EE Student Seeking Advice (First Job)

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by jegues, May 10, 2011.

  1. jegues

    Thread Starter Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2010
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    Hello all,

    I'm just looking for some advice. A little background on myself, I'm an engineering student in my 3rd year of university out of my 5 year engineering program. I've got fairly good grades, GPA ~ 4.1 out of 4.5.

    I recently just started my first "engineering" related job working with a small engineering firm that does consulting work for substations. (Usually controls for substations etc.)

    Sadly, all the work I've done so far is EXTREMELY boring. All I've been doing is redrawing old drawings (~1962) of systems & devices in AutoCAD, none of which are even clearly explained to me beforehand.

    The group I'm with only has 1 P. Eng, and the other two workers are drafting guys who have no formal training with anything electrical.
    Basically what happens is the P. Eng marks up any drawings with the changes that need to be made for a given project, and the drafting people redraw/correct it.

    I feel like I'm doing the work of a DRAFTING student, not an ENGINEERING student. There is literally no aspect of my work that requires any type of problem solving or any of the theory I've learnt at school, just mindless drafting.

    I enjoyed all the theory and everything I've learnt at school up to now, I find that stuff super interesting! Some examples of what I'm referring to would be anything related to electrical circuits, for example, Amplifier Design using BJTs, or designing systems using Microprocessing Systems, or solving problems using Digital Logic, but sadly I haven't got use any of this knowledge at work.

    Is this typical for the type of work(i.e. redrawing old drawings in AutoCAD) given to undergraduate engineering students or even EIT's?

    This has given me an extreme scare of how BORING working in industry as an engineer can be, and turned me away from the "Power Systems" area of specialization all together.

    Someone care to share their work experiences in this field/others?

    I want a job where I actually get to apply what I've learnt in school, where I get solve problems, make designs and make meaninful contributions to interesting projects, not simply working as a AutoCAD mule.

    I want a job where I get to THINK, where I get faced with a problem and have to come up with a viable solution!

    I'd love to hear about any of your experiences and/or opinions on my current situation.

    Thanks again!
     
  2. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
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    I know it's not "fun" to do the record upkeep. You do have the opportunity to see how things improved since the last update of the overall system. You also have rare opportunity to have insight on the whole system, which would aid you in the future.

    You never know when you would need to work that whole system. Imagine trying to troubleshoot that system using the outdated prints.
     
  3. steveb

    Senior Member

    Jul 3, 2008
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    It sounds like you are in the wrong job. I would recommend looking for a job you will enjoy. There is such a wide range of types of jobs engineers can work at; hence, there is no reason to settle for something you don't enjoy.

    All of the things you mentioned that you would like are quite modest and reasonable to ask for. Most likely you will find even these things boring soon, and will look for further challenges. The great thing about the engineering field is that there is no limit to how much you can challenge yourself. A good engineer, who chooses the correct career path, will be learning new things and facing new challenges every day, right up until retirement age. It is out there for you to grab. If you don't grab it, it will be your own fault - because now you know! ;)
     
  4. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    The key words you have a engineering job,that is more than most
    engineers can say.Having a job is better than being bored filling out
    resumes. The second word,substation the power grids are going to
    be updated.They are trying to find the funds and people able to this.
    By understanding the grid by drawing them will put you in a good
    place when this starts. Maybe you are being trained now. You know
    a subcontractor for the grid is not going to go to a new hire and tell
    you all about the planning for improvement on the grid.Sit tight
    keep your job and be ready for the constuction of the new grid.
    It has to happen,the grids are having brown out now.Look at big
    picture and enjoy your job,don't ask a lot of questions you are also building
    a clearance that you will need to work on special things,like the grid.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2011
  5. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    I 'll agree with loosewire. You can't really expect people to invest time (and money) on a new-hired, undergraduate student. There are other people out there with the experience to do any job 5 times faster than you need to think about the problem.

    Get real. You don't have a degree yet and so do I. We have a lot of things to learn to consider about and our knowledge is anything but specialized. So for now settle with internship jobs and be pleased about it.
    Be humble. And when humility runs out, be humble a bit more. Our time will come, be patient.
     
  6. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    @ Georacer, I am amazed at the Industry In Greece. The countries
    around you so small,do you have to travel to work.
     
