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Engineering Careers Short-Circuiting

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the nothing-is-certain dept.

News 1286

8BitWimp writes "Today's edition of the Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article discussing the current plight of the U.S. engineering profession. One 29-year-old engineer recently caught in Nortel Network's layoffs said "I spent seven years in school, and it resulted in a six-year career." The article goes on to say a California computer science professor has statistics to show that a programmer's career is not much longer than a pro-football player. What do other Slash-Dot readers think of this situation as related to their programming and engineering careers? Would you pursue the same career path again?"

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A little bit of (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961259)

post christmas TURBOGAY slashdot reporting for ya right here. GOOD WORK TEAM!!!

Re:A little bit of (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961268)


much love 'n AIDS

Engineering is working out fine for me (5, Funny)

billmaly (212308) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961270)

Someone needs to pull this trainload of Japanese imports, might as well be me.

Re:Engineering is working out fine for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961277)

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Re:Engineering is working out fine for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961290)

He is saying he is a Train Engineer.

Re:Engineering is working out fine for me (1, Offtopic)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961294)

People who drive trains are often referred to as "engineers". Got it now?

Move to India! (0, Funny)

Real World Stuff (561780) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961275)

That is where all the development jobs, hot chicks, and great food dishes are!

Re:Move to India! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961345)

That is where all the development jobs, hot chicks, and great food dishes are!

As opposed to what? All the great clothing dishes? Or the great book dishes? "Excuse me, sir, do you have any furniture dishes?" "No, I'm sorry, we only have food dishes here."


Re:Move to India! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961395)

You must have a public education. That is correct grammatical usage.


WOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961279)

I never imagined that the Christian Science Moniter would link to a Slashdot article...

(it's at the bottom, in case you missed it)

okay lets release FUD now.. (5, Insightful)

linuxislandsucks (461335) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961282)

Most of those who work in engineering or programming often don't have the title of that in their job title and work for 15 years or more in the profession...

My personal example; Programming for about 15 years..many job titles.. I am stil programming!

What are we reporting and releasing FUD now like Microsoft?

We win (4, Funny)

SteweyGriffin (634046) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961287)

The article goes on to say a California computer science professor has statistics to show that a programmer's career is not much longer than a pro-football player.

Yeah, but who gets more tit 'n ass? ;-D

Re:We win (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961368)

Your man tits and a huge ass from drinking cola all day don't count as tit 'n ass. Sorry bud.

Give it up ? (1)

SteveAstro (209000) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961289)

Its not what I do, its who I am. I couldn't NOT be an engineer....


Sure you could (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961358)

Just try.

I cannot blow the whistle,
nor cam I ring the bell,
but if the train should
jump the track, guess who catches hell?

engineering, aint it?

Development is working out fine for me! (5, Insightful)

kolathdragon (413050) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961292)

Knock on Wood here, but I start my career in 91 during the last recession and am still doing fine. Of course I've changed 4 - 6 languages by now (RPG -> VB -> C/C++ -> C#, ASP, JavaScript, XML, HTML, etc ). My rule has been always try to stay current and not comfortable. If you feel comfortable, then you are on the way out of a job.

And when you die... (3, Interesting)

tomblackwell (6196) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961310)

You can look back on a lifetime of discomfort and wonder what exactly it was that you were thinking...

Discomfort? (1)

kolathdragon (413050) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961386)

I live very comfortably. My career allows my wife to stay home with my 2 children and me to do, within reason, whatever I wish. I'm definately better off than the majority of the population and very excited to wake up each morning to come into work and write code. It's been my hobby now for almost 20 years now and for the past 11 years it's been my profession.

Re:And when you die... (2)

NineNine (235196) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961406)

You can look back on a lifetime of discomfort and wonder what exactly it was that you were thinking...

I only did it for 6 years, and I felt like a damn hamster in a wheel the whole time. Development is a rat race in the truest sense of the phrase.

Re:Development is working out fine for me! (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961354)

You're exactly right. That's why I got out of development. I really wanted to have a life outside of the computer section of Barnes and Noble. My Development/Engineering career lasted 6 years.

H1B's used for more than computer work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961293)

Engineering is a real big place for H1B's. Maybe even more than computers. Nursing is also big with H1B's. Noone is safe from this.

