Author Topic: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice  (Read 3404 times)

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Offline jdd

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Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« on: April 11, 2012, 12:26:48 PM »
I was listening to one of the amp hour podcasts where they were talking about how much they really need engineers who really enjoy what they're doing.  It got me thinking that I need to get out of my current career and into something I really will enjoy.

I've noticed that I'm a lot happier and more excited about the various electronics projects that I do for fun than I am about the profession that I went into. I have a BS and MS in chemistry and I've been a pharmacutical chemist for three years.  I decided to follow my girl friend across the US for her job and we'll be moving in a month.  This seems to me like a great time  for me to try something different.

A bit about me... I took all the math most BSEE students probably took.  I even took a senior level math class in signal processing which was mostly me and a room of EEs. I know a bit of java and C++.  Right now I'm working my way through that MITx course on electronics. I have an ongoing 3d printer project and as a way to build on my math/programming/electronic knowledge I started working on a balancing robot that will be designed and printed on my 3d printer. After that I have more project ideas than I know how to implement.  My method of learning electronics so far has been to pick projects that are a bit over my head and try to understand every aspect of it.     

I think if there's a chance I'm going to try and get some entry level technician job after I move.  I'm not sure how to go about doing it though.  I'm sure not having any formal training will make it difficult to get past any HR people.

What are your though?  And maybe anyone has some leads?  I'll be moving to norther New Jersey.



Online IanB

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2012, 12:57:39 PM »
I think if there's a chance I'm going to try and get some entry level technician job after I move.  I'm not sure how to go about doing it though.  I'm sure not having any formal training will make it difficult to get past any HR people.

No, not that. If you want to get into engineering, keep focused on your goal. If you want to be an engineer, apply for engineering jobs. If you aim low, you will just put the wrong kind of experience on your resume and you will get type cast in the wrong role. Aim high and prepare to be rebuffed, but keep trying.

You will find it really hard to break in for sure, since you will be competing against interns and fresh EE graduates. Use every method at your disposal to find an "in", via contacts, friends, colleagues, social networking, even recruitment agencies. But never apply for a different job from the one you want and think you will somehow be able to jump the fence later. It doesn't work that way. If you want to be an engineer, sell yourself as an engineer.
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Online EEVblog

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2012, 02:32:59 PM »
I think if there's a chance I'm going to try and get some entry level technician job after I move.  I'm not sure how to go about doing it though.  I'm sure not having any formal training will make it difficult to get past any HR people.

No, not that. If you want to get into engineering, keep focused on your goal. If you want to be an engineer, apply for engineering jobs. If you aim low, you will just put the wrong kind of experience on your resume and you will get type cast in the wrong role. Aim high and prepare to be rebuffed, but keep trying.

I'd second that.

There has got to be an EE job out there for someone with a chemistry degree and background.
In fact I'm sure I've seen some over the years here in Sydney.
e.g. a company that designs and build analytical equipment for example, might want someone with a good chemistry background, but who could also design a simple electronics interface widget or some such. In which case they usually don't care about any EE qualifications. A lot of these companies subcontract out their electronics widget design/production testing requirements, so having someone with some electronics skills in house can be very handy to them.

So maybe there is more opportunity to leverage your existing degree and knowledge, whilst getting some real world EE work to bootstrap a full career change into EE?

Dave.

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2012, 04:37:02 PM »
It got me thinking that I need to get out of my current career and into something I really will enjoy.

I've noticed that I'm a lot happier and more excited about the various electronics projects that I do for fun

Making a hobby into a job means you are out of a good hobby then.

And don't forget that the typical management bullshit won't go away just because you work in another area. You won't do electronic projects for fun any more, but to keep THE MAN happy. You do that to earn money to fill the fridge. Fun is no longer the primary objective. If you are lucky and skillful you can wrangle a little bit of fun out of a project here and there.

Quote
I decided to follow my girl friend across the US for her job and we'll be moving in a month.  This seems to me like a great time  for me to try something different.

It is, and it isn't. Unless your girlfriend is rich, your primary goal needs to be to get a good job - to help fill the fridge. If there are many jobs available this is a good time. If jobs are rare then linking the primary goal of getting a job with the special condition that it should be an EE job makes it harder for you to find one. And it puts you under extra pressure in your job search. It would be easier to do such a career change if you weren't already under the pressure to get a job at all.

I suggest you carefully check the job market and adjust your secondary goal, an EE job, accordingly. Instead of adjusting your primary goal, a good job.
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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2012, 05:39:25 PM »
Tried searching online yet?
http://www.engineerjobs.com/jobs/new-jersey/
The first two involve chemistry, so that's sounds rather promising...

Dave.

Offline jdd

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2012, 09:01:29 PM »
I think if there's a chance I'm going to try and get some entry level technician job after I move.  I'm not sure how to go about doing it though.  I'm sure not having any formal training will make it difficult to get past any HR people.

