what does a technician do? (career options)

Discussion in 'Career Advising' started by ninjaman, May 31, 2016.

  1. ninjaman

    Thread Starter Member

    May 18, 2013
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    1
    Hello,

    I am trying to learn about electronics as I would like to become a technician. I have tried reading job descriptions and it seems that a technician could be many things. Please could those that have done this job explain a little about what level you would be required to be at to do this job and what you would do on a day to day basis.

    I have read some job qualification requirements and I already have an HNC which is equivalent to 1 year of degree. I am trying to complete my HND which is the second year. But I have no experience.
    I think it could be a good idea to set tasks for people to complete, for instance a task that you may have been given at work. I don't mean sweeping up or counting stock but the more practical things a technician may be required to do.

    Thanks
    Simon
     
  2. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
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    Test a production unit. Troubleshoot the same and direct its repair (others will probably do the work).

    Skill with volt meters, oscilloscopes, signal generators, power supplies.

    Able to read understand and follow written instructions. Able to ask for help when help is required.

    Build prototypes. Build test fixtures.

    Keep good notes.

    Most importantly, make your boss look good.

    I have several techs working for me and that is what I look for. For an entry level candidate such as yourself it is best to bring something to the interview to impress me, something you built out of your own interest.
     
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  3. dl324

    Distinguished Member

    Mar 30, 2015
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    Without related experience, you must have a degree. Very few companies will take a chance on someone with no experience AND no degree. It's a lot easier to hire than to fire someone, so most hiring managers won't take a chance on an unproven person. Book learning isn't everything but, without experience, it's the only thing prospective companies can use for comparing with others.

    My first technician job after getting as ASEET degree was assembling refrigerator sized computers and troubleshooting them to the component (IC) level; it had a few dozen E sized schematics - 3-4 for each board. I can't remember how long the specialized course on the computer was, but it was probably a couple weeks. I excelled at repairing power supplies because back in those days, there were people who went to some questionable "school" and only understood digital. I was able to do both and it was noticed by a Product Engineer who often got permission to take me off the line to work on special projects. I did that for my first year.

    A manager 2 levels above my supervisor took notice of my work and had a friend at HP Labs who was looking for an R&D technician. I, and just about everyone else on the line, interviewed for the position. One of the questions was to design a voltmeter, plus the typical opamp and discrete amplifier circuit questions. After the interviews, all of the other techs thought they had the job in the bag; I was the only one who didn't think they met the requirements. It turned out I was at the top of the list and they made the offer to me; I spent the next 3 years as an R&D Tech and I learned to use just about every piece of test equipment HP manufactured. At first I built circuits that were designed by my Engineer. Then I started having more design responsibility. I worked on DACs, ADCs, charge coupled devices, laser diodes, fiber optics, liquid crystals, SAWs, optical oscilloscope probe, optical pulse generator, HPIB test systems, IR transmitters, GaAs IC layout, and eventually took over managing our Applicon CAD system. When I left, my replacement had an MSEE degree from Stanford.

    From that point, I was hooked on computer systems and transitioned from EE related endeavors to CAD and IC design and did that type of work until I retired.

    You can do most anything you put your mind to as long as you're committed to learning what it takes to be successful in that endeavor. I learned more than half a dozen different programming languages; all by taking a 40 hour (1 week) vendor course or reading a book. Even though I spent most of my career doing work for which I didn't have much formal training, I still retained most of what I learned about EE in school. If you really want to be good at EE, become proficient with analog design. It's the most difficult path, but the one, I think, that will give you a firm grasp of fundamentals. After that, digital logic and programming were relatively simple.

    Be prepared for constant change and continuous improvement. That's a given in any technology field. Those who don't adapt and improve become obsolete in very short order.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2016
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  4. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
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    You have to be dedicated enough that your own (unpaid) time is also dedicated to learning a certain avenue of electronics that interest you , Technician covers a Very wide swath so although you may have to take an entry level job, make sure you pursue the actual avenue that interests you, and as mentioned, take as many extra curricular courses you can.
    Max.
     
