Author Topic: Advice - How to join a big hardware design company?  (Read 994 times)

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Offline alex34

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Advice - How to join a big hardware design company?
« on: November 08, 2020, 05:58:09 pm »
Hello.
I've been working as a hardware designer for several years. Now I want to get into some big company with large hardware design expertise. Not sure what the company is, maybe Samsung or something. I'm more interested in research development rather than mainline customer development (but customer development is acceptable too). 
So, my questions are:
- how to raise my chances to be applied? Maybe develop a demo PCB to show my skills? Switch to the most popular CAD? (BTW, what it is?). Improve my skills in some hardware areas?
I realize that it depends on the particular company, but maybe there are some common rules?
PS: sorry for my poor English )
 

Online dunkemhigh

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Re: Advice - How to join a big hardware design company?
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2020, 07:32:53 pm »
Don't  know about the likes of Samsung and similar, but you may find that just getting into the company at all is a big step up. You could be hanging around forever for an R&D opportunity to crop up, and then it's your qualifications vs world+dog. OTOH, if you're already in the company you get to know of openings coming up, and you've already impressed (hopefully!) the relevant people with your abilities. So maybe just go in on whatever job happens along in the appropriate department and work your way up from there.
 

Offline Electro Fan

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Re: Advice - How to join a big hardware design company?
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2020, 11:20:45 pm »
This is adapted from another similar thread:

One of the most common rules is to work backward from the objective, which requires knowing the objective.  In this case, the more you know about the company and a specific job opportunity the better; otherwise you might be trying to present a general solution to a problem when one of your competitors (another candidate of which there might be many) is presenting a specific solution to the specific problem.  Generally, a hiring company has something reasonably clearly in mind when they are hiring someone otherwise the budget for that position would not have been approved.  Every job has some job specs which the interviewers might or might not fully understand, but the more you as the candidate understand the company's overall understanding and each interviewer's individual understanding of the job specs the better you can address the job specs.

So make sure your resume is up to date and ready to go but don’t just send it when an opportunity appears; tune it so that your resume's objective, summary, and key accomplishments speak to the specific requirements as reflected by the job description and research and any discussions with the company regarding the opportunity. 

Too many otherwise hard working people skip the resume tuning step.  Why is this a mistake?  Because there are a lot of things you could do, but there is something specific the company is looking for (experience, knowledge, skills, etc.).  If what the company realizes you can do and what they are looking for line up it's good, but if they don't line up it could be a missed opportunity for both you and the company.

Let’s say you want to earn $100k per year.  With benefits and overhead it might cost the company $150k per year, and they hope you will stay for at least 3 years and probably longer - so it’s a ~$500k decision they are making.  If you were trying to help the engineering and business team write a customer proposal for half a million dollars worth of products or services would you take a generic word doc from the computer and send it as is to the customer, or would you edit it to present a solution that best fits what you believe to be the customer’s specific buying criteria?

Spend sufficient time and effort on the resume to make sure it is tuned to the company you are pursuing and the responsibilities you will be undertaking.  It can help you get the interview, and it can also help the people in the hiring company who vote for you over other candidates make the case for you on your behalf.  The resume alone won’t necessarily get you the interview and the resume alone won't win you the job but it can help you throughout the company’s decision-making process. 

Think how much time you spend analyzing and comparing products you buy for less than $1,000.  Almost everyone has decision-making criteria for every decision they make.  The bigger and more important the decision the more the criteria will be considered.  Don't assume that whatever you previously wrote on your resume addresses the decision-making criteria for a new opportunity.  It might or might not be close, but why go ready fire aim when you can go ready aim fire?

And once you get the first interview put similar effort also into your interviews/technical discussions and demonstrations, and the negotiating/closing stages.  When it counts, you need to be prepared to go the second mile.
 
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Online Cerebus

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Re: Advice - How to join a big hardware design company?
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2020, 11:43:07 pm »
I'll take a somewhat different tack. Don't do it.

In my experience the bigger the company the more of a pain in the arse it is to work there, assuming that you want to work and get things done. If you just want to sit on your arse, do the minimum and get paid, a large company is a great place to be.

Things that can take minutes to hours to get done in a small to medium sized company, like say a £50 purchase*, can take weeks, even months to get done in a large company. There is lot more internal politics, and it becomes unavoidable, even crippling, in large companies. Procedures and rules that probably made sense at some point have fossilized and become part of the culture and keep accumulating. The list of drawbacks keeps coming.

I've worked in or for or consulted to outfits of roughly 10, 50, 100, 1000, and > 10,000 employees. The <1000 have always been capable of being fun, the 1000 head count is OK, the >10,000 head count is hellish - you spend more time negotiating the rules, the politics, the inertia than you do actually doing your job.

Small and medium sized companies have a 'corporate intelligence' that is something like the average of the employees individual intelligences. Large companies have the corporate intelligence of the stupidest person who wields any real power.


*That's a real example. I was consulting for a huge company a while back. A crucial £50 software licence purchase, already approved by the relevant project manager and budget holder, took three months to happen - even with chasing. It resulted in several thousand pounds of wasted time because people couldn't get on with things. In any of the small companies I've worked with or for, it would have happened in minutes, perhaps hours, no more than a day.
Anybody got a syringe I can use to squeeze the magic smoke back into this?
 
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Offline Electro Fan

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Re: Advice - How to join a big hardware design company?
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2020, 01:52:28 am »
What Cerebus says has a lot of truth and experience to it but it's good to be careful to apply the experience to the particular situation.

For example, if you are going to be a go-getter change-agent the ability to effect change will probably (but not always) be increasingly difficult as the company gets larger.  In general, in a company with 10k people it might be difficult for even the CEO to make material change.