No, not that. If you want to get into engineering, keep focused on your goal. If you want to be an engineer, apply for engineering jobs. If you aim low, you will just put the wrong kind of experience on your resume and you will get type cast in the wrong role. Aim high and prepare to be rebuffed, but keep trying.

You will find it really hard to break in for sure, since you will be competing against interns and fresh EE graduates. Use every method at your disposal to find an "in", via contacts, friends, colleagues, social networking, even recruitment agencies. But never apply for a different job from the one you want and think you will somehow be able to jump the fence later. It doesn't work that way. If you want to be an engineer, sell yourself as an engineer.

I like this idea.  I didn't think I'd stand a chance against people with the proper educational background but I should at least try to get the job I want.  I'll have to see how the job market looks out there.  I'd like to go back to school to get a degree and I was thinking that if I had a bit of technician experience and a few years of self study then I could talk a school into letting me in to get a masters. 

Offline jdd

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2012, 09:05:38 PM »
I think if there's a chance I'm going to try and get some entry level technician job after I move.  I'm not sure how to go about doing it though.  I'm sure not having any formal training will make it difficult to get past any HR people.

No, not that. If you want to get into engineering, keep focused on your goal. If you want to be an engineer, apply for engineering jobs. If you aim low, you will just put the wrong kind of experience on your resume and you will get type cast in the wrong role. Aim high and prepare to be rebuffed, but keep trying.

I'd second that.

There has got to be an EE job out there for someone with a chemistry degree and background.
In fact I'm sure I've seen some over the years here in Sydney.
e.g. a company that designs and build analytical equipment for example, might want someone with a good chemistry background, but who could also design a simple electronics interface widget or some such. In which case they usually don't care about any EE qualifications. A lot of these companies subcontract out their electronics widget design/production testing requirements, so having someone with some electronics skills in house can be very handy to them.

So maybe there is more opportunity to leverage your existing degree and knowledge, whilst getting some real world EE work to bootstrap a full career change into EE?

Dave.

Good idea!  Now that I think about it I've seen a few aglient job posting out there.  They're pretty big in the analytical chemistry field and I even know how to run several of their instruments.

Offline jdd

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2012, 09:21:28 PM »
It got me thinking that I need to get out of my current career and into something I really will enjoy.

I've noticed that I'm a lot happier and more excited about the various electronics projects that I do for fun

Making a hobby into a job means you are out of a good hobby then.

And don't forget that the typical management bullshit won't go away just because you work in another area. You won't do electronic projects for fun any more, but to keep THE MAN happy. You do that to earn money to fill the fridge. Fun is no longer the primary objective. If you are lucky and skillful you can wrangle a little bit of fun out of a project here and there.

Quote
I decided to follow my girl friend across the US for her job and we'll be moving in a month.  This seems to me like a great time  for me to try something different.

It is, and it isn't. Unless your girlfriend is rich, your primary goal needs to be to get a good job - to help fill the fridge. If there are many jobs available this is a good time. If jobs are rare then linking the primary goal of getting a job with the special condition that it should be an EE job makes it harder for you to find one. And it puts you under extra pressure in your job search. It would be easier to do such a career change if you weren't already under the pressure to get a job at all.

I suggest you carefully check the job market and adjust your secondary goal, an EE job, accordingly. Instead of adjusting your primary goal, a good job.

Yes it's always risky turning a hobby into a job.  I've got plenty of other good hobbies that have no hope of ever turning into a job though.  One of my big complaints about being a chemist is that there's no such thing as a home lab.  Or at least if you have a home lab you can expect to have the police bust in through your door at any moment.

Money is an issue but not a huge one.  I've got a pretty decent FU account that can keep me going for at least a year if I want.  The girl friend isn't rich but I'd have to become a pretty successful engineer to make what she will.  I do agree with you though.  I'm looking to get just about anything to get some income going.  The chemistry job market is pretty much destroyed right now though.  I actually spoke with a much older/wiser friend who lives the area.  He's been a chemist out there for probably 30 years.  He said if he were in my shoes he would choose electronics too.  He's also a bit of a hobbyist too.

Offline jdd

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2012, 09:22:58 PM »
Tried searching online yet?
http://www.engineerjobs.com/jobs/new-jersey/
The first two involve chemistry, so that's sounds rather promising...

Dave.


Thanks!  I've been looking and applying like crazy to anything I look even remotely qualified for.  I hadn't seen that site yet though.

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2012, 09:36:28 PM »
One of my big complaints about being a chemist is that there's no such thing as a home lab.  Or at least if you have a home lab you can expect to have the police bust in through your door at any moment.