Re:H1B's used for more than computer work (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961372)

Go to http://www.h1b.info [h1b.info] to learn how to stop corporations from giving away all of our jobs. Despite the thousands of unemployed American tech workers. Evil CEOs and their cronies keep bringing in cheap labor from 3rd world countries.

Will it be enough? (1)

mgaiman (151782) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961295)

I'm a sophomore in CS now. My plan is to just stay in school until the economy gets better or until I figure out a something that needs to be done that no none else is doing, whichever comes first. But if the industry is like this, will waiting out the recession be enough?

Re:Will it be enough? (2, Insightful)

titonutz (558355) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961336)

Waiting out a recession is never enough. There's always jobs for smart people. I would suggest that people in school forget about timing the job market and start thinking about doing the classwork necessary to become a good entry level devloper.

I blame opern soure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961296)

Whats the point of developing software if your gonna get trumped by a couple of geeks who reverse engineer your project and release it for FREE under the GPL.

My company has lost around 10000 customers ever since an open source version of our project was released.

Im not trolling, it has hit my company HARD! I am fully against Open Source.

prove you're not a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961346)

What is your company name, your software product, and the name of the open source software product that was stolen from you?

Re:prove you're not a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961393)

Rational. ClearDDTS. Bugzilla.

Re:I blame opern soure (1)

kingsqueak (18917) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961357)

The money isn't the app it's the services. Create a product and then provide support for it. You provide support and you will not lose your customer base. Nobody that sells software provides any support these days and they wonder why the business model crumbles.

Re:I blame opern soure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961363)

Right on, brother. Take the profit motive out of the business, and it all comes tumbling down.

My job was shipped to India (5, Insightful)

Aggrazel (13616) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961299)

When I got laid off right after the September 11th attacks, my Job was shipped to India.

Sometimes I wonder if the whole economic problem we're having is due to many companies doing this same thing, exporting our high paying jobs to other countries. It saves them money in the short run, but in the long run its taking money out of our country and slowing our economy.

But then, I'm not an economist, and eventually, I did get another job with another company. But I was unemployed for a year, thats 1 year of my salary that I was unable to produce because my job went overseas. If you add that up over all the people in the industry who are in similar situations.

It was grim, being unemployed for a year. I even contemplated switching industries, actually thought about becoming a Truck Driver to sustain my family. But for me, my job is more of a love than a carreer. Its what I do. Its my hobby, its my passion, and I really don't want to do anything else.

But the guy in the story wants to give up on his job because he got laid off from one company, thats sad. Maybe for what he does its necesary, I don't know, but there are other jobs out there, and who knows.

Anyway, thats my 2p.

Re:My job was shipped to India (1)

I'm a racist. (631537) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961396)

It may not really save money in the short run...

My company is shipping all the jobs from NY to Montreal. The thing about it is that it won't save them anything in the short term. In fact, it's probably costing them millions (relocation costs, training, lost revenues/customers/contracts, etc). It seems they only did it to create the appearance of cost reductions. Hell, they're paying us double our current salaries to go work up there for a year to help get everyone up to speed.

They just want to look good on paper, to boost shareholder value now. They aren't necessarily looking to cut costs (in the short or long term).

You also need to realize, companies aren't really interested in the nation's economy. Sure, they're interested in it because there's a symbiosis, but if they can leech off of another nation's economy that would suit them just fine. This especially applies to non-US based companies (like mine).

Re:My job was shipped to India (2)

itwerx (165526) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961416)

Has anyone given any thought to moving to India...?

I'm only half joking!

In other news several companies I know who shipped projects overseas gave up after awhile. There were two main problems - communication issues and IP theft.
But, as with any country/industry, it depends on who you deal with.

Just In Time (2)

Mad Marlin (96929) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961300)

The collapse in the tech job market came at just the right time for me. I will finish up my Bachelor's in Mathematics and Computer Science this following semester, and afterwords I will be getting my M.B.A., instead of a Master's in Computer Science. It will be vastly easier classwork, and easier work in the workplace. Plus, I imagine that as a manager who actually knows what programmers are doing, I won't have any trouble ever getting a job that pays well.

Re:Just In Time (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961330)

Trolling along.....

Some think it was the MBA with all the empty promises that caused and burst the bubble, not the Engineers and the Computer Scientists.

