 11:03 PM
 
Go to law school after your EE. You'll be rich.
     
tavilach  (op)
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Jan 3, 2006, 11:49 PM
 
Originally Posted by Gettheballandwinthegame
Thing with EE is that you're never going to be in the design field or doing anthing creative. DESIGNERS design. Engineers just try to figure out how to get their designs to work. Hence why I left engineering.
Well, I think what I'll do is this. I'll major in EE, and then perhaps move on to design...stuff. And with my EE knowledge, I'll know what designs make sense. Or something like that.

I just went through every department at my school, and EE seems to be the most useful/interesting thing I can major in. So I guess that's settled.
"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." -Archimedes
     
Spook E
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Jan 3, 2006, 11:54 PM
 
I currently sit in an Info systems consultant job which i had few qualifications (other than a uni degree) for. They pay me 70k (AUS) a year and i do sweet **** all, all day long. today is an example:

rocked up at 9.30
10ish went to the music store to get my guitar restrung
1030 - 1230 listened to the cricket on the radio
1 - 230 lunch with my girlfriend
Rest of the day: Read MacNN and listen to the cricket.
430ish go home

I have no clue about this job and no interest in it. My boss said they gave me the job coz i was a nice guy that could talk to clients and bring in work for the geeks to do. The geeks are more disfunctional than me so i've been told not to speak to the clients as we can't do their work for them, thus i have been goofing around for the past 12 months. i have days off without notice and no one really cares, dissapear for hours and come back and no one bats an eyelid, sit at my corner desk with the bay doors open and gaze out the as the wind wafts in and it's just accepted.

if you can't tell this is a government job, Sweet sweet beaurcracy and you know what the best part is?

I'm leaving on the 16th to another division who has agreed to pay me more even though there won't be much more to do and its in the disability sector which i love after working there previously

The moral of this story is: Be a nice guy, personable, presentable and make sure every one knows your full of potential (i.e network and talk yourself up) and they'll se you as a good bloke who needs a challenge. Thats when the doors start opening, people like people and want to be liked in turn, so spread the love!

LG: Life's Good!
     
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Jan 4, 2006, 08:56 AM
 
Originally Posted by Gettheballandwinthegame
Thing with EE is that you're never going to be in the design field or doing anthing creative. DESIGNERS design. Engineers just try to figure out how to get their designs to work. Hence why I left engineering.
I couldn't disagree more. There are engineers who spend all their time implementing things from other people's ideas, and they're important -- often they're so good at what they do that they can do these things faster than anyone else. But plenty of engineers are in a position to come up with their own ideas, and see them implemented. As I said before, though, you're going to have to put some time in before learning everything you need to contribute like that.

To an engineer, the best design is the one that solves the problem, doesn't cost too much to implement, doesn't take much time to implement, and has a very good chance of actually working when you're all done with it. If you can learn how balance the requirements, cost, time, and risk in your designs, you will always be employed somewhere.
     
Dork.
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Jan 4, 2006, 08:57 AM
 
Originally Posted by wallinbl
Go to law school after your EE. You'll be rich.
And just ignore the empty spot in your chest where your soul should be.
     
wallinbl
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Jan 4, 2006, 08:59 AM
 
Originally Posted by Dork.
And just ignore the empty spot in your chest where your soul should be.
Depends on what you use it for. It might be nice to have a lawyer that is also an EE and can call BS on some of the ridiculous patents that get through.

I regret not realizing sooner how useful a law degree would be. They're not just for suing people.
     
Dork.
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Jan 4, 2006, 11:12 AM
 
Originally Posted by wallinbl
Depends on what you use it for. It might be nice to have a lawyer that is also an EE and can call BS on some of the ridiculous patents that get through.

I regret not realizing sooner how useful a law degree would be. They're not just for suing people.
One of the things that I've learned over the years is that in order to be a professional like a lawyer or a engineer, you need to find someone to pay you to do a job. Even if you're an independant consultant, you still need to find clients. It seems obvious, but it does mean that you're limited in what you can do, because unless you're independantly wealthy, you need to provide a service that someone else finds valuable in order to justify your paycheck, from whence comes your next Powerbook.

So, it would be nice to be a patent lawyer -- we certainly need more patent lawyers with a clue about technology -- but who would be paying you? You could be working on behalf of a corporation or otherwise consulting with inventors, in which case you'd either be working to get as many patents through the system as possible or fighting bogus patents or applications that specifically impact your clients' business enough to warrant fighting (not very likely).

Or, you'd be working for the government. But since the patent office in the U.S. is self-funding, it's in your best interest to grant as many patents as you can, because a application that turns into a full patent brings in much more money in fees than an application that fails. The patent office is supposed to be a filter of sorts, but in reality anyone who knows the system can get a bogus patent through because the patent office needs the money.

I've often thought about going back to school to be a patent lawyer myself. I've concluded, though, that as long as I'm taking a paycheck from a soulless multi-national corporation, I may as well be employed making things, and not filing paperwork to prevent others from making things.
     
Gettheballandwinthegame
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Jan 4, 2006, 02:17 PM
 
Originally Posted by tavilach
Well, I think what I'll do is this. I'll major in EE, and then perhaps move on to design...stuff. And with my EE knowledge, I'll know what designs make sense. Or something like that.

I just went through every department at my school, and EE seems to be the most useful/interesting thing I can major in. So I guess that's settled.
Uh... not really. If you got a degree in mechanical engineering then yeah, maybe you'd know what designs make sense, but EE doesn't really teach you anything other than electrical circuits.
     