  7. Georacer

    Moderator

    Nov 25, 2009
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    If our country's industry was so great we EE's wouldn't have to travel abroad to find jobs. It's quite sad. There are not enough hi-tec jobs here in Greece.

    In the back of my mind the idea of leaving Greece when I get my degree to find a job abroad is well rooted.

    I 'm thinking of Europe. I just can't get into the mentality of the US. But the future might say otherwise.
     
  8. FloppyDog

    New Member

    Jul 3, 2011
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    My first engineering job was at a water power utility, very similar to what you're doing. The engineer/drafter arrangement you mentioned is very typical especially for this industry. An engineer calls the changes/additions and the drafters update the documentation just as you describe. As long as you're in a drafter position you should expect to continue these types of tasks.

    All places I've worked (about six companies) start new engineers out as drafters, or engineering technicians which consists of menial tasks. (that is, if they hire them at all.... where I live inexperienced engineers are working at Taco Bell at the moment) They remain drafters until they are deemed able to take on the responsibilities of an engineer. This only happens after they've shown they're able to learn the product, industry, and company enough to be given real design work. Some never make it past drafter, and likewise some drafters work their way into engineer positions (like myself) even with only a two year degree.

    My best advice to you would be to continue to work the job for what it is, and take the opportunity to learn the industry. If you talk with the engineer in your group, he/she may be willing to give you extra design tasks to help start to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Don't expect them to give whole design projects to a fresh and untested engineer. Give them time to get to know you, and take the opportunity to show them you can do the work. Your success as an engineer isn't totally hinged on what you've learned in school, it's how well you learn an industry/product, whether you a sound investment and can bring in money, and what kind of employee you are.


    I truly don't mean to hurt your feelings, but your original post sounds very arrogant. In a few years, you'll look back and see this as your first hard lesson in engineering. You should have researched the company and determined what exactly the job entailed. Have you ever considered taking on a side project for another company, or designing a product to market yourself?
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2011
  9. steveb

    Senior Member

    Jul 3, 2008
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    That's really sad, in my opinion. I wouldn't tolerate that myself. At age 18, before I even entered engineering studies, I had already learned quite a bit about drafting, troubleshooting and repair, and various technician skills. Also, I could design analog and digital systems. Then I worked summers during college as an engineering technician. Most motivated engineering students have done similar things, although perhaps some not as thoroughly. Why would any new engineer want to continue on that path for an undetermined amount of time waiting for his superiors to judge him worthy to finally take up his profession?

    Drafting and technician work is part of engineering work, even once we are experienced, but there is no need for an entry level engineer to do only that, and there is no need to take dedicated work away from drafters and technicians who will do those jobs better anyway. Doing those tasks will do nothing to make a person more qualified to start doing engineering tasks, so it's just a waste of time as far as learning engineering on the job. At any job I've worked, (4 different companies/organizations in 30 years), the jobs always required the entry level engineer to immediately do engineering tasks while under observation and mentoring of at least one experienced engineer. If a person was not deemed suitable to start doing engineering right away, he would not have been hired in the first place.

    Entry level engineers are valuable members of engineering teams because they have great motivation and creativity. As an example, just this year, my present company hired 5 new entry level engineers and immediately put them to work on critical engineering tasks. They are on teams working with experienced engineers. They often make novice mistakes that need to be corrected, but they will often question an accepted practice only to reveal that there is a better way to do it. It's like the proverbial double edged sword ... - and it's one that should not remain in its sheath.

    My God, thinking more about it, when I started working at the company I'm at now, as an experience engineer, I learned about my first project from a very young and bright engineer. At least, I thought he was an engineer. Turned out he was an engineering student. This guy was very smart and taught me well. After one month, I mentioned to someone how impressed I was with this person, and then was promptly informed he was a fourth year engineering student about to graduate one semester early with a dual major in physics and EE. He had already been doing detailed engineering work for one year, before I got there, without the need of supervision ever. Talented people should not be held back.

    He didn't strike me as arrogant at all. He sounds like someone who wants to be a good engineer and is seeking information and guidance on what is normal. Both of our examples are "normal" because they exist as typical cases in the real world. The main point here is that the OP has a choice. If he doesn't like one typical path, he is free to try to chose another. We all have different personality types and it's important to that we each choose a suitably compatible career path, if we can. Of course, that assumes one is free to do so given family obligations and meeting our basic needs for food and shelter.