Re:Just In Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961359)

I can just imagine this now

Listen sonny, I know you think that C* is the way to go, but let me tell you that I feel the best way to go is Java, now it's not used much anymore, but it solved problems that....

Re:Just In Time (3, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961360)

Not to sound too pessimistic, but unless you have a butt load of experience, your college won't mean a whole lot.

If you have taken a look lately, Companies are requesting Doctorates with 10+ years exp for 32k a year. Keeping a positive attitude is great, but the economy is crap. I surely hope you can disprove my pessimism.

Re:Just In Time (3, Funny)

NineNine (235196) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961374)

will be vastly easier classwork, and easier work in the workplace.

Kid, you're gonna get your ass handed to you on a platter if you believe this. Coming from someone who's already been there, IComp Sci is pretty easy: you learn the formulas, equations, languages, etc, and you bundle it up in packages. Most projects are pretty much identical. A real businessperson has to handle many, many different things. There's no sitting on your ass in a comfy cubicle while you surf Slashdot. You may get an assignment in a job that's "Improve sales by 25% in the next month. Go." And that's *all* you get. At least, with the comprable IT problem: "Improve performance by 25% in the next week", you know where to look, what to do, you can read web sites, etc.

If you think an MBA will be "easy", you're in for a rude awakening.

Re:Just In Time (1)

OldAndSlow (528779) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961391)

Sorry Mad,
One of the reasons that the life expectancy of programmers is short is that what we must know/do changes so fast. So by the time you have your MBA and your job as a boss, you will be a dinosaur, but you won't understand that. You will be worse to work for than someone who hasn't a clue what the techies are about.
Of course that won't interfere with you getting a job with a fat salary.

Re:Just In Time (2)

jasno (124830) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961394)

No offense, but please don't think that going to school for programming/CS is ANYTHING like programming in a production environment. More than likely, you'll know just enough to come off as a know-it-all, and you'll wonder why your employees can't do a job that you know *YOU* could have done faster.

Re:Just In Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961407)

You don't know shit about programming until you work as a programmer. Schooling while important does not automatically make you the grand pupah. As a manager you need to earn the respect of your subordinates, so pull your head out of your ass and smell the coffee.

Christian Science? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961302)

No wonder they have short careers. They're dead in a few years because they don't go to doctors or believe in sickness.

Programming "Career" (5, Insightful)

Egonis (155154) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961303)

I enjoyed a programming "career" for 5 years following high-school. I am self-taught, and managed, developed and implemented databases at an ISP, a TV Broadcast Company, and for a Freight Brokerage.

Although I have not attended University or College for training in the field, I made a substantial income.

I observed many of my co-workers and friends whom had gone through University and such, and their careers ended just as quickly as mine.

The common problems we all faced were that management did not understand the nature of the job performed, and ended up hiring a large agency to take over our "home brew" projects.

I have reformed my future, and am becoming a Special Ed teacher for the Blind and Visually Impaired... because the IT industry has completely collapsed, not resulting from poor economy (I live in Canada, and our economy is quite strong right now...), but as a result of poor management and planning.

My suggestion to anyone considering, or currently working in IT, is to educate themselves in another field, and use their skills as an addition to their qualifications.

I write small applications to make programs like Excel more accessible for the Blind, as there is little, or no support for Text-to-Speech software, while at the same time performing my other duties.

Should have unionized (5, Insightful)

PingXao (153057) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961305)

20 years ago. And NOT to protect the incompetent. More along the lines of professional associations like the AMA, the ABA, the MLBPA or the NHLPA.

Oh.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961343)

So instead of the protecting the incompetent, you'd like to leverage the ridiculously over-inflated wages that every other industry must now subsidize angle. Clever.

Don't forget what happens to union-heavy industries in a downturn.

I heard one hiring manager tell me (5, Insightful)

joeflies (529536) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961306)

that engineering is the only profession where your value to the company goes down the older you get.

Fresh kids out of college know current technology, have the lowest starting salaries (so you can get more of them), and willing to work ungodly hours without extra pay. With the competition for engineering jobs ramping up in India and other lower cost countries, I realized early that I may like technology, but without having the desire to go into management or get a doctorate (to get access to career engineering jobs), then I needed to get into another profession.

Re:I heard one hiring manager tell me (2)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961401)

This isn't always true...

