17 Replies Latest reply on Jun 28, 2018 2:02 PM by DAB

    Where do I fit?

    will2055

      I'm very certain this is a huge question for any and all engineers at some point in their careers. However, I'm very lost. Here is my problem, I'm not an explicitly trained engineer with no concrete title or definition. I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a major in Applied Mathematics with a Computer Science emphasis and a Physics minor.

       

      Let me be very explicit: There is no mentor available to me (or advisor, professor, peer, or what-have-you) that can give me any advice from my institution! NONE, zip, zilch. So please, give me advice and not berate me like some people have done on the internet. The focus at UNC (if you're not a business major) is on grad school or further education in general. There is no advice or focus for students that want to go into the private sector.

       

      With that out of the way, I want to give some in depth information on my experiences and knowledge. I'm just not sure what I am, what I'm qualified for, what careers I should pursue, etc. So, in advance, Thank you for any and all feedback you can give me! I really appreciate it!

       

      Major: Applied Mathematics with Computer Science emphasis

           Important Courses: Software engineering, Problem Solving with Supercomputers, Operating systems, and Calculus

           Projects: Autonomous Rover with a Raspberry Pi, and a Pollutant data collecting system with a Raspberry Pi

      Minor: Physics

           Important Courses: Electronics, and Electricity & Magnetism

       

      • I also have experience with 3D CAD, Circuit Design Software (like Cadsoft Eagle or EasyEDA), Soldering and general electronics fabrication, C++ programming, Python programming, and (on a side note) front-end web design.

      I'm not specialized as a software person, or as a hardware person. I'm flexible and that's my biggest problem. Where do I fit in the best?

        • Re: Where do I fit?

          This site may be helpful in exploring your options based on your math degree:

          https://www.maa.org/careers/career-profiles

           

          Having flexibility regarding software and hardware is not necessarily a problem, particularly at

          smaller companies where the staff isn't all highly specialized.

           

          You are probably leaving out some important classes, since a 4-yr math degree will

          normally include quite a few math classes beyond calculus.

          5 of 5 people found this helpful
            • Re: Where do I fit?
              will2055

              That source does help a little bit but is a good visualization of my problem. There are so many paths I could take and that leaves me overwhelmed. Too many options, too little advice. Too many possibilities, too little time. I'll keep at it, but its just confusing and overwhelming at times since I don't have a solid category to start from.

            • Re: Where do I fit?
              jw0752

              Hi Brandon,

               

              I have spent a good share of my life not sure where I fit. I have adopted a procedure when I am between secure niches. I self educate. This can take many forms. For a while I studied a foreign language. At one point I started going back through my college physics texts and reviewing and doing the problems at the end of the chapters. Recently I have been learning and catching up with electronics. Most of the time my direction becomes more clear as I progress and get better at what I am studying. In the course of my life I have been a delivery person, a sales person, an audio electronics technician, a police officer, a store owner, an insurance salesman (complete failure), a dental equipment service technician, a business owner and finally a retired person. I have almost never known at any time what the next step would be. No one can tell you what you should do as we are all different and what was right for me may not trip your trigger. Keep learning and use what you currently know as a base to extend your knowledge and expertise. The majority stands and waits to be told what to do. With very little extra effort you can put yourself in a position where you can tell yourself what to do. Good luck and I hope you can find a niche where you are happy.

               

              Incidentally element 14 is a great place to supplement a continuing education in electronics. Unlike many other web sites we do not put anyone down and if you are mistreated, very quickly you will be surrounded by more friends than you knew you had. Pick a simple project using your math and programming skills and then write it up and post it here. You will get good positive feedback just like you just received from Sally Smith who is our resident site structure expert.

               

              John

              4 of 4 people found this helpful
                • Re: Where do I fit?
                  will2055

                  My biggest issue is trying to find jobs and careers. I could do many things. That wide variety makes it difficult for me to know how to apply. Many postings are vague or are asking for precise qualifications that I may not have. For me it just boils down to a large 10,000 piece puzzle that leaves me dumb struck as to were to even start. Thank you for your response though! As a side note, my entire college experience has been 57% self-educating. I struggled with the structure of classes and their rigidity. So, I spent most of my time enriching and supplementing my courses with self teaching and lots of small projects. I'll keep at it for the rest of my life regardless!

                  2 of 2 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Where do I fit?
                      jw0752

                      Hi Brandon,

                      Your mention of struggling with the structure and rigidity of class makes me think that you may find self employment a viable path. This can be done by finding a service that you can perform for others using your skills and charging them for it or you can work for larger firms as a subcontractor.

