Author Topic: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer  (Read 24945 times)

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Offline DmitryL

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #50 on: January 31, 2015, 12:06:22 am »
No offence to any contractors, but engineering is not a commodity.

Well said.. now try to tell this to a bunch of managers above you :)
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #51 on: January 31, 2015, 12:35:34 am »
He wrote it exactly to spec. It was extremely hard to use, but technically met the requirements.
If you give a contractor a spec and he doesn't find things misssing or wrong with it, find someone else.
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Online nctnico

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #52 on: January 31, 2015, 01:00:16 am »
I dislike contractors. Not personally or anything, but they have a habit of coming in, not really understanding the product or the problem, doing a half-arsed job that they know they won't have to maintain and buggering off. I'm currently re-doing a big ATE project pretty much from scratch because of that. In the past we have had bad experiences too.
Hiring the cheapest contractor has that effect  >:D
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Offline rx8pilot

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #53 on: January 31, 2015, 01:20:39 am »
I have had good and bad contractor experiences. Sometimes we did not communicate well and sometimes the contractor was not up to the task. I learned quickly that the process of vetting a contractor well enough to minimize risk often was more than it was worth. If we had a long term need, we would hire someone full time. If we have a short term need, I don't want to spend a ton of time getting an outsider up to speed enough to do a good job on top of the rate which is generally 2x the normal rate (which is fair for this type of work). There are VERY few engineers that can take a concept and successfully ask the right questions to get going. Beyond being hard to find, they need a lot of money to keep around raising the risk factor.

I now simply skip projects that can only happen if I get contractors. We do what we can and I don't have the stress of dealing with the outside. Maybe someday I will find an amazing freelancer that will change that.
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Online Howardlong

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #54 on: January 31, 2015, 01:53:39 am »
I dislike contractors. Not personally or anything, but they have a habit of coming in, not really understanding the product or the problem, doing a half-arsed job that they know they won't have to maintain and buggering off. I'm currently re-doing a big ATE project pretty much from scratch because of that. In the past we have had bad experiences too.

There was one guy who wrote some firmware. He wrote it exactly to spec. It was extremely hard to use, but technically met the requirements. We noticed that if you entered more than 80 characters into the serial terminal it would crash because he didn't bother checking the buffer size. His response was that the spec didn't say it had to, and no commands were >80 characters so it was user error. So basically you have to write a watertight deal-with-the-devil spec, pay more later to get the issues fixed or put in a "must not be shit" clause and try to argue it.

No offence to any contractors, but engineering is not a commodity.

*cough* do I detect a modicum of prejudice creeping in perchance?  ;)

It also depends on how they are managed as well as the individual.

Personally I like the fact that I am still asked back to do stuff at places I've worked at, I think that says a lot. But equally like you I've dealt with some real wankers too, the sort where if you don't specify exactly what you're looking for they won't give you a relevant answer. But that can apply to permies too although tends to be to a lesser extent.

Not all contractors are the same. And you never know, you might one day find yourself liberated too!

Edit to add...

My longest "contract" lasted 17 years. Far longer than most permie jobs, same desk, five different offices, six different takeover/mergers and more bosses than I have fingers that's for sure. Sage words from Mike, if the individual is not asking for more information around a given scenario, then you're going to get what you're going to get. Not dealing beyond 80 characters is unforgivable schoolboy stuff, s/he should be made aware and if s/he doesn't care then he might need to consider another career. But equally, I had a permie write some code for a financial application that rolled over to the 13th month instead of incrementing the year and resetting the month to January. He still gets piss take for that from me 20+ years later.

If you think contractors are bad now, you should've been around during Y2K...
« Last Edit: January 31, 2015, 02:09:58 am by Howardlong »
 

Offline KJDS

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #55 on: January 31, 2015, 09:34:21 am »
I've worked with good and bad contractors

I've worked with good and bad permies.

Generally, a bad contractor doesn't last long and doesn't get invited back, whereas a permie, once his feet are under the desk can be a nightmare to remove.

It's careless in the extreme to slag off all contractors, or all permies just because of a few bad experiences.

Offline AndyC_772

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #56 on: January 31, 2015, 10:18:58 am »
they have a habit of coming in, not really understanding the product or the problem, doing a half-arsed job that they know they won't have to maintain and buggering off.