One of the highest paid group of programmers these days are old cobol programmers. Big companies (mainly in insurance and banking) don't have the same system turnover than most places. As the number of cobol programmers drop, their value increases.

Even medium sized companies have 'old' systems that only a rare few people know how to use properly, and will just continue to age (especially now with spending freezes and drops).

Seven Years? (2, Interesting)

v3rb (239648) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961307)

Isn't seven years an awfully long time to spend in school to be an engineer? Even an MS can be accomplished in 5-6 years if your school has a fast track program.

I think careers in engineering fields require a degree of career management from the individual. They can no longer expect to be given success and wealth just because they have an engineering degree. They need to guide their career so they can grow into different positions as time goes on.

While this is no different than other disciplines, I guess it's a new idea for the technologically inclined.

19 years pro for me (5, Interesting)

coolgeek (140561) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961311)

And 11 of those freelance.

IMO, the surges in the industry attract a bunch of riff raff, which get purged when times get tough. Not to disparage the articl poster (or is it poseur :-) jest kidding); he may be a great engineer, just too much of the riff raff feeding from the new jobs trough. When it comes to staying employed, it's really about whom you know and your reputation. Anyway, during the slumps is when the real core of the industry gets to innovating the next wave...

We don't have a choice (1)

SteweyGriffin (634046) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961312)

I live, breathe, sleep, and eat computer programming languages.

I have spent countless weekend evenings at home curled up with a new Java, C#, or other programming book.

I work when I want and on whatever projects I want to. I'm a contract-based programmer, and I love what I do.

Plus, it's not like I have the option of deciding to try out for an NFL team one day for a little career change.

Definitely not high tech .... (2)

nicodaemos (454358) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961313)

After slogging 60+ hour work weeks for 10+ years and still not a millionaire, I've learned my lesson.

If I had to do it all over again I would have joined a monopoly. No I'm not talking about Microsoft. I would have been a premed major and let the AMA monopoly stamp me into a money making doctor machine.

Re:Definitely not high tech .... (3, Insightful)

Izeickl (529058) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961341)

"After slogging 60+ hour work weeks for 10+ years and still not a millionaire, I've learned my lesson."

Alot of people do the exact same, becoming a millionaire doesnt just come from Y number of hours for X Years, expectations sometimes are just unrealistic, the vast majority of people in this world will work their entire life and never have near 1 million in the bank.

Re:Definitely not high tech .... (1)

eam (192101) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961353)

...and right about now you'd be realizing that you still haven't paid off your school loans and the health insurance companies make the practice of medicine nearly impossible... ...you'd probably be thinking about going back to school and getting a degree in engineering ;-)

Re:Definitely not high tech .... (2)

bwalling (195998) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961419)

Don't forget malpractice insurance because the first time you make a mistake (and you will), you will be sued into oblivion. Malpractice insurance can run you up to $300,000 per year depending on your specialty.

No 'safe' careers anymore (5, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961315)

There is no safe career to be had in any profession today. The dream of being a 'company man' that the baby-boomer generation had just doesn't exist. People do not get a job, expecting - or able to - still be working for the same company thirty years later. Transient workers were once regarded as flighty and unreliable; today it's the norm. In some professions (science, programming, some engineering disciplines) it's even seen with suspicion when somebody stays at the same place for long.

Forget job security, defined skill sets and straight career paths. This uncertainty is here to stay.

There *is* a safe career choice! (5, Funny)

kevcol (3467) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961361)

I've recently started a new career that, thanks to the baby boom of the 40s and 50s, will guarantee me an increase in customers for the next 20 years until I can live on my earnings: Undertaker.

yes I'd choose it again (1)

meowmonster (444185) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961316)

I have been working as an EE for 3 years since I graduated and the last two I have feared the dreaded "axe" almost every day (well at least on thursdays - seems to be the favorite layoff day around here). We have had very very few layoffs so far (looking for some wood to knock on), but the analog IC design market hasn't been hit as bad as say... opto?

Yet, if I had to do it again knowing what I know now, yes I would. In a heartbeat. I don't think I would be happier doing anything else but designing chips. Every morning I wake up and short of being groggy and not liking to move, I love going in to worrk (even mondays and fridays). That tells me that I'm doing what I am supposed to be doing. All I can do is thank God that I am where I am and that through him, my hard work is recognized and valued enough to keep me around.