                      John

                      2 of 2 people found this helpful
                  • Re: Where do I fit?
                    fmilburn

                    HI Brandon,

                     

                    Even having a more "specialized" degree does not result in a fixed career path.  A four year degree normally teaches one to think and gives basic tools applicable in a field.  A broad field at that.  I graduated with degrees in mechanical engineering / material science and over the next 40 years worked in all sorts of areas unrelated to my base degree.  I never worked as a material scientist.  There was no way for me to predict when I graduated, much less when I started school, what I would work on and where I would go with my career.

                     

                    Look at what is available, interview, and select what looks interesting.  Continually look to make the best of your current situation and make changes when needed.  Only you can decide what is best for you so have confidence in yourself and enjoy the journey.

                    4 of 4 people found this helpful
                      • Re: Where do I fit?
                        will2055

                        What I've seen from peers (and even my wife, who is a biologist) that are in a more focused track are able to find better resources and advice since there are professors that fit those niches. Since I'm rather broad, its just a bit more difficult for me. Thank you for the response! I'll keep that in mind!

                      • Re: Where do I fit?
                        genebren

                        Brandon,

                         

                        One piece that I see missing from your background is the answer to a very important question, 'What are your interest?'.  Some many times the direction that you proceed in is based on what do you most like to do.  Getting a good job that bores you silly and make each day of work seem way to long, is not a good solution.  Sitting down and trying to determine what makes you happy and what would make each day seem like fun is a good plan.  I have personally switch career paths a few times in my life.  The best thing that I ever did during one of those switches was to make use of an outplacement group.  Within that group they offered the typical services, like resume prep and writing cover letters.  The real benefit however was doing some career counseling, include taking some personality tests to determine my strengths and weakness based on my personality types.  This was really eye opening, as I began to re-think the job search process, moving away from the simple question of 'who might hire me' to the real question of 'who do I really want to work with'.

                         

                        Given all that, you also need to look at what can you offer to your prospective employer?  Also, what experiences or education you might be missing to work with a company that really interests you.  If your experiences are lacking for you to get where you want to be, consider intern type positions.  Actual work experience is where you take the more general knowledge of your education and turn it into valuable experience that recruiters are looking for.

                         

                        Looking at your education, the one thing that sticks out to me is that your non-specialized education is not a problem.  My experience in working in a wide variety of fields is that the more rounded you are, the valuable you are.  The best engineers that I have worked with had wide areas of knowledge, not necessarily deep knowledge.  I have found the Physics majors have made some of the best engineers that I have known.  They seem to understand electronics in a way that many engineers do not.

                         

                        Don't underestimate the value of you education.  Just carefully determine where you want to be and then find a path to take you there.

                         

                        Best of luck!

                        Gene

                        2 of 2 people found this helpful
                          • Re: Where do I fit?
                            will2055

                            I have many interests, hobbies and what-not. When it comes to my education, I was really motivated with the Autonomous Rover project. I like robotics and I think that is my desired pursuit.

                              • Re: Where do I fit?
                                jomoenginer

                                Okay, now it's getting narrowed down.  I would suggest you see if there is a Meetup or other group gathering in your area for anything related to Autonomous Vehicles or Robotics.  Also, another bit of advice I gave my daughter a long time ago is to troll companies that you might be interested in and then see if you can find folks that work there on LinkedIn or other social media and try to start a conversation with them.  Some folks are very helpful but others are not so don't get discouraged if you run into some road blocks.  Persistence is very important.

                                It may sound kooky, but doing daily affirmations where you tell yourself out loud of where you will go and what you will do has its merits. Write it down as well. The book "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill is a great book that I think should be handed out to anyone entering college; although they may end up with more folks like Gates, Jobs, Wozniak and Zuckerberg who would opt out of formal schooling and make millions/billions. The real work comes after or outside of college.

                                 

                                Some professional careers are very narrow so following a particular track to get to point A is more defined.  In tech, there is a wider band of things you can do and really no one path of getting there. Some folks go to college, get a degree in CS, and end up writing code for a Google or Amazon. Others follow a difference path and take some side streets before they get to the same destination or even change lanes and end up on the other side of town. The key is to enjoy the journey.

                                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                • Re: Where do I fit?
                                  genebren

                                  Brandon,

                                   

                                  That is a great starting point.  Having a destination in mind makes the trip easier.  Now find people working in that field and ask for their help to assist you in finding your way.  You can ask them to allow you to interview them to better discover how they got to where they are, what advice they might have about how someone enters into this field, what additional training or preparations you might need to undertake in order to be well prepared.

                                   

                                  Ways to reach out to people in your chosen field:

                                  1) Your school may be able to reach out to alumni, who are working in your chosen field.

                                  2) Networking - Try asking a more directed question here on element14 about finding work in robotics.

                                  3) Networking - Get on as many professional sites as possible and find members working in Robotics (LinkedIn is one that I have used).