I think you'll find there are two types of contractor; those who can't get or keep a permanent job, and those who have the technical and commercial skills to make a successful business out of selling their time and expertise.

A good contractor, just like any other good engineer, will take the time to understand the project, its context, how it will be used and so on. Bear in mind that you may live and breathe a particular product every day, but to someone coming in from the outside it's completely new, and although your project may well be within their skill set, it's outside of their previous experience.

An example: I had a call from a company a few years ago asking whether or not I knew anything about "test". (Yes, that was it. "Test".)

I thought about it for a moment, and said "yes". After all, I've designed, built, programmed and operated ATE, and spent the last 10 years designing products with BITE, JTAG and so on. So yes, I know about testing electronic products, and I thought I could probably help them.

It turned out that what they really wanted was someone who was, very specifically, familiar with the process of testing unpackaged semiconductor dice in a wafer fab - but never thought to mention this important detail. And why should they? It's all they did, day-in, day-out, and they'd been given my name and a recommendation. They assumed I worked in the exact same industry, and instinctively knew exactly what they meant by "test". We went our separate ways.

That's an extreme example, but I think it illustrates the point that both parties share responsibility for making sure an engineer knows exactly what's needed. I've done quite a few jobs where the customer has needed some coaxing to reveal important information about a system - sometimes with a degree of reluctance, even, where proprietary IP is involved. But without that extra knowledge, I couldn't guarantee that the products I designed would actually have been fit for purpose.

It's my job to know what needs to be in the spec, and to make sure the information is there before I can give a quote or get started. Not all engineers really understand this, regardless of whether they're employed or hired by the hour.

Offline gregariz

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #57 on: January 31, 2015, 12:00:51 pm »
it would be nice to see more job ads on this forum. 

+1


btw, you may want to rethink this one line:

- have an excellent academic background, including a degree in Electronic Engineering (or a related subject) from a respected university

lots of people are good at the stuff you are looking for, but may not have a degree or degree from a snooty named place.
AndyC is trying to grow his business and put the best image forward to potential clients so its an entirely reasonable request. So the person needs to be practical, technically excellent and have a degree. There are plenty of degree'd people who fit that bill.

BTW AndyC I like hearing about success stories like these so I'd love to know how you got started?
 

Online tggzzz

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #58 on: January 31, 2015, 12:08:16 pm »
they have a habit of coming in, not really understanding the product or the problem, doing a half-arsed job that they know they won't have to maintain and buggering off.

I think you'll find there are two types of contractor; those who can't get or keep a permanent job, and those who have the technical and commercial skills to make a successful business out of selling their time and expertise.

A good contractor, just like any other good engineer, will take the time to understand the project, its context, how it will be used and so on. Bear in mind that you may live and breathe a particular product every day, but to someone coming in from the outside it's completely new, and although your project may well be within their skill set, it's outside of their previous experience.

An example: I had a call from a company a few years ago asking whether or not I knew anything about "test". (Yes, that was it. "Test".)

I thought about it for a moment, and said "yes". After all, I've designed, built, programmed and operated ATE, and spent the last 10 years designing products with BITE, JTAG and so on. So yes, I know about testing electronic products, and I thought I could probably help them.

It turned out that what they really wanted was someone who was, very specifically, familiar with the process of testing unpackaged semiconductor dice in a wafer fab - but never thought to mention this important detail. And why should they? It's all they did, day-in, day-out, and they'd been given my name and a recommendation. They assumed I worked in the exact same industry, and instinctively knew exactly what they meant by "test". We went our separate ways.

That's an extreme example, but I think it illustrates the point that both parties share responsibility for making sure an engineer knows exactly what's needed. I've done quite a few jobs where the customer has needed some coaxing to reveal important information about a system - sometimes with a degree of reluctance, even, where proprietary IP is involved. But without that extra knowledge, I couldn't guarantee that the products I designed would actually have been fit for purpose.

It's my job to know what needs to be in the spec, and to make sure the information is there before I can give a quote or get started. Not all engineers really understand this, regardless of whether they're employed or hired by the hour.