Likewise, if you are a whatever-it-takes make-it-up as you go middle manager who is ready to ask for forgiveness more often than permission you might be able to make your approach work better in a company with 500 people than 5k people.

On the other hand, if you are early in your career and you are not exactly sure how the big companies operate (many of which make their size and inertia often work for their employees as well as for the company itself - rather than against the employees) you might have some reasons to work for a big company - 1) you can learn how the big company operates and you can take the good with you later in your career while avoiding or discarding the bad, and 2) once you have the name brand pedigree on your resume with some meaningful accomplishments it will help you land opportunities because the name brand big company pedigree will become part of your pedigree.  For every hiring manager who says "golly, I'd never hire someone who successfully performed at Samsung" there will be 10-100 hiring managers who will see it as a positive mark of distinction.  In other words, if two candidates early in their career with similar skill sets have 7 years total experience and one candidate has worked at two places no one has ever heard of, and the other candidate has worked at one no name plus Samsung, or Samsung plus Intel, the candidate with Samsung (or Samsung plus Intel) on their resume is going to win all else being equal.  (Of course for every “rule” there is an exception:  if the hiring manager has come to believe that all employees for all big companies are lazy and incompetent they might take the candidate who they think has shown how to make progress on their own with little or no structure to support them.) 

Before going small or flat out entrepreneurial it can be worth getting trained and worth gaining the good house keeping seal of approval from one or more big companies.  When you can't learn or earn any more and you have realized that bureaucracy is holding you down, it might be time to go smaller where you can have a bigger impact.  Many mid-size companies prefer candidates from large companies because they figure those candidates know where the mid-size company is trying to go.  The point is it’s useful to have a longer range view than big is bad and bigger is worse.

Most careers are going to be 40 years plus, so you need to pace yourself.  25 years in with a bunch of 2-3 year tours of duty at places without pedigrees is going to become hard to explain, which won't matter if you don't mind going through the process every 2-3 years.  But you might wish you had paced and placed yourself onto a thoughtful trajectory.  When hiring managers see a candidate with 1-2 years of experience for the last 5 jobs they are pretty sure how long the candidate will last in a new job. 

Each job should ideally last longer than the previous job (if you are getting smarter and picking better) and to make this ladder improvement process last 40 years plus it's good to build on a strong foundation.   Don't let cynicism get in the way of a building a coherent career path.   To get a job or even an interview someone is going to have to look at your resume and say “this makes sense.”  If people have to study your resume to see whether you are growing or going sideways or around in circles they might give it about 15 seconds and if it doesn’t show coherent and consistent growth in terms of your responsibilities it will probably get passed over for the next resume on the stack.  If hiring managers have to spend their time looking to understand the business model and the relevancy of the companies you worked for that isn’t going to help either.  Of course you can potentially grow your responsibilities and achievements regardless of company size.  If you are independent and the best at what you do you are all set as long as there is a sufficient market for what you do. But if you need a job with a company you are going to have to face hiring managers and the hiring process.  Hiring managers can determine that a sergeant in a big army might have held more responsibility in a captain in a smaller army, or vice versa.   The key is not what size army you worked in; rather you should be looking to make progress each step of the way in terms of your responsibilities and achievements, otherwise someone might look at your resume and say “peter principle.”  When that happens you might not be on the ground floor but you might have hit a ceiling.  When you are young the concept of a ceiling can be pretty abstract, but that doesn’t mean it can’t occur.

As long as you are learning, earning, and having fun doing something you believe in you should be in pretty good shape – but the trick is keep in mind that life is a journey not a destination – and the people who will decide to keep giving you tickets for more travel will increasingly look at where you have been and what you have achieved to determine whether they are going to let you go on to their next station - so it’s good to show some coherent growth.  Point being, think “career” as much or more than “job”, and have a sense of how your career can potentially keep advancing.  People can recover from incoherent career growth but why set yourself up for more hurdles if you can avoid them by planning ahead.  As Yogi Berra (probably more popular in the U.S. than Russia) said “unless you know where you are going you could wind up somewhere else”.

When you are ready to go full speed entrepreneur including building your own company and raising money the experience, knowledge, contacts, and pedigree gained from name brand companies might also help you gain the confidence of investors.  Or alternatively the investors might say “well, he can be the CEO for now but we will have to replace him with someone who has experience in an environment with scale.”  Ideally but not always you will know this thinking when the investment is made.  Of course if you worked for small companies and won business from big companies that’s another way to earn big company pedigrees.   

In the end, there is no one route for everyone but not all big companies are bad for all careers and early in a career they can be outstanding for multiple reasons, not the least of which are learning, earning, and the development of your pedigree.
 

Offline alex34

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Re: Advice - How to join a big hardware design company?
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2020, 06:48:26 am »
Wow.
Thank you all for your replies. Seems I need to clarify why I speak about big companies and why I want to get there (probably I should not).
I have work experience in two big companies. From my experience, smaller companies can't provide as good conditions as bigger do. It can be a competitive salary, annual bonus, medical ensurance, and so on.
Seems, much easier to buy a house working there, rather than trying to be a captain in a small army.
Big companies often have enough resources for their projects, while small companies can have trouble even buying a new oscilloscope or something.
The third (and the main), big companies with a large hardware development experience knows how to do it right. Especially companies selling tons of devices all around the world. And I think I can learn it there.
I believe I will never be as cool as Dave, if I stay home reading books or working with couch hardware designers like me :). So, I'm looking to work with professionals on challenging projects, in order to improve my skills and it might help in my career.
 


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