Author Topic: Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice  (Read 614 times)

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Offline jackbob

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Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice
« on: January 20, 2019, 04:00:20 am »
Hello EEVbloggers, I have come here to seek some insight into a specific career field, power electronics design. I have aspired to enter this field since high school and now I am approaching the last year of my bachelors in electrical engineering. I have always been interested in power fields and currently have a very good opportunity lined up with an established utility in Southern California. I am a paid student intern with a high chance of being hired on as an engineer for the utility when I graduate. This new opportunity has slowly been separating me from my dream of working in the field of power electronics. For one, the pay is amazing and the workload is very manageable (it seems so even for the engineers I work with). The job is very high level and not too technical. I am one who enjoys a bit of a technical challenge and really like design work but I would hate to leave this great opportunity here to end up working some high-stress job at a company like Tesla and make half the salary. The work I do for the utility is very cookie cutter like. We have standards and practices that are used over continuously and I feel like I don't get to really do as much of my own design work as I would like. I also like to work with hardware a bit, such as designing a project then testing and refining the design in a lab setting, something I don't get working in the utility industry. One thing I learned from working this job is that all the technical stuff you learn in school gets replaced by computer simulations and software, at least in the utility industry.

I would really like understand the design industry better. I would appreciate any advice from engineers in the electronics design industry, particularly power electronics. What is the job like? I have the perception that power electronics design engineers are highly experienced analog design engineers who know all the equations from my power electronics textbook off the top of their head. I feel as if the field is very competitive and difficult to enter. Any job listing for power electronics or analog design wants 10-15 years of relevant experience. I would like to apply for internships to get a better feel for this industry but I feel very confident I can land a solid job at the utility company and don't want to risk giving that up. Thank you for any responses, they are very much appreciated.
 

Offline Benta

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Re: Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2019, 06:41:53 pm »
This is a situation where you need to find a Mentor.
Power electronics design is for someone who knows the basics, but additionally has had sufficient designs blow up. In short: lots of pitfalls to avoid compared to eg, digital design. This is one of the reasons behind "10...15 years experience".
It's always expensive when power electronics blow up.

Now, how to find a Mentor is a different story...
 

Online coppercone2

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Re: Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2019, 06:44:26 pm »
looking for 20 years experience with solidworks 2018.  :palm:

they also want you to levitate along with that 15 years experience to put a dc/dc converter IC down and fly to the compliance lab.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 06:46:01 pm by coppercone2 »
 

Offline floobydust

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Re: Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2019, 07:11:20 pm »
Power electronics is trial by fire, things blow up if you get it wrong. I would suggest first getting a good background in electronics. Leaping into power electronics doesn't work for any EE I've known, just a lot of smoke results.

Working for a utility, as I have done, is a mistake if you want to do electronics design.
It's "catalogue engineering", application engineering. All you are doing is specifying protection and instrumentation/SCADA equipment, substation wiring diagrams, simulating faults. It's relatively easy compared to hardware design, and far off target. You'll rarely even use a soldering iron.
 

Offline jackbob

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Re: Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2019, 09:00:25 pm »
It's "catalogue engineering", application engineering. All you are doing is specifying protection and instrumentation/SCADA equipment, substation wiring diagrams, simulating faults. It's relatively easy compared to hardware design, and far off target. You'll rarely even use a soldering iron.

This exactly describes the work I do at the utility! Except I highly doubt I would ever touch a soldering iron where I work.
As for my experience with power electronics, I wouldn't say I'm a complete beginner to where I need to learn basic electronics but I am far from an advanced level. I am at the point where I am just starting to specialize in power electronics and learn circuit topologies. I have built many projects myself and have had many trials by fire as you say. They don't teach much besides theory in school so all my practical experience in power electronics is from my own projects I do in my lab at home.

What is power electronics design most based off of? Experience, simulations, theory, other designs? Are engineers actually drafting a design and doing calculations with equations from a textbook or are they just taking a topology or other design and throwing it in a simulator and modifying it until they get it close enough to build?

I have heard before it is quite common to have a mentor and work alongside experienced power electronics design engineers for several years to gain experience. I would imagine this would be quite common at large companies such as ABB or GE to hire new engineers and facilitate the learning experience. At least that is how it is where I work, it may not apply here. The one thing is, I can never find entry-level power electronics jobs or internships posted.
 