A common and less extreme example is that clients frequently ask you to implement their solution. A wise engineer will then do some basic "knowledge elicitation" to discover their problem. Frequently you discover that their solution won't cure their problem, or there is a much simpler/cheaper way to solver their problem. Sometimes they don't actually realise that their problem isn't technical in the first place, and that a non-technical solution will solve their woes!
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
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Offline AndyC_772

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #59 on: January 31, 2015, 01:53:33 pm »
AndyC is trying to grow his business and put the best image forward to potential clients so its an entirely reasonable request. So the person needs to be practical, technically excellent and have a degree. There are plenty of degree'd people who fit that bill.

BTW AndyC I like hearing about success stories like these so I'd love to know how you got started?

Thank you. A few encouraging words mean a lot.

I've worked as a salaried employee for the last 15 years or so. My first job out of university was as a junior engineer, and over the years I worked my way up to being a senior engineer in a larger firm. I always felt I was being 'pigeon-holed', though.. good at my job within its bounds (designing circuits that work well and don't get sent back), but not to be allowed anywhere near the customers. I found that frustrating, as there was clearly a layer of obfuscation being imposed between the people who had problems, and the people who were potentially able to solve them.

A few years ago, a former colleague now working for another firm called me and said they had a technical problem that their own engineers couldn't solve, and asked me if I'd be interested in taking a look. I fixed the problem, produced a little report describing what it was and how I'd fixed it, sent them a bill, and thought nothing more of it.

Not long after, he called me again to say how impressed the team were with the work I'd done, and offered me regular work for 1 day a week. At the time I was getting a bit fed up with my full time job anyway, so I decided to take the risk and ask my boss for a reduction in my working week. "How would you like to save a few quid on the R&D budget?", was how I phrased it.

To cut a long story short, I ended up working a 3 day week, plus one day at the new company, and one day where I had to start finding my own customers independently. Once word got around that I was available, though, the phone started to ring, and I gradually found my '5th day' getting busier.

The first year, I did have days where I genuinely had no work to do. It was a little unsettling, but I put them to good use learning new skills that I thought might become useful one day. I'd been strictly hardware focused before, but since I now have to deliver complete products on my own without the benefit of a team to fill in my skills gaps, I now spend as much time writing embedded firmware as I do designing the boards it runs on. Those quiet days were the ones I used to study microcontrollers and learn C, and the effort has paid off a hundred times over.

By halfway through last year, I was working 7 days a week and it was starting to get on top of me, so I quit my job to focus on my own customers full time. I hoped that by giving up 3 days' work, that would mean I'd be working a 4 day week and would have long weekends to enjoy. I'd have time to be out riding my motorcycle, or taking photographs, or whatever else took my fancy. Work/life balance and all that.

It didn't work out like that! Four days soon became 5, then 6, then 7 again. Frankly, I should be working right now, and as soon as my cup of tea has soaked in, I'll be back in the lab.

A lot of it is about who you know. I'm eternally grateful to my friends, colleagues and other business contacts who have put me in touch with potential customers, and who have said nice things about the work I've done. So far, with only a few exceptions, they are the only way I've found work - or perhaps more accurately, work has found me. And I'm struggling to keep up with it all.

Offline linux-works

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #60 on: January 31, 2015, 05:51:47 pm »
btw, you may want to rethink this one line:

- have an excellent academic background, including a degree in Electronic Engineering (or a related subject) from a respected university

lots of people are good at the stuff you are looking for, but may not have a degree or degree from a snooty named place.
AndyC is trying to grow his business and put the best image forward to potential clients so its an entirely reasonable request. So the person needs to be practical, technically excellent and have a degree. There are plenty of degree'd people who fit that bill.

I still think the degree is noise.  it may be relevant for recent grads, but if you have 2 yrs working experience, that will mostly shadow the school stuff and the school stuff quickly becomes irrelevant, very fast.  the only thing school is useful for is to teach you to think; and many people can do that perfectly well (maybe better!) without formal college.

all I'm saying is that you may miss a true 'star' if you insist on sheepskins.

of course, if you get a star AND that guys has his degree, fine.  but look for the star (with work experience under his belt), first; the degree is secondary.
 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #61 on: January 31, 2015, 07:14:54 pm »
The degree is more than just the knowledge acquired at college.