Re:yes I'd choose it again (1)

eam (192101) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961365)

> I have feared the dreaded "axe" almost every day
> (well at least on thursdays - seems to be the
> favorite layoff day around here)

Try taking as many Thursdays off as you can.

I already quit. (2, Informative)

Hanna's Goblin Toys (635700) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961317)

I still have my Linux Box, my CS degree, the whole nine yards - but I got a trade certification in massage therapy, and I got out of programming. The hours were way too long, and the pay cut from $55,000 a year to $52,000 per year isn't really a pay cut when you look at the hours I work at the hospital. And especially when you look at the amount of education required. Plus, these days I can actually look into the faces of people I've helped. It's so much more rewarding.

Course, I still read /. and I still program. But I can't imagine going up against the H1-B competition again - those guys were working 80 hour weeks for 35k a year... I just can't compete with that.

Replace "Engineer" with almost anything (5, Insightful)

msheppard (150231) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961322)

Almost every career can be viewed through this narrow minded window.

Similar reasons can be found for almost any career being short, and statistics can be shown to support that (as well as almost anything you can think of.)

Problems with the current economy shouldn't cause one to abandon a career.

Maybe we're too paranoid. I've seen burn-out, and lemme tell ya, it dosen't need to happen, and most people I've heard complain about it are really NOT burning out.


Vanishing Middle Class (5, Interesting)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961325)

What I see disappearing are the median income jobs. It seems like things are becoming more and more polarized w/many many low pay jobs and a few very high paying jobs.

I don't think this is a good trend for our nation as a whole. In the long run it will hurt everyone.

I interview for a new job probably about once a month. The last one was for a single opening w/the USDA for slightly lower than average pay. It was to do development and database administration. There were over 100 applicants. They wanted a programmer that had been an accountant and got it. Being just a plain old programmer hasn't been helping me a lot lately.


We never promised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961327)

You a rose garden. Schools of ALL types are bending over backwards to produce the type of students that INDUSTRY is demanding. When I was growing up, schools taught rational thinking, and the 3 R's. This gave the individual the ability to reason, read , write and do basic mathematical functions. Today, students cannot function without a PC, and a calculator. The US is falling behind countries who teach the basics, with no politically correct courses being offered. Give an engineer a slide-rule today, and they scratch their asses with it. They are helpless. They fail to remember that most of what they enjoy today, in the way of tools, was made possible by the "slide-rule generation".

I pity the fool who thinks getting an education in a particular field, is a guarantee of anything.

Easier job. (2)

Inominate (412637) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961328)

Anyone considering becoming a programmer should consider getting an easier job as a coal miner.

Re:Easier job. (2)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961371)

When I was working in the computer labs at school, my girlfriend was working as a certified nursing assistant. They do the shit work (literally) in nursing homes and hospitals and such.

I came in and bitched about the dumbass students in the lab. She said "well, at least you don't wipe asses for a living!"

I replied with "I do the mental equivalent of it"

Things are tough all over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961329)

While I'm sympathetic, it isn't just engineering. It spent seven years in undergrad and law, combined, and have been scrambling like a demon for work since September with nary a bite. Hang in there, it only takes one offer....

It will never be the same (2, Insightful)

rimcrazy (146022) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961331)

I've been an engineer for 28 years. My Christmas bonus from the company this year was to get laid off. In my local area (Phoenix) There are hundreds of engineers who have been tossed out in the last 6 months with no end in sight.

I'm not sorry I became an engineer but I have no desire to return to the field even if there were some jobs, which of course, there are not.

All of the companies are moving to small management teams and are outsourcing everything, mostly over seas to Taiwan and India. This country will never learn. First we did it with manufacturing and now we are doing it with engineering. Douglass Adams was right, we are going to be nothing but a bunch of Phone Sanatizers and we will all be in the first arc to go.

Sounds like a licensing problem (0, Troll)

SteweyGriffin (634046) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961334)

I sometimes wonder if it weren't for all the free software GPL stuff if Linux could have been profitable and we'd all still have jobs now.

Couldn't Linux as we know it have instead turned into what MacOS X is today? I certainly think so, but it's just not possible with a free-for-all licensing scheme. How are we supposed to pforit?