                                  4) Visit job sites and review job opening for robotics jobs.  See if there are some close fits to your needs and apply.  With some luck and a lot of candor (i.e. New Grad looking for a starting position, or please help me find a good starting position).

                                  5) Find any societies that have robotic interest groups and try to find out more about people who have the job you want, it might help you focus on your needs for training and/or improvements.

                                   

                                  No matter what you do, you are not the first person that has been in this position.  Many people are looking for answers, just make sure that you are one of them that takes a difficult position and works very hard to get answers.  You have already taken a big step right here!

                                   

                                  Keep trying!

                                  Gene

                              • Re: Where do I fit?

                                It's hard to give specific advice, but here's some general advice:

                                1) be wary of careers that are in danger of being replaced by either AI or outsourcing to low-cost labor countries.

                                   For example, truck drivers may be replaced by self-driving vehicles.  Dentistry is unlikely to be outsourced.

                                2) be aware that technology comes in waves, and you want to be on the leading edge of a wave, not the trailing edge.

                                   For example, mainframe computers were replaced by minis, and DEC was riding high, when minis were replaced

                                by PC's, and DEC was bought by by PC-maker Compaq.  PC's have stagnated, replaced by notebooks, smartphones, cloud computing.

                                Microsoft got started by writing software for a new wave of micro computers.

                                3) AI is hot right now, with self-driving cars, machine learning, natural language processing, etc.

                                There isn't a week that goes by without a headline of "AI startup sold for hundreds of millions".

                                https://www.zdnet.com/article/s-p-global-acquires-ai-startup-kensho-in-550-million-deal/

                                https://www.cbinsights.com/research/top-acquirers-ai-startups-ma-timeline/

                                https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/20/microsoft-is-buying-a-ai-startup-bonsai/

                                https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/13/apple-acquires-ai-company-lattice-data-a-specialist-in-unstructured-dark-data/

                                https://yourstory.com/2018/02/pune-twins-sold-ai-based-travel-startup-mezi-american-express-share-whats-next/

                                https://venturebeat.com/2017/05/28/tech-giants-acquired-34-ai-startups-in-q1-2017/

                                https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-09/sensetime-snags-alibaba-funding-at-a-record-3-billion-valuation

                                https://techstartups.com/2018/05/02/startup-founder-left-google-found-ai-startup-just-sold-company-cisco-270-million/

                                https://www.xconomy.com/wisconsin/2018/03/21/u-k-healthcare-entrepreneur-buys-radiology-a-i-startup-behold-ai/

                                https://www.inc.com/magazine/201705/zoe-henry/will-amazon-buy-you.html

                                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                • Re: Where do I fit?
                                  DAB

                                  Hi Brandon,

                                   

                                  From your skill set I would suggest you look into systems engineering.

                                   

                                  I started as an electronics technician and then got my BS in Computer Engineering.

                                  I always had a strong science background and I found that systems engineering gave me enough variety to keep me leaning and using all of my skills.

                                   

                                  Since I retired, I have written a book that is a working solution to Quantum Mechanics and explains subatomic physics where the math works without any imaginary particles or forces.

                                   

                                  So my best advice is to follow your passion.  What do you want to do everyday?

                                  I had a great career in advanced aerospace projects where I was involved with advanced science and engineering everyday. It was loads of fun.

                                   

                                  Then I became disabled. So now I write books on Military History and advanced Science.

                                   

                                  The key to having fun is to keep learning and find that niche where you can use all your skills.

                                   

                                  Feel free to contact me directly if you want to discuss your future.

                                   

                                  Mentoring is something I have done for many decades.

                                   

                                  DAB

                                  3 of 3 people found this helpful
                                  • Re: Where do I fit?
                                    jomoenginer

                                    I agree with DAB, what are your interests?  The question I give my own daughter is where do you want to go and do?  This is something that no one can answer for you.

                                     

                                    You worked on an autonomous vehicle project, so if this interests you then you may want to pursue jobs in that area.

                                     

                                    These days, it is a bit difficult to really specialize in one thing. Companies are looking for folks with backgrounds in multiple disciplines which makes you more flexible.  Michael Barr has a post called "The Rise of the Full Stack Developers" where he has observed that folks calling themselves Embedded or Firmware developers are also listing web related experience and software tools.  I've seen posts where a company is looking for an Embedded Engineer with Firmware experience as well as as FPGA, RESTful, Flask, Javascript and so on.

                                     

                                    The fun thing about tech these days is that you can pretty much guarantee you are not going to stay at the same company for 30 or 40 years like some folks I work with.  I believe the average stay at a company in Silicon Valley is less than 5 years, so if you are not happy with what you are doing, you can always find another gig right down the road.

                                     

                                    If you are comfortable with it, send me your resume and I can see if there is something I can direct you to.

                                    3 of 3 people found this helpful