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  5. markzz

    New Member

    May 25, 2016
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    I got electronics tech diploma and worked at nortel networks on the assembly line until I and 100k's others got laid off. Devry grads were getting $10/hr at the time, SAIT/NAIT tech college were getting $17/hr.
     
  6. dl324

    Distinguished Member

    Mar 30, 2015
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    What year was this? I was making $10/hr as a computer tech in 1976, right out of school with no related experience.
     
  7. ninjaman

    Thread Starter Member

    May 18, 2013
    306
    1
    One problem I am having at the moment is getting a job doing soldering/assembly. I can through hole solder to an acceptable level, I spoke to someone at the radio club I went to and they were degree level engineer. They said my soldering was good. But I cant get past the agency recruitment people to do a basic minimum wage job. I am thinking about trying to find different companies and approach them for volunteer work. Most of them tell me it is an insurance reason that they cant take me on and that I have to wait for a trainee position which is rare, very rare.
    The parts above where qualifications are mentioned is a little confusing. I am not to sure what level a diploma is compared to a degree. I have looked online for a course that is more practical. I think that would help a lot.
    Thanks for your contributions.

    Simon
     
  8. ISB123

    Well-Known Member

    May 21, 2014
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    I have no idea how school system works in USA but arent you supposed to take a 3-4 year long degree thats in electronics field. In your case it would be Electronics technician degree?
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2016
  9. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
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    To an agency or company you look like an entry level candidate as you have no related work experience. If your choice is minimum wage or nothing then what is wrong with minimum wage?

    You stay there six months then start another search with your experience in pocket.

    Rinse, lather, repeat.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2016
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  10. MrSoftware

    Active Member

    Oct 29, 2013
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    Look for an intern job at a place that interests you. Regardless of the department, if you can land an intern job then you're inside the building. Work hard at whatever they give you, be known for your work ethic. Now you can work towards the department you want to be in and hopefully land a job in that department. Even if it's intern level, now you're in the building and in the right department and you can move up from there. As much as you can, hang with the people who do what you want to do.
     
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  11. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    Stop right there. I don't mean this to sound rude at all, but what makes you think that is a good career field for you? I believe in other threads you mentioned struggling with math. Many of the people you will compete against in this field will be good at math and know how to apply it to their work. They will have been doing related work – soldering, building, tinkering – since they were kids and will have "good hands".

    I'm not saying these things are critical or would limit your success if you are truly a good fit for this field. I'm just trying to broaden your thinking to consider other things you might be good at and really like. There are various career aptitude tests out there, probably available online these days, that might help you identify some career choices that are a good fit for your temperament and skills.

    Some of the folks around here, myself included, come from other walks of life and dabble in electronics purely as a hobby. I also play guitar, cook, do woodworking and other things. I do them all badly. I was an excellent researcher, chemical engineer and marketing director at various stages of my career, but have always pursued all sorts of fields that interest me. I wouldn't dream of looking for a career in these areas. My point is, you can keep your interest in electronics while having a career elsewhere.
     
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  12. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
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    Well... Doing basic sums and the tiny bit of algebra necessary to compute things from Ohms law is about all the math I would expect from a technician. My top guy has one of those Ohms law pie charts as his PC wallpaper so he can access it. Heck, I have to derive anything but current every time as that is the only form stuck in my head.

    A tech just needs a good feel for what is going on. My guys usually troubleshoot things in hours I have spent days going over.
     
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  13. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    I recommend they you find a new agency, get one of the radio club team members to serve as your reference and vouch for your experience (as a hobbyist) and see where you can get as a minimum wage job.

    Your skills in research are shining through by even asking this question in this perfect place to get a great answer (or a variety of answers). I would expect a wide variety of answers here because the career of a technician can be anything that any given technician makes of it through hard work, motivation and ability to learn (and researching).

    Good luck and, if you still have no luck, just add, "ABC Electronics, 18 months as electrical technician". Put your mothers cell phone number as the contact/previous manager and see what happens. If you get hired, send me a jar of pickles. If you get fired after a month, no big deal. The whole idea of something going on your "permanent record" is BS anyhow. Just brush yourself off, and remember that you get one more "former employer" to add to your next resume.
     