Gettheballandwinthegame
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Jan 4, 2006, 02:19 PM
 
Originally Posted by greenamp
If you're into engineering, but also like to express yourself through design, maybe you should give Industrial Design some thought?
That's why I left engineering school, built up my portfolio, and got a pretty huge scholarship to an industrial design school.
     
Gettheballandwinthegame
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Jan 4, 2006, 02:21 PM
 
Originally Posted by Dork.
I couldn't disagree more. There are engineers who spend all their time implementing things from other people's ideas, and they're important -- often they're so good at what they do that they can do these things faster than anyone else. But plenty of engineers are in a position to come up with their own ideas, and see them implemented. As I said before, though, you're going to have to put some time in before learning everything you need to contribute like that.

To an engineer, the best design is the one that solves the problem, doesn't cost too much to implement, doesn't take much time to implement, and has a very good chance of actually working when you're all done with it. If you can learn how balance the requirements, cost, time, and risk in your designs, you will always be employed somewhere.
I have a lot of friends that are engineers. My dad is an engineer. I would never say tehy were unimportant, it's just that in today's world they don't get to design diddly. They merely work out solutions to make a designers design work in the real world (which with some designers can be a nightmare, but with other designers with an engineering background, can go much more smoothly). My dad was an EE back in the 60s, and since he had some sense of 'design' about him he got to do a lot of interesting htings, case designs, interface stuff, what the machines should look like. His company was one of the first in the US to make oscilliscopes portable. He also did design work for a few other electrical projects. But now, in today's world, you need a freakin' I.D. degree to do the same job that he was doing with an EE degree. Why? I don't know. Times change I guess.
     
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Jan 4, 2006, 02:35 PM
 
I think we have a disagreement on what constitutes "design". Industrial Design and Electronics Design are two different things entirely. In my current project, I "designed" (among other things) a high-speed datapath interface that increased the bandwidth that the system could process, increasing its overall speed, and ultimately helping (along with others' contributions elsewhere in the system) to enable the Thingy "they" sell in 2007 to be better than "their" competition at that time, hopefully ensuring my gainful employment through that time.

I'll let you design the pretty case it goes in, 'k?
     
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Jan 4, 2006, 02:54 PM
 
Get a Computer Science degree. Chicks dig it
Caffeinated Rhino Software -- Education and Training management software
     
Gettheballandwinthegame
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Jan 4, 2006, 02:58 PM
 
Originally Posted by Dork.
I think we have a disagreement on what constitutes "design". Industrial Design and Electronics Design are two different things entirely. In my current project, I "designed" (among other things) a high-speed datapath interface that increased the bandwidth that the system could process, increasing its overall speed, and ultimately helping (along with others' contributions elsewhere in the system) to enable the Thingy "they" sell in 2007 to be better than "their" competition at that time, hopefully ensuring my gainful employment through that time.

I'll let you design the pretty case it goes in, 'k?
"Between two products equal in price, function and quality, the better looking will out sell the other."

- Raymond Loewy
     
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Jan 4, 2006, 04:13 PM
 
Stay focused on the two most important issues in whatever you go for: getting trained and then getting a job.

I worked with an engineer who'd been with TI for a while. He pointed out that many large companies, TI in particular, expect their engineers to either head for a management track, or stay current. It is very difficult to "stay current" sometimes, so at that time TI had a policy that basically dumped their engineers after about 7 years on the job unless there was some way they could show they were "current." Bad idea? You betcha, and TI suffered a lot in the 1980s for it.

Now the good news: you don't have to decide right now what you want to do with the rest of your life! Decide what works NOW and go with it. If you find yourself drawn somewhere else, find a way to get there. I spent over 23 years in the Air Force as an electronics technician, instructor and manager. I retired a year ago, and I'm currently in a program that will get me a MS in Occupational Therapy. Big difference! You can do it if you really want to; that's the whole point. If it's important to you, you will FIND a way. So find something you can be interested in NOW, and do the very best you can at it. If you find it's not what you need somewhere down the road, find something else you're interested in and do the very best you can at that.

Originally Posted by jcadam
Get a Computer Science degree. Chicks dig it™
Be careful with CS degrees: they can be either too general or too specific. I have a BS on computer science, and I've found that it is very difficult to stay current with CS in general, though you CAN stay current in one facet of the discipline, such as processor design, language design, and so on.

(And Dijkstra was wrong about "prior exposure to BASIC." It just takes a big stick and patience to teach a BASIC coder how to actually program!)

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Dork.
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Jan 4, 2006, 04:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by Gettheballandwinthegame
"Between two products equal in price, function and quality, the better looking will out sell the other."

- Raymond Loewy
And between any two products equal in price, function, and quality, there will be a third product, a knock-off made in Jackiechanistan, that will be lower quality but cheaper, and drive the other two out of the market.

- Dork.
     
Gettheballandwinthegame
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Jan 4, 2006, 05:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by Dork.
And between any two products equal in price, function, and quality, there will be a third product, a knock-off made in Jackiechanistan, that will be lower quality but cheaper, and drive the other two out of the market.

- Dork.


Dude. I have the brain of an engineer, so I know what you're saying. It's just that in today's market, engineers are delegated to engineering jobs only, and they don't get to dabble much in the design field. It stinks. A few decades ago, I would have stuck with engineering also. Most of my friends are engineers.
     
Corpse of Chewbacca
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Jan 4, 2006, 09:14 PM
 
Do what I did- at age 24 quit a job paying $50k/yr with lots of room for upward mobility in order to go back to school for the next 8 years in order to become a doctor which will enable you to have a ruined family life, lots of stress, your clients die on you and letting you die young.
     
   
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