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Engineering Recent BSc in Physics graduate, worried about my new job

  1. Sep 13, 2017 #1
    Hello all!,


    I recently graduated with a BSc in physics a month ago. I have been looking to get hired by a certain company since the start of my senior year. The position I was after was a process engineer, however I have not heard back from the company for that position, which I applied to over a month ago. I have been in full grind mode, applying nonstop to engineering positions to various companies since graduation. However, with few replies back I decided to apply to my dream company as a technician through a recruiter; considering the pay would still be roughly twice my current income. I was recently hired on to my dream company as a tech II which, in the job description says it requires 3 years experience and an associates or BSc degree in engineering(not shown as preferred).


    Is this a reasonable route to take as a 'foot in' to the company and working my way up to an engineer or is that an unusual case? Should I hold out for strictly engineering positions?

    Thank you in advance for the responses.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2017 #2


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    Those are probably better questions for the management types at the company you've been hired on with. Different companies work different ways and a lot can depend on the specifics of whether the engineer roles that you're applying for require a professional engineer designation or not, and what it entails for you to get to that from where you're at right now.

    There is a lot to be said for getting your foot in the door though. If nothing else, it can allow you to learn about the industry and give you an income while you figure out your next move. You are of course making a commitment though. Jumping ship too early could burn bridges you don't want to burn early in your career.
  4. Sep 14, 2017 #3
    My experience has been that employees who do an excellent job tend to be promoted and that it is not unusual for employees to reach the levels they aspire to as long as they meet the formal education requirements for the position they seek. Getting one's foot in the door will allow them to see your strengths and weaknesses closely. In the long run, be a great employee and you will move up.

    Occasionally, there are are cases where you will be passed over for someone from the outside. This is the "Why buy the cow when you are already getting the milk?" issue. They figure you'll still be there next go around, but an attractive outside candidate probably will not be. Patience pays off in the long run, and if it looks like it won't you can always keep your resume floating around for more attractive positions in other companies.

    My advice? Make yourself indispensable. Be the best at your company at at least one thing, preferably several things. Have management worried what they would do if you left. Then they will work pretty hard for you not to leave. As long as you are just a replaceable cog in their machine they can treat you poorly.
  5. Sep 14, 2017 #4
    Thank you both for the insightful responses. My plan from here is to work as diligently and efficiently as possible and work my way to an engineer as I currently meet the educational requirements but lack the experience needed.
  6. Sep 14, 2017 #5
    A lot depends on the company culture and organizational structure. In particular, are you talking about a small company or a large corp?

    In a large corp, there are organizations in which engineers and techs within a particular project report to one supervisor. So, if you start out as a tech, and impress your supervisor, he is in a position to promote you; and, if you are indeed indispensable, it's in his own best interest to promote you and have you stay, rather than walk away ... so you have leverage [strictly, your supervisor will need approval from his boss (e.g., dept head), but as long as a slot is available for promotion and you haven't pissed off your dept head, this should be a formality and you should be OK].

    In other organizations, however, the engineers belong to one dept (call it Dept A) and the techs report to another dept (call it Dept B). Engineers and techs are assigned to a project as needed. In this instance, the engineers report to one line of direct management; techs, to another. So promotion now entails a transfer from Dept B to Dept A, with approvals from two lines of management; more complicated. Also, since you will be transferring away from Dept B, it makes no difference to your supervisor in Dept B whether you get promoted or leave the company; there's no benefit to him, so you have no leverage.

    Furthermore, in some corps, candidates for new hires are binned from the start: for example, if you're a first-tier candidate, you'll receive an offer from Dept A; if you're a second-tier candidate, you'll receive an offer from Dept B. So, if you were originally turned down as an engineer in Dept A, but were hired as a tech in Dept B, a supervisor in Dept A who later wants to promote you to an engineer takes a big risk: his reputation is on the line if he promotes you and you don't work out (the dept head and other supervisors in Dept A will give the supervisor a resounding, "We told you so! We turned him down the first time."). So that works against you.

    If you have contacts in your target company, I would check out what the culture and organizational structure are. On the other hand, if you have no other pending offers, and can't afford to wait much longer, it's not a bad option. You can always look for another job (say, in another year or two) that offers growth potential if you don't get it at the present company.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
  7. Sep 14, 2017 #6
    Thank you for the response,

    This is indeed a very large company and of the panel interviewers, there was a supervisor(across MANY departments) who I suspect was the reason I was hired without any experience or the right specific degree due to her showing how impressed she was with me. So I hope she continues to monitor my performance and is able to help down the line in my promotion to an engineer. As far as your last statement of receiving the experience and moving to another company as an engineer. Ive definitely included this possibility as a pro to accepting the job, however my question is do most companies accept technician experience as a substitute for engineering experience. More specifically, lets say the job requirement of a process engineer, requires BSc in engineering, physics, etc with 2 years experience. Would my newly found job as a tech II suffice for that experience(assuming the experience is of course in a related field) or am I out of luck and stuck in a tech role?
  8. Sep 14, 2017 #7
    <<Emphasis added>>

    Note that my words were actually: "You can always look for another job (say, in another year or two) that offers growth potential if you don't get it at the present company." If another company has as a hard requirement a suitable BS plus a minimum 2 yrs experience as a process engineer, then, no, your 2 yrs experience as a tech won't cut it. Whether you would be considered at all would then depend on the state of the job market at the time. If there are many applicants meeting the posted requirements, then it's likely it will not consider you, and find a suitable candidate among them (it's unlikely they would all have some egregious deficiency that causes them all to be rejected). If there are few or none meeting the requirements, however, then the company may not find a suitable candidate. If it needs to fill the position by a certain date, it may opt to relax the requirements; in which case, you might get considered. The rest is then up to you.