Self taught people tend to pick bad habits or they might not know how to work with others, or lack the discipline to learn a thing through without getting distracted with other aspects, or they stop researching once they have something that will work without digging deeper for a full understanding.

I wonder how many grand piano masters are self taught?
 

Online tggzzz

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #62 on: January 31, 2015, 07:26:45 pm »
The degree is more than just the knowledge acquired at college.

Self taught people tend to pick bad habits or they might not know how to work with others, or lack the discipline to learn a thing through without getting distracted with other aspects, or they stop researching once they have something that will work without digging deeper for a full understanding.

I wonder how many grand piano masters are self taught?

While I agree with you, someone is sure to point out that graduates can pick up bad habits etc.

One thing I have noticed is that people with degrees are less prone to assuming that their viewpoint is the only valid/correct viewpoint.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline AndyC_772

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #63 on: January 31, 2015, 08:06:56 pm »
I guess as I'm the one specifying that applicants should have a degree, I should probably chip in here.

Almost all the good engineers I know, do have degrees. I've come across one or two who don't, but they're in a tiny minority, and are certainly outnumbered by people who don't have degrees and have a chip on their shoulder about people who do.

In my line of work - even before I started doing consultancy across a wide range of industries, but even more so now I do - I regularly find myself having to solve problems in areas that I've not come across before. I don't have experience to fall back on, and I'm sure we've all found ourselves in a similar position.

It's the sound theoretical background that I fall back on whenever I lack relevant experience. Knowing about how a control loop works, or how heat flows, or how waves propagate, have all been invaluable at one time or another - and not in a context I'd merely come across in a previous project.

I could go on, but suffice to say I think I'm a much better engineer today than I would be if I'd not spent four years learning the science, and its consequences, that underpin our industry.

Offline IanB

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #64 on: January 31, 2015, 08:19:19 pm »
I could go on, but suffice to say I think I'm a much better engineer today than I would be if I'd not spent four years learning the science, and its consequences, that underpin our industry.

 :-+

I think at least half of an engineering degree is getting a solid foundation in general scientific principles and their application.
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?
 

Online tggzzz

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #65 on: January 31, 2015, 08:20:58 pm »
I guess as I'm the one specifying that applicants should have a degree, I should probably chip in here.

Almost all the good engineers I know, do have degrees. I've come across one or two who don't, but they're in a tiny minority, and are certainly outnumbered by people who don't have degrees and have a chip on their shoulder about people who do.

In my line of work - even before I started doing consultancy across a wide range of industries, but even more so now I do - I regularly find myself having to solve problems in areas that I've not come across before. I don't have experience to fall back on, and I'm sure we've all found ourselves in a similar position.

It's the sound theoretical background that I fall back on whenever I lack relevant experience. Knowing about how a control loop works, or how heat flows, or how waves propagate, have all been invaluable at one time or another - and not in a context I'd merely come across in a previous project.

I could go on, but suffice to say I think I'm a much better engineer today than I would be if I'd not spent four years learning the science, and its consequences, that underpin our industry.

Precisely. In all respects.

I'm continually unpleasantly surprised by the people that almost state they think degrees have little value. As with any community, there is an element of having a self-selected audience and confirmatory bias. I hope the inexperienced can see past that.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline tom66

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #66 on: January 31, 2015, 08:26:17 pm »
The anti-institutional bias here is quite strong. The theory at my university is incredibly useful. However, I take one look at most of the students in my class, and wonder if they will ever get a job. Few can solder to even a reasonable level, even fewer can program or read a basic schematic. It really is baffling.
 

Offline zapta

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #67 on: January 31, 2015, 08:34:34 pm »
Self taught people tend to pick bad habits or they might not know how to work with others, or lack the discipline to learn a thing through without getting distracted with other aspects, or they stop researching once they have something that will work without digging deeper for a full understanding.

I have formal education in some disciplines and am self thought in others and the difference in depth of understanding is obvious. The formal education forces you to go through all those difficult and often boring details of the theory.
Drain the swamp.
 

