Author Topic: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area  (Read 717 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline therickaman

  • Contributor
  • Posts: 5
  • Country: us
Hello,

Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Rick and I am in need of some help or advice.  I recently graduated with a PhD in mathematics and my area of focus was in Computational Mathematics.  Up until a couple of years ago I thought I'd want to teach math, but during the time I was in school I accepted a consulting job for a small startup company doing electronics, but they were in need of a mathematician.  This sparked my interest in electrical engineering and truthfully, I  always thought that I'd do more applied math geared in the direction of engineering anyway.  This is why I have a masters in numerical analysis and went into computational mathematics.

As stated above, I'd like to do electronic engineering...but at the same time, I don't want to waste the degree I have.  I've looked online for jobs and it appears as though I need several years of work experience to even qualify.  So, I guess my question is where should I apply?  What job should I apply for?  I've always been the kind of guy who teaches himself things, because I'm so curious by nature.  I outline some of the skills that I have below, but things I don't think I possess physical qualifications for.

I know how to program, in many different languages.  In particular, my favorite and go to language is C.  I also know my way around assembly (self-taught), C++, java, and python.  The only true educational experience I have in this area is that as an undergraduate I minored in computer science.  As an undergraduate, I got a coauthored a research paper about calibration of robotic arms using an "eye in hand".  I believe the name of the robot language was named Q, but could be wrong. I also contributed work for a C math library and found a few bugs for that library.

I am also a hobbyist in electronics.  I've been building circuits for several years now. After the consulting job I took during the time I was in school, I taught myself how to solder and started buying more and more equipment to build circuits and experiment in my leisure.  I don't want to get too detailed about my consulting job, due to non-disclosure agreements, but I don't think it's out of bounds to say that my job was doing mathematical analysis for an inertial measurement unit.

I look forward to any advice that is given and I wish to thank you beforehand for at least reading.

Thanks,

Rick
 

Offline Clear as mud

  • Regular Contributor
  • *
  • Posts: 115
  • Country: us
    • Pax Electronics
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2019, 09:15:37 am »
I searched for several years for electronics jobs with only a degree in physics, and never got one.  But at the time I was young and very insecure.  I must have applied to over a hundred job listings, and I made it to the interview stage on quite a few of the positions, but never past that.  I think if I had been more confident and had interview skills, I would have gotten a job.  By reading your description, I already know you're better at everything than I was, so I think you will have no problem.  Apply for some jobs, follow up with them, and be confident in the interview, and you'll do OK.  If there are certain skills that they want you to know, they'll probably just be math concepts that you hadn't heard of, but as long as you've still been using your math skills on a regular basis, you should be able to pick stuff up just fine.  Tell them that.  I never did sell myself effectively.  I still remember the employer representatives at a job fair when I was younger who told me "You'd need at least some electromechanical relay logic" and I just walked away instead of standing up for myself.  I didn't need a class in that!  I was already in the top 1% of people in understanding of logic, but I didn't stand up for myself and sell myself, so I missed out on that opportunity.
 

Offline coppice

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 4173
  • Country: gb
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2019, 09:23:10 am »
I searched for several years for electronics jobs with only a degree in physics, and never got one.
In the 70s and 80s I found that almost all of the RF people I worked with in the UK had physics degrees. I think things have shifted since then, but a lot of RF people still have a physics education. Most of the people in electronics sensors and transducers have physics degrees. It is much less common for people in other areas of electronics to have a physics degree.
 

Offline blueskull

  • Supporter
  • ****
  • Posts: 11055
  • Country: cn
  • Power Electronics Guy
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2019, 09:25:10 am »
If you do control, RF or precision analog, there's a good chance your math expertise will be used.

I just did an EE PhD from NC State, and I would say one thing I regret is I never learned math well.

I'm always that Asian that sucks at math, so I chose a topic that's not that math intense, though it's still pretty math dependent.
 

Offline Clear as mud

  • Regular Contributor
  • *
  • Posts: 115
  • Country: us
    • Pax Electronics
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2019, 09:31:48 am »
My first college degree (in physics) was in 1997.  I recall being told in several interviews that it was common to hire people with only a physics degree a couple of decades ago (in the '70s and '80s as coppice said) but that it just wasn't done as much anymore and I really needed an electrical engineering degree.
 

Offline rhb

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 2385
  • Country: us
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2019, 10:43:57 am »
I think that is more an HR than a hiring manager problem.

If you're young enough to hang out in bars after work on Friday and Saturday night, figure out where people you want to work with hang out.  Generally the managers will show for a while on Fridays.  At least they did when I was young.

Another good place to make an end run around the HR department is professional society meetings.  I missed 3 annual meetings in 28 years.  I know many or most of the prominent people in my field, exploration seismology.  I spent 20 years working multiyear contracts for large to supermajor oil companies.  I never went through HR.   Work found me because I was a well known personal brand.

I also took jobs no one else wanted i.e. legacy code support.  Once I was in the door that usually became less than 30% of what I did after 6-9 months.  I called my office the "orphan home for lost problems".  I wandered around with almost no supervision for most of my career solving whatever problems I encountered.  It was lots of fun. 

My last project was building 3D models of the subsurface in the Gulf of Mexico 600 x 300 x 6 miles using about a 1/2 TB of input data and producing several TB of output.  Done in 9 months to a brick wall deadline. I wrote all the software in the process and delivered vastly more than the original statement of work called for because I saw lots of convenient tools I could make for the end users in a couple of afternoons.