    If one is not able to start doing engineering work right away in an entry level job, then the wait should be no more than 1 year (preferably < 6 months) to start doing good work. Small companies are great places for an exceptional person to advance quickly, but larger organization have a more formal structure. Here is a quote I took from the NASA FAQ site.

     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2011
  10. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    People that know there stuff will have no problem with their career.
    Some people are self made and do very well.
     
  11. someonesdad

    Senior Member

    Jul 7, 2009
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    It may be the luck of the draw. You got a lousy job, but it's all part of your education; take the opportunity to learn as much as you can from it. You don't have the wisdom yet to see what will and what won't be valuable down the road.

    I was fortunate to work at a place that valued and invested in summer jobs for engineering students; consequently, the competition was quite high for them. The student would get put on a project and mentored by a senior engineer and often the students did very interesting work. I always enjoyed the student fair at the end of the summer where we got to talk to the students and see the projects they worked on. Of course, it was a smart investment in people (not surprising, as this company used to be one of the most admired in the world; not anymore though).
     
  12. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    I don't If you guys have it in all places,you can take college classes free,but you
    don't get offical credits for the resume.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2011
  13. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    It could be worse.

    The first time I applied for a job doing electronics, the jerk asked me if I was a convicted felon, called me a liar, said he was going to send my fingerprints to the FBI, and offered me a job washing cars.

    The second place didn't believe I could do electronics, so they put me to work at the front counter in the parts department. Only when I sent televisions to the repair department, already diagnosed, did they put me in the repair department.

    After 3 years of that, it was easy sailing. I got quite a lot of experience there, so I quit that low paying job and used the 3 years of experience with a nationally known company as a reference. Never looked for a job for more than 4 hours for the rest of my life. It's the getting started that sucks.
     
  14. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    Can you do plasma T.V. repairs.
     
  15. mwarre25

    New Member

    Mar 22, 2011
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    I'm in the same boat and had/have the same thoughts as you.

    My first assignment as a co-op student involved updating one-line's in a 50+ year old rolling library archive (or whatever you call it) into a computer database, not even doing AutoCAD drawings. Now on my third co-op rotation, I am in the company's relay lab updating drawings, testing relay configurations, and lots of other more technical things.

    The point is, showing that you're good at what your assigned to, expressing the desire to do more (in a professional manner of course, not whining), and being trustworthy are the keys to learning and getting more desirable work.

    Like alot of these guys said, taking the opportunity to learn all about the grid (past, present, and future) will be priceless as you start a career in power and lose the time you had as a student to explore different topics. I'm currently reading, "Electric Power Systems A Conceptual Introduction," by Alexandria von Meier ISBN:978-0-471-17859-0.

    Also, "The Art of Protective Relaying" is a good book if you want to go into system protection, which is a thinking heavy field in power.

    Everyday I hear about the "baby-boomer" generation heading towards retirement so as long as you know your stuff you will be marketable as jobs begin to open up. I would recommend learning from the older guys as much as you can because you can best believe you are not going to get a "best practices" manual from alot of these guys who are SME(subject matter experts). Your company probably has old training manuals you can read as well that may have lots of company-specific info that will be valuable to you.

    My advice would be to be a sponge and soak up as much information you can and do as much as you can. What i've heard alot also is that power, like all of the other EE related fields, is a no-BS field; don't tell somebody you know something when you don't.

    So know it first, then you'll eventually do it. Thats what I'm trying to do at least.

    Also, try to find some professors at your university who concentrate on power-related fields in their research. If you have to do a senior design project focus it in power. Also there may be individual study credits you can receive for doing a power related project. This could offset the boredom of your current situation while allowing you to pick up some skills.
     
  16. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    @WarreM, Are you working for a grid power company.The trouble
    shooters with boom trucks work forever with all the storms they are
    on the road year round.
     
  17. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
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    loosewire,

    Some of those troubleshooters, especially during storms, are retired employess who just work the storms as force multipliers for the different companies. They own their own trucks and are contract labor. Certainly not the stuff of someone new to the field as the work is infrequent, not that you can tell it from this year.
     
  18. loosewire

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 25, 2008
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    You have mixture of companies men and freelance subcontractors.Like you say with the states all over the country with bad weather. Wind,Ice,bringing down more lines than ever.Good paying work while it last,hard to drag It out for profit because of
    the pressure to get the power back on.
     
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