Online nctnico

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #68 on: January 31, 2015, 08:42:15 pm »
The anti-institutional bias here is quite strong. The theory at my university is incredibly useful. However, I take one look at most of the students in my class, and wonder if they will ever get a job. Few can solder to even a reasonable level, even fewer can program or read a basic schematic. It really is baffling.
What is also baffling is that some manage to get a degree without knowing anything they should have learned in those 4 years. Still I'm with Andy about spending 4 years on learning the theory!
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline djsb

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #69 on: January 31, 2015, 08:57:23 pm »
What's important is Enthusiasm and a willingness to learn whatever age you are.  I learn something new every day where I work and I meet some wonderful students. Or maybe I only see my own enthusiasm reflected back. I hope Andy finds someone who can help him in his business.
David
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Offline KJDS

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #70 on: January 31, 2015, 08:59:37 pm »
I went to see a customer a few years ago and he was in a bad mood, having spent his morning teaching people with Masters degrees to solder.

I pointed out that I'd rather spend a morning teaching someone to solder then a couple of months to get them proficient in control theory.

I actually had a half day lesson at university on soldering, not much, but enough to learn the basics. We also had an evening course through the first year learning proper metalworking, learning how to set up lathes and milling machines, welding and casting and that has occasionally been useful through my career.

Whilst I do believe that the theory and mathematics is the most important part of an engineering degree it would be better if some effort was made on real practical stuff.

Online tggzzz

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #71 on: January 31, 2015, 09:42:02 pm »
I pointed out that I'd rather spend a morning teaching someone to solder then a couple of months to get them proficient in control theory.

:)

Quote
Whilst I do believe that the theory and mathematics is the most important part of an engineering degree it would be better if some effort was made on real practical stuff.

If there's no practical, then it isn't a real engineering degree. Ditto theory.

Theory without practice is mental masturbation; practice without theory is blind fumbling.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Glider pilot's aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
Having fun doing more, with less
 

Offline jpb

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #72 on: January 31, 2015, 10:19:22 pm »
Speaking as someone with an electronic degree (actually engineering science) I too have found the theory very useful in odd circumstances for example working out the structural soundness of a gold air bridge on a monolithic microwave integrated circuit.

But I would worry about someone who did an electronics degree without having sufficient interest in the subject to have done some hobby electronics including soldering. I got interested in electronics first and then chose to do it for a degree rather than say physics or maths which I might have done instead.

 

Offline AndyC_772

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #73 on: January 31, 2015, 10:37:07 pm »
That's precisely why I chose to post the vacancy here first, before going via general job sites or agencies.

Chances are, if you're reading this, you're interested in electronics.

Online Howardlong

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Re: [UK] Job ad: Wanted, electronic engineer
« Reply #74 on: February 01, 2015, 08:45:32 am »
I find that the bad contractors often get brought back repeatedly because it isn't obvious to management that they are bad. The product kinda works and when it needs updating they just get the same person back to do it. Sure, it takes them longer because of the crap design, but management doesn't know that.

The good contractors tend to become permanent anyway.

Interesting comments MC, because when I was doing contracts I found it was exactly the opposite! A complete generalisation, but I found that it was the more mediocre contractors were the ones who became permies. The really rubbish ones didn't see their contracts to full term. The good ones remained contractors. Indeed, it was not uncommon for good permies to leave on a Friday and come back on Monday as a contractor (that was indeed an offer I had, but declined, when I switched from permie to contractor).

It sounds like either your management are not very good or maybe there's something else? I am not sure how old you are but when I was much younger, as a permie, I have to say that I used to resent the way contractors were parachuted in for a few weeks or months and then disappeared.

When I switched to doing contract work myself I realised that the best way to survive was to take care in the work I did, and if that meant I did some of it at my own expense in my own time on occasion then so be it, but that was rare. The last contract I did I was brought in to a completely different role in a different area of a company I'd worked at before, based on an internal recommendation. They have indeed asked me back yet again since, but I have regretfully declined as I was busy working on my own projects. However I still get invited to, and attend, their team social events even though I haven't worked there for 2 1/2 years!

Why don't you have a chat with your manager about it? If you have resentment about the use of contractors, and how it's making you feel, as a permie you ought to be able to discuss that. If you don't think you want to, for whatever reason, maybe it's time to consider working somewhere different that is more in touch with their employees?
 


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