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About to enrol on HNC in Electronic Design

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I was wondering what opinions people here have of this course, or others like it? I was lucky enough to get funding from my current employer but I'm hoping it'll help to serve as a meal ticket to something a little more fulfilling (not necessarily massive salaries though I don't really need one, having inexpensive tastes).

My current role is a test technician, with plenty of assembly line experience on the products to back it up, and a BTEC Level 3 in Electronics (distinction). What I want is to make the transition from carrying out someone else's test spec, to being told "Hey Bullet, we need a magic test box that does X, Y and interfaces to Z, you got a week to build us one".

From there it would be nice to occasionally have some input in turning engineer's "back of a fag packet" sketches into a manufacturable product. Am I on the right sort of path? What else should I do to get from where I am to where I'd like to be? Any input from those who have studied recently at this level would be very much appreciated :D

I do what you want to do... I design test jigs, write test documentation etc in a small team of 5 (1 snr eng, 3 eng, 2 wiring/techs).

It's a load of bollox in my opinion everywhere I've worked, and i've worked for a few medium-sized companies (200+ employees on factory floor)

The worst is the repair of old jigs from the 90s. Dodgy mains etc. The test technicians have no care for the jigs I design, constantly carry them around by the leads and drop them, expecting us to repair them!

Designing test jigs is fun yeah, but when you're designing them at the same time as the product is being designed, then the customer suddenly decides to change something or "it would be nice to test for this thing you havent put in the jig". The other thing is the timescales: you normally have a lot less budget and time to create a jig because no one really thinks about it.

You pretty much back up what my predecessors told me before they left for jobs that pissed them off less :P But I'm facing up the reality that I'm not R&D engineer quality and I'm trying to make the best of what I can do.

If you'll excuse the personal question, is what you earn enough to make up for the hassle?  >:D

I consider myself fairly lucky to be on £16.4K right now, given I was a "risk", and my BTEC was funded by the company too.... I'd like to get up to around £18K-ish as the south of England is ridiculously expensive if you're single and have no savings/assets (I started with a rucksack of spare undies and socks!).

Bollocks, I can deal with. Idiots, I can deal with (been one, still am in some areas)... I just need to sneak up the ladder one rung at a time and this is the next one :D


--- Quote from: BulletMagnet83 on August 21, 2015, 10:01:35 pm ---You pretty much back up what my predecessors told me before they left for jobs that pissed them off less :P But I'm facing up the reality that I'm not R&D engineer quality and I'm trying to make the best of what I can do.

--- End quote ---

There's a fine line between realism and unjustified self-doubt. (And a big gap between realism and the Dunning-Krueger effect :) ) I would hope and expect that your skills and weaknesses will be counterbalanced by those of R&D engineers in your team. For any medium to big project, a range of skills and personalities is required for the team to be successful. I've always liked this set of team roles/personalities: ideas man, critic, worker, finisher, contacts man, chairman. If everybody is a "ideas man" then they's have great fun and produce nothing. If everybody is a finisher, then nothing will be started, etc.

You may like to find whether your predecessors the new jobs are better, or whether the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.

Make the most of the opportunities that come your way, and have fun.

I will let you in on a dirty little secret:
Most of the R&D guys and gals out there just ain't that good (And there are a huge number of jobs where that is just fine, because it is more product design then research)!

A few tips:

1: Learn at least some mechanical design (And drafting!) skills, knowing how to really interpret a mechanical drawing is stupidly useful, as is knowing when one is just wrong (Horrifyingly common to get something from some solidworks only type who does not understand that setting zero decimal places on the export is not going to result in connectors fitting in the holes, or that tolerances actually matter)....
1(b): Learn at least the basics of a modern mechanical cad package, Solidworks, Pro-E, Rhino, Autocad, Turbocad, whatever, the concepts more or less apply to all of them and it is another stupidly useful skill. 

2: Learn the C programming language as it applies to small machines, practically everything you do these days will have some sort of tiny micro in it one way or another, and this can include test jigs, being a hardware guy with competent C and assembler for the likely small cores is a pretty potent combo out there when job hunting....

3: learn how JTAG works in detail, also try to learn the way the commercial tools work (XJtag springs to mind), for a tester being able to  make this work well is more then somewhat useful.

4: Learn MATLAB, also (spit) LabView, both a little niche, both in demand that is not going away any time soon for test automation.

5: Get a full amateur radio license, not hard if you are doing a HND, but it still opens some doors (Given how pony the multiple guess exams are now this is surprising but true).

Good luck, I got a £25K gig in Yorkshire on the back of the Ham Ticket and fast talking (more or less), and two years later leveraged that and some old pro audio experience into a broadcast equipment design job in the south east @£40K+, so it can be done even without a degree.

Regards, Dan.


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