Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to Be ...

... Engineers?

Former EE Times editor Brian Fuller recaps a spontaneous debate between semiconductor panelists regarding what field your children are studying.

It's a touchy subject among engineers. Most of us still love engineering. But, we may have seen career frustrations, especially in the aftershocks of the .com bubble bursting. In America, there's the sense that some small percentage of engineers do fantastically well if they join the right start-up, but most enjoy an above-average though not large lifestyle. It seems like the folks doing really well and making it look easy are the lawyers and MBAs.

Brian presents the two points of view in Greeley's Ghost: Panel dispatches. Peggy the EDA analyst has kids studing hard sciences -- good for her. Jack Harding, former Cadence CEO, has kids studying Liberal Arts. Fair enough (as long as it's a "respectable" Liberal Art ;-). But what I found interesting was his justification:

It's where you sit in the value chain that makes the difference." IBM, he argues, doesn't make money on its technology development. It makes money taking other people's technology and finding ways to make profit on it. It's hiring not engineers but liberal arts and business people. In housing, he added, the contractor takes the risk and gets the margin. The plumbers, framers and electricians he hires (you can't build the house without 'em!) get an hourly wage.

Grudgingly, I'd have to admit there's truth to this. But it's really more of a justification of the value of an executive over an individual contributor. And who says that executives can't be engineers?

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