    Another possibility is if things don't work out for you at your present target company, you'll find a suitable post with a requirement for an entry level (no experience) with a suitable BS [such slot as you are looking for now]. In which case, in some instances, your two years experience as a tech can put you ahead of the pack of candidates straight out of school with no experience whatsoever. Note: in other instances, again, your experience as a tech may hurt you if the hiring manager sees it as a red flag that you took a job below your education level. No way to tell in advance how the hiring managers respond; no guarantees.

    Yet another option is that you lateral as a tech (but now one with experience) to a company with better opportunities for promotion than your present target company (should the need arise). Which is why you want to scout out what these opportunities are at your present target company and future target companies.

    However, you have the luxury of a more extended search to find the right match when you are gainfully employed.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
  9. Sep 14, 2017 #8
    Thank you for clarifying my misconception, you've made some great points and have shed light on the matter. I plan on keeping this job, since this is a major bump in income and a foot in, in a company I have been looking to get into. I only hope that accepting a tech job(although required an associates/bsc in engineering) does not hurt my chances later on to acquiring an engineering position.
  10. Sep 14, 2017 #9
    Good luck to you. I agree with Dr. Courtney's advice to excel and make yourself indispensable. Be aware, however, that you will not necessarily be rewarded for this. In any organization, both large and small, but especially large, corporate politics come into play. Concentrate on your technical development, but at least be aware of the corporate political environment. Recognize which people are supportive, and cultivate relationships with them.
  11. Sep 15, 2017 #10
    In pertaining to classic office politics, I am semi familiar, as I have been working most of my life(but stayed out of it, did my job great and nothing more). However, this will be my first time within a STEM company and working with engineers, technicians, and such a large company. Is there anything more specific I should be aware of, do 'brown nosers' get ahead? I suspect being friendly and hardworking would supersede.

    Once again thank you for all the great responses!
  12. Sep 15, 2017 #11
    Contrary to what many non-engineers think, engineers are human, and engineering managers are susceptible to brown nosing. Since you have previous work experience, you'll have an easier transition than fresh grads. I worked for major R&D labs for 20+ yrs. In my experience, fresh grads often encountered culture shock. In school, reward is proportional to output: if you study hard and you get good grades, you get an A; if you don't study hard and you get poor grades, you get a C; if you pass the necessary classes at the end of the freshman year, you get promoted to sophomore; the evaluation system is nominally objective.

    But at work, evaluations are highly subjective, in spite of nominal HR metrics. Within a dept, e.g., there is a fixed pot of money for raises, and there are a fixed number of slots for promotions. Suppose there are 8 supervisory groups within the dept. So the 8 supervisors are all contending against each other for a cut of the raise pot and a cut of the promotion slots. What usually happens is that no one supervisor can hold sway, so, in some organizations, supervisors form factions. E.g., Supervisors A, B, and C gang up to support each other and beat up on Supervisor D. If Supervisor D is not a member of a rival gang, he and his people are vulnerable. So, there you are a tech for Supervisor D; you work hard; you excel; but you don't get a good raise, and you don't get promoted ... meanwhile, schleps for Supervisors A, B, and C do. Your supervisor then has to explain the facts of life to you. Also, "team work" is a popular buzz phrase in corporations, but many managers believe in Darwinian evolution, survival of the fittest. So they truly believe that excellence is achieved by pitting one engineer against another, or one tech against another.

    The culture varies a lot from one corp to another, and even from one org to another within the same corp. It's highly dependent on the personal philosophies of the execs in charge. I hope your company has a just, supportive culture; but don't be shocked if it doesn't. It's important that early on your supervisor or a co-worker fill you in on the corporate culture.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  13. Sep 15, 2017 #12


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    At the risk of going off topic, it sounds to me that the more supervisory groups that exist within a given department, the more likely that such factionalism can take place. Is that your understanding?