Get a copy of "A Mathematical Introduction to Compressive Sensing" by Foucart and Rauhut and read it.  I rank the work of David Donoho and Emannuel Candes as the most important advance in applied mathematics since Norbert Wiener.  If you read it or are familiar with the topic PM me.  I'd love someone to chat with.  The attached paper is just one example of the application of what I prefer to call sparse L1 pursuits.  I've read F&R twice.  After I read it the first time I decided to read Stephane Mallat's 3rd edition of "A Wavelet Tour of Signal Processing" all the way through to learn the mathematical basis and jargon.  Then I read all the major papers.

After you've learned how to do sparse L1 pursuits and caught up with recent work, send some letters to medical equipment makers who sell CT and MRI scanners.  The hard part will be figuring out how to get them to the decision maker rather than HR.

 

Offline tomato

  • Regular Contributor
  • *
  • Posts: 154
  • Country: us
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2019, 07:15:25 am »

Please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Rick and I am in need of some help or advice...

The path you've chosen is going to be very difficult.  Very few companies are going to hire someone with a "hobbyist" level of knowledge to fill an engineering position.  At best, they probably will consider your math degree as a minor asset. 

Have you considered spending another year or two studying electrical engineering?  You might be able to get a Masters degree in one year, and that would make getting a job as an engineer much, much easier.
 

Offline GeoffreyF

  • Regular Contributor
  • *
  • Posts: 227
  • Country: us
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2019, 08:29:22 am »
I suggest that you look  for a programming job with a task that involves some hands on electronics.  Embedded systems that involve signal processing or image analysis would be an example.  While you are looking, take some courses and undertake some open source programming tasks that demonstrate your academic credentials.  you could even add that programming task to some sort of hardware activity which you could then put on your resume.

As someone else mentioned, your problem is as much with HR as it is with  your qualifications. Start going to seminars and professional events to hopefully meet some hiring managers.
US Amateur Extra W1GCF.
 

Offline rhb

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 2385
  • Country: us
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2019, 10:16:02 am »
I suggest that you look  for a programming job with a task that involves some hands on electronics.  Embedded systems that involve signal processing or image analysis would be an example.  While you are looking, take some courses and undertake some open source programming tasks that demonstrate your academic credentials.  you could even add that programming task to some sort of hardware activity which you could then put on your resume.

As someone else mentioned, your problem is as much with HR as it is with  your qualifications. Start going to seminars and professional events to hopefully meet some hiring managers.

If you're willing to take on fixing other people's numerical software you'll find there are lots of opportunities.   There is a lot of such code that can *only* be maintained by someone with serious math skills.  There won't be any comments, so you have to figure out what they are doing from the equations they use.  But be warned that there will be days you want to just get up and walk out the door.

You might want to consider getting this:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1119077958

and a MicroZed.  I just ordered the book as my EE oriented DSP books are from the 80's.   And everything else I have is not at the real time hardware level.

Also get a copy of "The Art of Electronics" 3rd ed and read it cover to cover a couple of times.  For practical experience, get an older edition of "Electronic Principles" by Malvino and Bates and build all the basic circuits and analyze them at the level of "Microelectronic Circuits" by Sedra and Smith.  Malvino has a PhD and took particular pride in building and testing every circuit in his books.

Look for mathematical consulting jobs at electronics firms and crab sideways via the FPGA.  If you show up Monday morning with a working implementation of something they were discussing for the first time on Friday they will get very interested in keeping you around.  Learn everything you can about doing everyone else's job.  On your time and nickel, not theirs.  Eventually someone will leave and you'll get their job.

I have 1 hour of WATFIV FORTRAN as the sum total of my formal credentials in computer science.  I also have 80 ft of computer science and engineering books.  Most of which I have read cover to cover.  The exception being things like the X and Motif reference manuals and similar.  Those cost a lot of money and personal  time, but for 15 years work came looking for me by name until I retired at 55 to look after my parents.  Not bad for a failed PhD candidate in geophysics with a BA in English lit and an MS in hard rock geology.  I always considered myself a poor mathematician, but I spent 2013-2016 reading 3000 pages on sparse L1 pursuits going so far as to buy and read Grunbaum on regular polytopes.  Foucart and Rauhut is brutal mathematics, but I feel quite confident I can explain it to anyone with sufficient background to not require me to teach them linear algebra.

 

Offline rhb

  • Super Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 2385
  • Country: us
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2019, 12:23:45 am »
FWIW Take a look at the EE required course list at the nearest school.   You should be able to get a BSEE by taking just the EE courses you don't have.  The same for the MSEE.  All your math should apply as electives.

The BSEE courses are required preparation for an MSEE.  So nothing lost by taking them.  The BSEE will get you past the HR flacks.  Once you're employed you can choose between getting an MSEE or just buying books appropriate to your work and reading them.  After 3-4 years working no one will care if you have a BSEE or an MSEE.  You've got a PhD.

You need around 36-40 hours in EE for the BSEE, so it would take 3 semesters going full time.  This is one of the rare instances where taking on student loan debt actually makes economic sense.
 

Offline radar_macgyver

  • Frequent Contributor
  • **
  • Posts: 372
  • Country: us
Re: Need advice about EE jobs in US with STEM degree in a different area
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2019, 01:05:39 am »
This may not be exactly what you wanted to hear, but consider research-track grad school. The skills you mentioned are gold in a lab where the focus is on designing and building instruments, and if you choose right, they can be significantly improved. As @rhb mentioned, your math skills will come in handy when signal processing or statistics are involved.

I'm always that Asian that sucks at math, so I chose a topic that's not that math intense, though it's still pretty math dependent.
:-DD And here I am thinking I was the only one!
 


Share me

Digg  Facebook  SlashDot  Delicious  Technorati  Twitter  Google  Yahoo
Smf