Graduation approaches

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by jamus, Nov 25, 2013.

  1. jamus

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 11, 2013
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    Perhaps this isn't the right place, but please bear with me.

    I am a Canadian electrical engineering student, or rather an Electrical and Computer engineering student (combined faculty). I won't be graduating for at least another year, but I must look towards the future.

    Different schools have different courses in their electrical programs. I have had courses in FPGAs, microprocessors/computer systems, c programming, circuits and electronics, signal processing, electromagnetics, electric machines, and lots of calculus. Soon I will be taking courses in embedded systems, systems and control, more electronics ect.

    What I had envisioned when I set out to get my degree is that I would find a job that was heavily involved with electronics. Most of the job listings that I have been seeing are in power systems however.

    Are there jobs in Canada for someone with my interests? Are there any companies in the area of electronics that provide internships/coop positions to students?

    I have been talking to as many people as possible (classmates, professors, coworkers ect.) and have yet to recieve a satisfactory answer. In fact I have gotten some pretty bad answers such as "If you wanted to be involved with electronics, you should have taken computer engineering".

    If anyone here can provide some input it would be much appreciated.
     
  2. gootee

    Senior Member

    Apr 24, 2007
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    I don't know the Canadian EE jobs market. But you could look worldwide and see what's out there and how to find it, and then you might be in a better position to compare what Canada has to offer and what is possible.

    Keep in mind that entry-level job offerings are somewhat different than the reality of the entire field. And the field is very diverse. You are being given a fairly good set of basic tools but you are not being trained to execute the required tasks for any particular engineering employment position. Virtually every engineering job will require learning the job after you start. Most EEs who analyze and/or design circuits also do a lot more than that. And there are often/usually many more engineers up and down the project chain, before and after the ones who do the actual component-level design.

    If working on a "project", as part of an IPT (a "Systems Engineering" term, meaning Integrated Project Team), you might be involved in the planning and execution of every stage of the entire lifecycle of a system, from identifying a need, drafting key performance parameters, cost estimates, and more-and-more-detailed requirements, assessing available technology and potential design approaches and designs, prototyping, drafting formal test plans and test reports, analyzing test data, preparing and presenting briefs for management or customers or sub-contractors, drafting or evaluating proposals or quotes or contracts, specifying and documenting production methods and costs, reviewing/revising/documenting or troubleshooting any of it all along the way, estimating or analyzing and tracking reliability/availability/maintainability, providing support for logistics people managing spare parts and maintenance for sustainment during the system's full-rate production and operational lifetime, doing any or all of the above again for each upgrade, and planning and supporting execution of system disposal at end of life, to name just a very few.

    In many such cases, it would be considered quite a luxury to only have to deal with the component-level electronics. And in many cases, after your organization specifies the requirements, the actual component-level design and manufacturing might be sub-contracted to a different company. On a large project, you could be doing only one tiny subset of any one of the typical tasks that were mentioned above, for many years.

    But in reality, even if you do primarily deal with the component-level electronics of systems, after you see what goes on at all of the multiple levels in an organization, during each phase of a system's lifecycle, you will probably prefer to have more input, both upstream and downstream from your particular niche.

    So anyway, there are all kinds of organizations that you could work for, with all kinds of engineering jobs. And every organization's culture is different. The worst you can hope for is to get a foot in the door somewhere and later decide you'd like to try to do better.

    There is one thing that I should emphasize: It is AT LEAST as important to be able to communicate, loudly and effectively exactly when needed, as it is to be technically proficient. Take every opportunity to learn to effectively persuade others, sell your ideas, give more-effective presentations, et al.

    One other thing. Some of my wiser EE professors said things along these lines, to us: Once you are out in the real world as an engineer, there will be these people called "technicians". If you work with any technicians, always make sure that you are very friendly to them and treat them with the utmost respect, because they will almost always know more about what you are working on than you do, and your career success will probably depend on them, and they will often be worth their weight in gold.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
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  3. panic mode

    Senior Member

    Oct 10, 2011
    1,321
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    what exactly you are looking for? electronics / hardware design (embedded)? industrial automation? robotics?

    i live in Toronto area and as far as i am aware, there are are many companies in mentioned fields.

    electronics: there are few medium sized companies but many small ones, usually making own products (transponders, security, power conversion, auto pilots, machine vision, ...). one of my buddies was working for company developing own autopilots for their surveillance drones. that was fun, you have to make a design, solder prototypes, debug hardware, fly planes, interface cameras and whatever other sensors, radio modems etc.

    industrial automation/robotics: many, usually smaller companies. Canada is big manufacturer and exporter of machinery.

    i have no shortage of work and i am not complaining about pay...
     
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  4. jamus

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 11, 2013
    53
    0
    Both very informative posts.

    > Virtually every engineering job will require learning the job after you start

    Definitely. I am well aware of this.

    > Systems engineering

    This was the part that I hadn't quite conceptualized, and it makes sense in the way that you explained it. I am familiar with project management.

    I guess my main goal is to be involved in electronics somehow. Not designing circuits all day long, I am not naive enough to think that exists. Entry level is what I am looking for, but I am not sure whether that exists at small companies. The only jobs I have seen advertised are for the already experienced. Perhaps I am just not looking hard enough or banging on enough doors.

    I could probably find a job in the utility grid or with an oil company in Alberta, but like I said I want to be involved with electronics somehow.

    As Panic Mode emphasized, I have to be more specific about what industry I would like to be a part of. I understand that, but at the same time, I would jump at any job opportunity in any of the fields that he mentioned. Power jobs will only lead to more power jobs and if my job search keeps going the way it has been, that is where I will end up.

    Am I thinking about this correctly yet? I currently live in Atlantic Canada if that helps anyone provide suggestions (I will go wherever the work is though).
     
  5. gootee

    Senior Member

    Apr 24, 2007
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    I believe that you are thinking about it mostly correctly. You will probably want to have your first job be at a larger company or government entity, so you can gain experience in a technically diverse environment that contains at least some of the technical areas in which you are most interested, where there are also many experienced people from whom to learn, and where there are more-or-less state-of-the-art resources. After a couple/few years, you can make a jump, if you're not extremely happy.

    Or, you might get lucky and find a small company that's willing to take a chance on you (possibly in large part because they can pay you so much less than an experienced person). If there are real challenges and a real schedule and "you're it", it might seem overwhelming, especially at first. But if you're somewhat exceptional and are resourceful, you could still easily do well-enough, after you started to get up to speed. After all, it's not like school, where you rush from one small problem to the next, when doing homework. You will spend however long it takes, on one problem, or one system, or a set of products, or whatever, and will soon be quite intimately familiar with it. Not every job at a small place would be like that, and you'd also want to learn to regularly evaluate the trade-offs involved to determine what is worth looking at and how deeply to look, etc. The main point was that it might be difficult for a student to imagine how knowledgeable you can become, about certain things, if you spend all day everyday working on them.
     
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