    Also, I would be curious if having too much factionalism within a given department and too many managers believing in "survival of the fittest" (which isn't actually true Darwinian evolution, but that's another topic for another thread) may lead to an overly toxic work environment and thus inhibit productivity, profitability, and the ability to retain staff.
  14. Sep 17, 2017 #13
    I have colleagues who work at small companies, and such stuff happens there too: all you need is a minimum of 3 supervisors for 2 to gang up against 1. It's more of an issue as the number of supervisors increases though, because of the way many (not all) large corporations handle employee reviews: once a year, all of the staff members at a particular level in a dept are ranked against each other, with each supervisor in the dept essentially having an equal vote. If it’s a small dept with a few supervisors, chances are that all the supervisors will have worked with, or at least be acquainted with, each staff member to some degree; each supervisor then has some direct personal basis on how to vote. But if it’s a large dept with many supervisors, chances are that many supervisors will have no clue what many staff members are doing; perhaps they’ve met only in passing in the hallway, in the cafeteria, or at dept meetings. So, in such situations, bloc voting ensues: let’s make a deal, I’ll vote for these guys in your groups if you vote for these guys in my group. And, it’s in the self interest of a supervisor to have highly-ranked staff members in his own group: a supervisor won’t look very good during his own review if too many of his own staff members are at the bottom of the ranks.

    Sorry if I used an incorrect biological analogy; mea culpa. Actually, in my experience, managers are fond of sports analogies. And the sports analogy that many of my managers liked was that of the championship playoff process used in many (not all) sports: the initial field of competitors engage in a qualification round; the winners of the qualification round advance to the quarterfinal round; the winners of the quarterfinal round advance to the semifinal found; the winners of the semifinal round advance to the final round; and the winner of the final round wins the trophy. As one manager constantly reminded me, you improve your own game by competing against stronger, not weaker, players. Many corporations use a similar process (referred to as a bakeoff in culinary terms) for choosing a vendor (or vendors) for large programs. So the managers figure they might as well use the same process internally. It’s an expensive, inefficient process, because the corporation is expending a lot of resources for its employees to compete among each other internally rather than compete with external rivals. But the output is often of high caliber.

    A small company can’t survive for long in this mode; it will go out of business. But a large corporation can, especially if its peers follow the same process. It’s not an environment suited for everyone; some will quit, some will get killed off. If staff members want to thrive (or at least survive), they need to adapt to the environment and form their own alliances. But every corp has its pluses and minuses (which are weighted differently by each employee, of course). As long as the pluses outweigh the minuses, enough talented people will stay. When the minuses outweigh the pluses, though, many will flee (assuming they have more favorable options, that is; and not everyone does).
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
  15. Sep 17, 2017 #14


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    All I can say is this, @CrysPhys, you engineers & physicists are such a nasty, brutish lot -- thank God I did not become one of you guys! o0)

    In all seriousness, however, it sounds to me that engineers and scientists such as yourself tend to work in corporate environments where the emphasis is on competition internally within the company, instead of cooperation to compete against external competitors. Again, I can only speak to my own experiences, where the work environments at different places I've worked were notably quite different.
  16. Sep 18, 2017 #15
    I've worked in two semicondictor fabs and have not experienced the competitiveness mentioned above. In my experience university was an extremely competitive and unsupportive environment. This contrasts my work experience in fabs. Engineers, techs, and managers in my groups have all been very supportive and cooperative with each other. The willingness to share, lend a hand and hear someone out was a refreshing change from the cut throat nature of undergrad and grad school. I have high respect for all my old techs and boss at my previous fab, and for my current coworkers and boss as well. They are smart, hard working and helpful individuals. In some sense we all have solidarity against the big wigs and HR. We all know that we arn't getting any worthwhile raises or promotions, and we all feel taken advantage of together. Haha
  17. Sep 19, 2017 #16
    The company I was hired on for strictly does semiconductors. I will be in the metrology department. Any do's and don'ts that I should be aware of as a tech II in general as well as do's and don'ts as a tech looking to promote to engineer?
  18. Sep 19, 2017 #17


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    Learn all you can about engineering theory and practice .

    Join one or more of the professional engineering bodies as an associate . Attend meetings . Meet some people . Write some articles for the professional journals .

    Tell company management honestly that you are wanting to achieve engineer status someday and ask if they will let you spend some time in the technical departments to gain experience .

    Look for problems that need solving . Innovate .


    Apply some lateral thinking - become an expert metrologist and pursue a career in metrology .
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
  19. Sep 19, 2017 #18


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    Ever heard of the fish and pond theorem ?
  20. Sep 19, 2017 #19
    Can't say I have
  21. Sep 19, 2017 #20
    Metrology is fun! If I didnt do photo, I would want to do metrology. You are going to be a maintenance tech, a process tech, or something else? What type of engineering do you want to be promoted to, process engineer?

    Promotions can be tough in a fab… Keep in mind that going to a different fab might be the easiest way to get a promotion/raise. But internal promotions can happen. Obviously keep a positive, can do attitude. Be excited by challanges and dont be afraid to ask senior techs and engineers for help. Take any opportunity you can to learn from an engineer, help them or work along side them. Engineers often have go-to techs that they rely on and buid relationships with.

    I assume you are working at an older, 200mm fab. You can make a career there but more money and innovation happens at a 300mm fab. Of course these fabs often require more education. Also, keep in mind you can work for a vendor. In metrology you may get an expertice on the KLA tools. This experience makes you a good candidate to work for KLA. Working for a vendor has some pluses (and minuses) compared to working for the fab. Get to know your vendors when they are onsite.
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