I found this interesting Wired article:
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/chemistry.html
And of course it's all US government terrorism fear bullshit, and should be resisted en-masse on principle.
Screw the government, they can't stop you, go ahead and set up your own home lab!
Make sure you have video cameras running 24/7 to secretly capture the bastards if they raid you, and then let it go viral on Youtube  ;D

And:
http://paulhutch.com/wordpress/?p=333


Dave.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 09:50:11 PM by EEVblog »

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2012, 10:01:25 PM »
Make sure you have video cameras running 24/7 to secretly capture the bastards if they raid you, and then let it go viral on Youtube  ;D


Not a good idea in the United Police States of America http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2008566,00.html
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Online EEVblog

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2012, 11:23:25 PM »
Not a good idea in the United Police States of America http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2008566,00.html


Screw that.
And double screw that in your own home.

Dave.

Offline Kilroy

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2012, 11:52:01 PM »
Your a chemist?

Well, if I were you, I would at least explore the nano-technology field. You might be a good fit somewhere within the chemical branches. As of now there is a considerable vacuum in the skills base required to adequately support the projected growth rate of this industry in all of it's divisions. If you fancy a career shift to electronics, you might be set up better than you think in a chemical nano-tech position, even if it is a "lowly" lab job, because the delivery systems are often heavily electronic in nature and these two branches work closely together...often *very* closely.

The Dark Side. The chemical and bio-medical sectors of nanotech are significant fields of opportunity because there are large amounts of money waiting to be made here...which is not to say that this makes it all good. Corporate greed and the race to be first to finish will encourage products to be pushed to market before what might be considered a "responsible" "safe" trial and testing period. One may have to keep a close eye on one's moral compass in order to sleep at night. This industry is going to need real close supervision or there are going to be some spectacular cock ups. Its kinda like running with scissors. I can be done safely, but...

I don't know how young you are, but if I were doing it again, nano-tech would be where I would throw my energy. Fascinating...and scary.

Google is your friend. My hobby is mathematical statistics...which is quite disturbing, really. There are gobs of data out there to explore and I would encourage you to make use of it. You'll be surprised at the percentage of small firms in the nano-tech field...roughly 80% in my country. Can't hurt to have a look. You might like what you see.


By the way, if Dave keeps this blog thing of his going, and here's hoping he does, it will be only a matter of time, I expect, before there will be a forum dedicated to nano-electronics. Bring it on.


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Offline gregariz

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2012, 07:30:45 AM »

I don't know how young you are, but if I were doing it again, nano-tech would be where I would throw my energy. Fascinating...and scary.


I sometimes wonder what I'm going to tell my kids when they are ready to go to college/uni. The best I have come up with is that 'If I were them I would study something that leads to private practice'. Being able to work where you want with your business being based on local factors seems like the ticket to me ie doctor, lawyer, accountant, non high tech engineering (ie civil), trades.

I remember sitting in a talk given by a pharmaceutical company VP about 2 years ago after the crash when she said that the way the company works is that they have an army of PhD's on the bottom of the power structure working away like ants trying to find stuff. They didn't have a single chemist/biochemist who was at VP level and above, including her. Its real dilbert principle stuff with the dumbest people at the top. So I couldn't tell people to study something hard like that (ie chemistry/physics/some engineering) if they 1. can't go out and earn a crust in the local community, 2. they are perpetually on the bottom of the food chain and 3. have to constantly move where the big companies are located or offshored.

Its a real shame that there isn't a requirement for universities to bring people from outside in at the beginning of the university programmes and give students an honest 'facts of life' talk about outcomes in some of these harder degrees. But I guess its 'buyer beware'.

I think if you have a degree in chemistry and you dont want to transition to do something locally like environmental science/ local teaching or maybe something to do with materials/food you might want to look at management. I've seen a bunch of chemists working in quality and project management. I'm also guessing you've probably done some programming at college so you could look at getting certified ( ie PMP or Microsoft developer). If I'm honest I think you are going to find it hard in a traditional electronics firm (in the US) to get hired as an electrical engineer. The job market is just too competitive with alot of older layed off engineers floating around.


Offline djsb

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Re: Thinking of a career change to EE and looking for advice
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2012, 07:39:52 AM »
I always liked the film 51st State ;)
Or maybe that's not such a good idea.
I can't really give any advice as I'm only employed as a lowly technician in a university. I'm still trying to figure out what I REALLY want do with my life. It's good if you enjoy what you are doing and above all have fun. I've worked in manual jobs where I have had a right laugh. In the end it not just about the job it's the people you work WITH that you remember the most. It's also good to experiment a bit and develop different skills if you can. Employers want people that have so called soft skills as well (can you get along with people etc).
Anyway that's my tuppence worth.

David.

P.S Ive worked as a painter and decorator, as a janitor, a cleaner in a hospital, and a short stint as an apprentice electrician.
Became a full time student at 34 and the rest is history.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 07:49:23 AM by djsb »
David
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