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  14. dl324

    Distinguished Member

    Mar 30, 2015
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    It really depends on the type of technician job. When I was an R&D Tech, my Boss expected me to be able to derive equations for circuits I was working on. I took upper division classes in the evening to learn more about what I was working on.
     
  15. ninjaman

    Thread Starter Member

    May 18, 2013
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    I dont mind minimum wage, its just the recruitment people are dicks. They will say, "what background/experience do you have in soldering". This is referring to work experience. I will say some basic hand soldering when making up coax cables and things that I do at home. They (always) say, "so no work experience of making up pcbs or surface mount". I will say, "I have made pcbs at home and at college", they say, "but not at work". Agencies are like that. They have no clue about what you are doing or attempting to do, they just match what you say against what the job is. I dont have surface mount experience or work experience of pcb assembly. Most of the people who do these jobs, no offence to any of them, are not bright people at all. Most seem like school failures. I find it upsetting that with 13 years electrician work, HNC in electronics, studying for my HND, they wont give me a basic minimum wage job. I have no problem starting at the bottom and working my way up, I personally would prefer it. Theres no pressure that way.
    I have been trying with the maths. I met a second year EE student some time ago. He told me he was struggling putting together a traffic light project. Three LEDS and a microcontroller, he was struggling with the programming. I honestly cant say that I would find that hard. I did it quickly on my HNC and at uni while studying for software engineer.
     
  16. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    Use better phrases.

    Q: Do you solder,
    A: "yes"
    Q: SMD experience?
    A: "yes"

    Stop adding extra info like, "well, yes, at school, but not on a job".

    It's a lot like answering a lawyer,
    Q: "do you know what time the accident occurred?"
    A: "yes"


    If you need SMD experience, buy a stack of smd (soic) 555 chips and some adapter boards and solder away.
     
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  17. MrSoftware

    Active Member

    Oct 29, 2013
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    If the people you're talking to are the road block, try to go around them and talk to different people. Try to get the name, number or email address of someone in the technical department, instead of talking to the people at the front office. If you're talking to a head hunter (independent recruiter), then instead go strait to the businesses you want to work for. If this is difficult at a big business, then try smaller companies. Think outside the box.
     
  18. irobot2020

    New Member

    Jun 1, 2016
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  19. irobot2020

    New Member

    Jun 1, 2016
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    Great story, 324 . . . very often the guys who *don't* question their abilities end up losing out!
     
  20. Roderick Young

    Member

    Feb 22, 2015
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    I'm not saying that the stories posted here are not valid, but some of them seem dated. I remember when I first started out, that we had technicians in the R&D lab. They understood electronics, but were rarely called upon to design or troubleshoot. The main advantage of having technicians was that they had the talent to work with small and difficult parts. A lab engineer might be able to solder wires to a 20-mil pitch part, but it would take a magnifier and some trial-and-error. Most of our technicians had surgeon's hands, and could solder a whole bus of wires to such parts without need for a magnifier. They were also expert in removing parts without damaging them. This was important if the part was needed later for failure analysis.

    As time went on, we lost our technicians through attrition, and never replaced them. Although we were a large corporation, it was more cost-effective to have boards assembled by a third party, and as boards could be turned quickly, it was easier to just get a new board made than to heavily modify an existing prototype. Better simulation tools also meant less "trying things out" on a physical prototype.

    We also had technicians in production who would repair returned product. This also dwindled as it became cheaper to simply replace entire boards or computers than diagnose specific issues. If there was a class issue affecting a lot of product, it was the job of an engineer to do the forensics, not a technician. The design might be changed, but it was unlikely that existing boards would be reworked, unless it was a safety or regulatory issue.

    I'm retired now, but back in 2011 when I was working, we used software test technicians in an unusual way. Perhaps 50% of our workforce was from a third-party contractor, and while we paid them as technicians, some were top graduates from IIT (India, not Illinois), and superior to most of our engineers.
     
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