Monday, September 21, 2009

Career Thoughts

Image courtesy Wikimedia.
Taking a break from the technical, career issues merit reflection and discussion. Here are some brief thoughts.

How's the Market?

What's your perception of the ASIC/EDA jobs market? My take is that it's pretty weak, but a number of companies are "selectively hiring". I had a couple of friends leave their struggling design services firm, and they were able to land jobs at established growing companies within a couple of months. On the other hand, there are plenty of engineers who have been looking for many months.

One differentiator is that hiring favors leading-edge experience (e.g., expert P&R and design closure of 65 or 45nm chips), or knowledge (e.g., advanced degree with an emphasis on an emerging hot area).

Natives Say No

With the depressed job market, this isn't the best time to wonder about this, but I'm perplexed at the lack of US-born chip design engineers. Of course, it stems from the lack of US-born engineering graduates. This leaves me scratching my head--engineering jobs are not THAT bad. As a matter of fact, they're one of the fastest ways to earn a very good paycheck out of college, with intellectual challenge to boot.

A downside is that engineering isn't the most secure career around. There are regular risks of downsizing or technological obsolescence. It's not a cushy career, but how many are in this age of globalization?

If you want a secure career, at least medicine and law are "less outsourcable". However, if you really want societal respect, security, and a guaranteed comfortable retirement, I recommend becoming a fireman.

Give US Your Best and Brightest

In the US, we are so fortunate to attract many of the best and brightest scientists and engineers from the rest of the world. There can be complaints about "H-1B abuse", but there needs to be a system that allows the country to benefit from the great contributions possible from immigrants with advanced degrees.

Where Do Seasoned Engineers Go?

While I'm not there yet, friends and I do wonder where all the full-career engineers are. Look around you -- do you see many 50-something engineers? I don't, and I wonder. Do they all transform into real estate agents? Or should I worry about a future as a Walmart greeter?

Others Weigh In

  1. As I was preparing this post, a timely and provocative article appeared in EE Times, U.S. engineers at a disadvantage . The discussion in the comments is fascinating.
  2. Update: Harry the ASIC Guy and his commenters weigh in on outsourcing, and IBM's aggressive program in particular.
  3. Update: Lou Covey has analysis and advice at We're in this boat together. Start acting like it.


Sean Murphy said...

I think we may be in the midst of a transition to an RTL handoff to foundries, which means that only foundries will be buying Design compiler, layout tools, layout verification tools, etc...

If this is happening it will represent a significant shift in who employs layout and synthesis engineers.

Nick said...

Hi Sean,

This is a possibility :), but dont see this happen in the next 10 years. This is like c synthesis taking over the world after DAC 2010.

There is plenty of differentiation that synthesis and Physical designers engineers can add to produce a good end product (Thanks to a myriad of suboptimal CAD implementation and signoff tools) and so to have that differentiation companies will still need to keep hiring them.