Offline Smokey

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Re: Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2019, 09:21:52 am »
The problem with jobs in power electronics, like others here have said, is that you need experience to be good at it (acquired intuitions and a good design toolbox).  If you are good, there are all kinds of jobs out there.  It's just no one wants to train anyone.  That's an investment that doesn't usually pay off for the company (since job hopping is what people do once they get the experience). 

Sounds like you need to make some life decisions. 
In my opinion, if you have an opportunity for a stable job with good pay and reasonable stress levels that doesn't drive you absolutely crazy, then take it!  That's a win.  I wouldn't pass that up for something that you think you maybe might enjoy more but don't really know anything about now.  If you are young, you have nothing but time to sort that stuff out.  Who knows, you may HATE being an actual working engineer of any kind and go into marketing or something.
While you are working your average job, go off on your own and learn as much as you can.  Talk to your coworkers and see if any of them want to start a side project (or side business) making something fun.  Keep gaining understanding, and if at some point a better more fulfilling job comes along and you have learned enough, take the other job.

Not to crap on all your youthful dreams, but if you really follow a typical engineer's career path it goes something like this:
1) Graduate and work your ass off for a number of years.  Primary focus is on the job, usually neglecting other parts of life.  Put in WAY more work than they are actually paying you for.
2) Burn out a little, slow down, and get a significant other.  Appreciate spending time away from work a bit more than sleeping on the office couch.
3) Have a kid (or two), which takes priority in life (and all of your energy you used to use to work on stuff), and coast in your career. 

 

Offline jackbob

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Re: Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2019, 10:10:14 am »
Smokey, thank you for your insightful reply. You have affirmed what I have been thinking. I am still young with lots of opportunity for a wide variety of career choices. Although I doubt I will break out of engineering for marketing or gender studies, I could go many directions in engineering or other technical fields. I really enjoy engineering and don't see myself veering away from it anytime soon. Yes, sometimes I sit in class wondering what the hell I'm doing, but the challenge does drive me. As of now, all my time goes into my internship and school and whatever I have left I try to dig deeper into electronics design and build my own projects in my home lab. For now, I will hold on to my opportunity with the utility company and study electronics design on the side. If the right opportunity comes later on, I will take it. I see the opportunity at the utility company as providing a good work-life balance, something I don't care for too much now but I believe it will be very valuable in the future. Also, the pay is almost unbeatable, which again I don't mind as much now but in the future it will matter more. As for the more specific questions about the electronics design career, I will keep seeking engineers with relevant experience and get a better feel for the career before I decide to make a career change.

Thank you all! I appreciate the feedback.
 

Online coppercone2

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Re: Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2019, 07:46:31 pm »
how come you find power electronics interesting?* what is the boundary you want to touch when you design? (i.e. with analog it might be low noise, high stability, etc). i like small form factor when it comes to power because it makes stuff look sexy if you get it small (i.e. apple).

*without the 'yes man' and corporate bullshit brown nosing. I mean like what really interests you about the power electronics part of the circuit? what kind of projects are you interested in? its important to know these questions because you might end up thinking the job is a bunch of bullshit if you are trying to beat a cost spec on some PSU without any clear interest.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2019, 07:54:47 pm by coppercone2 »
 

Offline treez

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Re: Power Electronics Design Engineer Career Question/Advice
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2019, 07:58:28 pm »
if you want to know about general SMPS design, please email me for my free course in it...it is on google drive link
andymassey22@gmail.com

Also, there is a word doc here which gives  info on some aspects of smps design in companies
https://massey276.wixsite.com/ukelectronics

Also, my guide to a degree in electronics in uk gives a run down of the differrent sectors including PE
https://massey276.wixsite.com/electronicsdegree

PE is very very varied.....it can be a huge tidal generator station...or just a  wincey little led driver like on the first page of this doc...
https://www.diodes.com/assets/Datasheets/ZXLD1366.pdf

if i was back at  college now, i would have picked a solar inverter project..i reckon thats a big market coming
« Last Edit: January 22, 2019, 08:18:01 pm by treez »
 


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