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Engineering Electrical Engineering - Where are the fast paced jobs?

  1. Aug 20, 2012 #1
    This is my first post! Just found this forum - and I'm diggin it...

    A little background:
    I'm 30 living in Denver, CO. I have worked in aerospace since my senior year of high school.
    I was brought on at my current company (large aerospace company) as a 'analog design engineer' which is translated into being in charge of the build, test, and integration of a heritage power distribution box. I'd classify my job more as a 'test engineer' or 'production engineer'.

    Although the large amounts of worst case analysis I have produced has kept my circuit theory up-to-date, I have yet to actually design one single circuit. Sure, I've changed a few resistor values to meet the current program requirements and things like that, but that isn't design work, in my mind.

    I'm a bit of a lab rat. I love being in the lab and testing items, working behind the scenes, and solving difficult problems. I would love to take the lab skills that I've learned and apply them to designing circuits.

    I am open to leaving the space industry, but am committed to contributing to society in one way or another. Green Energy, the Medical Field, Etc.

    The situation:
    I've been looking for a fast paced job (preferably in Colorado, or working remotely) designing many PCBs. I'm talking 3 or more designs a year. Design, build, test, repeat. I would love to work with FPGA's, DSP, etc, so that I have a mix of digital and analog design in my repertoire. Does this job exist? Where do you find this job? How do you go about finding this job? The jobs I'm finding seem to all be with large corporations that don't seem to produce a lot of product. Maybe a single design in a year or more, or over as much as 5 years because the design has to be perfect.

    I'd really like it if I were producing so much hardware that occasional failure is accepted as part of the risk to the work because what matters is throughput. This way I can learn quickly what designs and layouts work. I'm currently working in an industry where procedures and processes rule the world, because one failure could lose a whole spacecraft and cost millions (if not billions) so everything is over analyzed. And you typically don't even get to produce a development run because they are building heritage hardware to try to maximize profits.

    I don't think I'd need to be licensed to do work like this, as I imagine that what I'm looking for is mostly new development work. Do you think it would be a good idea for me to go back and become licensed?

    I'm thinking that what I'm looking for is a job with a small to medium sized firm that specializes in solving the electrical problems of other startup companies. This way I can get a large amount of design under my belt in a short amount of time using many different methods (analog, digital, mixed, FPGAs, DSP, etc). I know somebody has to be doing jobs like this. I'm just stumped as to where to find this job...
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 20, 2012 #2

    marcusl

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    Consumer electronics is the fastest paced segment of the electronics industry. Don't know that there is a lot of that in Denver--you might look at Silicon Valley, the Boston metro area, or San Francisco (the newest up and coming high-tech hot spot). There are trades. Compared to the sleepy 40-hour-per-week two-products-per-decade aerospace industry, you will be expected to work long hours under considerable pressure. (Might be just what you want...) Also the cost of living is very high and quality of life very different in these places.
     
  4. Aug 21, 2012 #3
    "a fast paced job (preferably in Colorado, or working remotely) designing many PCBs. I'm talking 3 or more designs a year."

    The only job I have seen that would do that is a contract PCB designer where smaller firms that might not have expertise with PCB design hire you to do schematics, PCB layout, and possibly interface with the PCB manufacturer.

    They could come to you with requirements and you produce the PCB for them. I worked with one for a quick turn job where the company I was working for had to produce several CCAs and didn't have the man power to do all of them. So we came up with the critical path schematics, gave the PCB designer those and requirements for the rest and let him produce the Gerber files for some of the CCAs.


    "The jobs I'm finding seem to all be with large corporations that don't seem to produce a lot of product. Maybe a single design in a year or more"

    Well, that is how long it takes to create and succesfully prototype complex designs.



    "I'd really like it if I were producing so much hardware that occasional failure is accepted as part of the risk to the work because what matters is throughput."

    That sounds like you want to work for a company that is going out of business. I think I would stick to companies that design things that work (at least if job security is a desire for you).


    "This way I can learn quickly what designs and layouts work."

    Accepting failure doesn't teach you what works. Creating a design, troubleshooting, and resolving the problems teaches you what works.
     
  5. Aug 21, 2012 #4
    Thanks for the replies...

    Marcusl - Unfortunately moving to a higher cost of living area is out of the question for me (I'd like to be able to retire in 15 short years (at 45) - not that I will retire, but I would like to have the option). I wouldn't be opposed to working in consumer electronics though - as long as it contributes to society - so maybe I'll look for something more like that.

    Floid - maybe you took me a little too literally regarding a company accepting failure... Aerospace can have years of over-analyzing and thinking of every little scenario that could go wrong in an effort to avoid failure. I think that this mindset is starting to drain me, and is ultimately contributing to me loosing my technical expertise. Where as if I were producing 2 to 3 difficult designs a year, I would be growing my expertise, and would truly be a subject matter expert in 5-10 years.

    For example if I were to design a power supply in one year, I would learn a TON about magnetics, part placement, trace impedance and it's effect on the power supply, board layout, power supply architecture, etc. All these things I know about to some extent after testing power supplies, but I don't have a good knowledge of what to look for as I designed a power supply.

    Of course I don't want to fail, but if I were to develop a power supply - the first development run of said power supply would have some problems that I would need to figure out how to fix - right? That's where my lab rat would come in. Maybe I might even get to breadboard some circuits before putting them on a PCB!

    Any way, Hopefully this helps give you a better idea of what I'm looking for.

    The suggestion of trying to find a PCB design company that contracts out has been on my radar, but where do you go to find a company that does this?

    Thanks for the ideas - keep them coming.
     
  6. Aug 22, 2012 #5

    marcusl

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    So you are basing your career choices on the goal of retiring at age 45? Good luck with that--and keep buying lottery tickets.
     
  7. Aug 22, 2012 #6
    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/

    People are retiring in 15 years all the time these days. Early retirement is actually a pretty big movement right now. It's better to have a goal than to work for the man your whole life and retire when you're about to die. So I miss my goal by 5 years and I retire at 50 instead... big deal - when are you retiring? 55 - 60 - 65?

    Part of retiring early is strategically planning your place of employment... down to the distance you drive (preferably bike) to work.

    I thought I was maybe going to get some real help - I'm just getting haters... awesome.

    Is this high school gym class or what?
     
  8. Aug 22, 2012 #7
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
  9. Aug 22, 2012 #8

    marcusl

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    I've been putting kids through college and med school. I'll have to work until I'm 90.
     
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