Author Topic: "Free" Engineering for work  (Read 1463 times)

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Offline Sparks

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"Free" Engineering for work
« on: August 08, 2018, 08:51:47 pm »
     I have been working at this tech job as a field technician for a year now. While they have an engineering team responsible for most of the systems, they ask for us to come forward with design changes, complete with before and after pictures and a list of what is necessary. So far all I have submitted is simple milling ideas for the frame and a very simple PCB for lighting.
    While i know companies will try to get advice from every available avenue, but should I really put that much effort into this? I'm curious as to what others do with these situations.
 

Offline nanofrog

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 09:41:08 pm »
Is the additional work being done during normal working hours or no?
 

Offline dunkemhigh

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 09:52:22 pm »
Quote
should I really put that much effort into this? I'm curious as to what others do with these situations

Depends on the company and how you perceive them as treating their employees.

Many years ago, my first job in electronics was doing repairs for a comms manufacturer. Some of the kit was based on a Z80 micro and we had a test tool which basically replaced the Z80 and ran a memory map of the hardware, printing the result on paper tape. Clever thing, but a pain to use so I designed a better replacement using a home computer (Amstrad CPC464). This one was better since it used a terminal for a menu-driven interface (the original used a keypad to select tests) but, significantly, allowed you to repeat operations so you could waggle things at the same time and test for flaky connections. It would simulate any Z80 operation and additionally let you drive specific pins to resolve short/opens, etc.

I demoed it one day to my boss, and on the basis of that was given the go ahead to convert to using the real product as the tester (that is, instead of the computer the program ran on the comms hardware - with a wirewrap plugin on its expansion bus - and interaction was via a terminal). Quite cool because at one point I had a Z80 emulator debugging a Z80 simulator testing a Z80 product.

For that I got an ex-gratia payment of £600 for two such devices, which was fine by me - half the fun was in doing it, and the other half was in it making my job easier. The company benefited by increased productivity and saving on buying another expensive simulator for other repair techs.

It was quite an open and friendly company and I spent some time around at development talking to the engineers there. At some point, on the basis of having made this simulator and writing them a DBIII app (the purpose of which I can't remember now) they offered me a position as a junior development engineer, which I naturally took their arm off in accepting.

Doing that stuff essentially for free (the payments and payoffs came after, and weren't expected) got me started on the ladder, I am sure, but also moving in the right circles got me known to those with a say in things (and, incidentally, led to me meeting my current girlfriend).

In your particular situation (which I am afraid I haven't been able to decipher fully!) I think it depends on your relationship with the company. Is it your friend or do you perceive it as walking all over you? One way to look at it is that you would be not just giving them ideas on which to make money but increasing the likelihood of keeping your job. Companies tend to do this sort of exercise when they realise their current product lineup isn't selling as well as it used to, and have run out of ideas to monetize, so coming up with something is to your benefit if it keeps them going. And, as above, you should get to be recognised better than just being another employee number, which could lead to better things later. Just don't count on it.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2018, 11:07:09 pm »
It depends on where you want to go with your career. If you find that you are putting a lot of time into the engineering side and getting results, you should look into being promoted into the engineering group. A lot of this depends on the company culture and having a manager who will advocate for you, but in almost any case you will have to take the initiative to make this happen.
 

Offline Sparks

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2018, 04:29:07 am »
     Well, first off i do consider the company a friend. My field manager has told me that he never has to worry about my ability to get the job done. My career goals put me in the engineering department and out of the field, eventually having a company of my own. Unfortunately taking a job with their engineering department would require my family move 1042 miles (1677 Km).
     
     My contributions so far have been based on work done off the clock just to make the field jobs more efficient. I have several more ideas, just not sure about spending so much time and effort on them. While I do enjoy the work, there is little time for my family as is.
 

Offline nanofrog

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2018, 05:36:59 am »
Seems like a lot of research of the area (is it better overall or worse vs. where you currently reside, cost of living, income levels, schools, employment prospects should one or both lose a job, and so on), just to see if the location is viable. This is of course based on the premise SWMBO would even consider a move.

If so, then I'd suggest sitting down with your manager and have a long discussion about career goals, will they offer moving expenses, a pay rise, .... types of things.

Serious thinking IMHO since you seem to like the company and they you.
 

Offline Tomorokoshi

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2018, 06:24:22 am »
How to use time outside of work hours is one of the ever-present stresses and difficulties in the engineering world. 10 engineers will give you 15 opinions.

I have had to make decisions passingly similar to yours. Like many other things it comes down to a cost / benefit analysis of how the time and money is spent.

For instance, a few of the tradeoffs / balances that could be considered or encountered are:

1. Do the work on your own time with your own money. Payback: learning something, useful hobby, continuing education, etc.

2. Do the work on their time. Displace some other mundane task or idle time. Advantage: it still gets done. Problem: it may look like you are goofing off.

3. Do the work on your own time, but arrange with the company to have them pay your way for classes at a local engineering school if possible to work towards an engineering degree. They will likely be hesitant to do it. Internally, they will fear that you will take off once you get the degree. However, they never seem to be at a loss to fund MBA's this way.

There are many other variations to these.

Suggestions from the field are usually a result of engineers not being in the field. This is how you wind up with machines having 5 different screw heads when 2 would have been possible, needing to tear the machine halfway apart to replace something that should have been easily accessible, etc.

It's better to submit one rock-solid improvement instead of several that are unlikely to be implemented. This goes for software and user-interface things too. Build up a history of being the good tech that knows what he is doing.
 

Offline boB

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2018, 06:38:21 am »
If the higher ups at the company see that you are passionate about what you are doing, and some of that on your own time, they may just reward you with an engineering position and/or better pay eventually.

This is especially important these days when good employees may be very hard to find.  It also educates you on electronics and such.  Hopefully you are working in production for a while too so that when it comes time to do more engineering work, you will know what types of things are important to get right for production.

Our company is this way and can see when someone is useful.  Hopefully your company is like this. We REALLY like to keep those kind of people and want them to be happy and stick around to be useful...  Competition for passionate employees will allow you to make more money as well just so that you will want to stay there.

Then again, there are companies, usually larger ones, that are run by bean counters and managers that could give a crap.  You can give this a good try at least.  If it doesn't pan out, then you have hopefully learned some valuable lessons along the way and somewhere else will see you more valuable.

boB
K7IQ
 

Offline rstofer

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2018, 09:27:32 pm »
At least one company I worked for paid money for ideas they accepted.  Another company paid a percentage of the savings.  Sometimes that amounted to a LOT of money.  Typically, these bonuses were only available to hourly employees.  Salary employees were expected to come up with ideas in their daily work.

I would say that every company I worked for would require a degree before promotion to the level of 'engineer'.  It's just a cost of entry.  There are always very talented techs but I haven't seen any promoted to engineer.  Other companies may have a different view.

One company paid for my MS degree.  It wasn't terribly expensive but it was a nice perk.

If I were getting paid by the hour, as I was early in my career, I don't think I would take much home.  On salary, where career growth is important, sure, I might do some of that on my own time.

There needs to be a work-life balance and when there is any doubt, it should favor life.  Work will always be there.

Then there is my rule:  If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing for money!
 

Offline ignator

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2018, 01:14:19 am »
Sparks; if your moving 1042 miles, can you afford the housing cost there. I would never move to the SF bay area, as you would have to bust your butt as well your wife, to survive. And in the end the stress could kill your relationship. Is the new destination a place you and your wife want to live?
 

Offline Sparks

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2018, 08:54:17 pm »
So much for that idea. The engineering department here is a glorified tech support center. The actual engineering is in South Korea. No way I'm moving my family to the other side of the world. Suppose it would still look good when it comes time to join another team one day.

Sent from my Moto Z (2) using Tapatalk

 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2018, 09:55:36 pm »
Another factor to consider is how your work improves the companies bottom line.  Read viability.  If your company continues to survive, your job likely will also.  While it would be nice to be directly financially rewarded for this work, it may not be the only consideration.

Various unionized industries in the US have found that maximizing individual income is not always the optimum long term strategy.
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2018, 10:09:58 pm »
Iit sounds like something you enjoy and could further your career. Now it's a matter of making sure you get paid for your time. It's not a hobby. Maybe you can propose an idea and negotiate some time you can spend on working out the details.
 

Offline ebclr

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2018, 12:13:33 pm »
If I'm your boss and I knew this question, I will fire you next day
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2018, 12:26:49 pm »
If I'm your boss and I knew this question, I will fire you next day
Cool story.

Besides, there's a certain type of bosses who expect their employees to work for free and those don't tend to be the good ones. Oh, and labour protection laws. Those bosses love those.
 

Offline lowimpedance

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2018, 01:21:29 pm »
If I'm your boss and I knew this question, I will fire you next day
Any relation to Henry Ford by chance  :-//
The odd multimeter or 2 or 3 or 4...or........can't remember !.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2018, 03:13:01 pm »
If I'm your boss and I knew this question, I will fire you next day

Thankfully you're not my boss, and I sincerely hope that I never have to work for someone with your attitude.
 

Offline Sparks

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Re: "Free" Engineering for work
« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2018, 06:44:35 pm »
If I'm your boss and I knew this question, I will fire you next day
So because i question how much time I should donate to the company to further development you would fire me? My team sees that my past employments which encouraged out of the box thinking and problem solving had shaped my way of thinking. I am the one of few who had even submitted any changes. Much of my team would like to sit home collecting a paycheck until they are needed whereas I am proactive in performing PM visits and reading any manual or documentation put out on the machines. If I had a boss with your attitude I'd quit and find a firm that isn't going to demand I work on every little idea that would make you a dime on my own spare time.
 


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