To a large degree I think the FSF, and particularly Richard Stallman, are responsible for the current economic downturn that much of information technology communities are currently experiencing.

I mean, just read the GNU manifesto. That Stallman prick clearly has an agenda, and it's not just about computer software.

Re:Sounds like a licensing problem (2)

sisukapalli1 (471175) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961383)

I am replying to a troll.. but...

M$FT is still making huge profits! There was a tech boom and bust cycle, and 100k+ jobs for "assembling software components" is not a sustainable thing.

BTW, Richard Stallman started the FSF close to 20 years ago. Linux actually was also a buzz word that resulted in the biggest jumping IPO (where we are currently posting).


My engineering career... (1, Interesting)

I'm a racist. (631537) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961335)

Here's my little tale -

I got a BS in astrophysics. But, there's no money in that. So, I went into doing wireless infrastructure (just before telecommunications went to hell). Now, a little over two years later, my office is being closed down. If I want to stay with the company, I'd have to move.

My way of dealing with this is to move away from engineering (in the traditional sense). I'm partway through an MSEE, which I guess I'll finish. But, I'm really going into academia. I've taken a research position in neurobiology and will probably do a PhD in physics (or maybe an MD/PhD).

In the end, engineering's always going to be around. And it will generally be one of the more respectable professions. But, there is certainly a "burn-out" factor to it.

Personally, after having used up 2 years working very hard on something, only to get laid off.. it's kind of a slap in the face. At least if I had done something that I felt was worthwhile, I could justify it. Sure, I'm sitting on some cash now, but that isn't really worth it (in hindsight). The products we put out, in my mind, are meaningless, they were just a way of making money.

I guess engineering, if you are really into the stuff you're creating, is a good career. Otherwise, it can be a good way to pay the bills, but nothing more.

Just, find something that you enjoy doing and make sure that the end result of your work has value to you. I liked the work I did, but I have no feelings for the results of the work...

You got to move with the times (2)

suman28 (558822) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961337)

When my dad was young, mechanical engineer was the hottest thing around. Now, it is computers. Everyone is jumping on the band wagon. I am sure that 20/30 yrs from now, there will be need for computer scientists and engineers, but a little different that what we do now. If I had to do it over again today, I would still choose the same profession. If you ask me 30 yrs later, when some young whippersnapper is trying to get my job because I am too old, then I problably would choose something else.

Continually learning (2)

papasui (567265) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961338)

The main thing to consider is that if you want job growth/security, is that you always continue to learn. People that think they are done learning after college are the ones who in 5 years find themselves knowing less than a new hired employee. If you continue to learn, adapt to changes, and keep an open mind you will find yourself in positions to take on new roles inside or outside of your current job.

Please...don't. (2)

cybermace5 (446439) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961339)

The more people moan and groan about engineering going down the tubes, the more likely it will become reality.

And don't talk about engineering careers ending...I'm still trying to start mine.

bah! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961340)

Is it just me, or are there many different types of engineering?

Any of the big dot-com crap "engineering" is no longer viable, of course. None of that was.

If you all want to be a multi-faceted engineer (as most want to be) get a Mechanical Engineering or similar type degree. One of the widest paths available for engineers that gives you the ability to get a job in hundreds of different industries. Any "software engineer" is just a programmer type, not a real engineer.

Why are stories of this negligible intelligence appearing on slashdot ALL THE TIME now?

Job != Career (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961342)

I'm sorry that you were laid off, but having a job lasting "only" six years is different from having a career that only spans six years. The economy sucks right now, but it will recover. When it does, your career will pick up.

In addition to just plain getting old, professional athletes kill themselves on the field. This is a horrible analogy.

Tell me about it (2, Interesting)

DSL-Admin (597132) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961351)

My gf's friend made 2000.00 on one paycheck (extra on comission alone) in addition to her normal salary. She sells furniture. My gf got a 1000.00 bonus on her paycheck for passing a test and finding flaws in the Doctors rule book. Also in addition to her normal pay. ---I deal with real "genius's" every day, and I get normal pay..... Man, I think I might become a Dental Asst, or salesperson.... stripping's becoming more and more of a draw... money money money

This is bad news. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961355)

But at least I can still masturbate.

I'm still standing... (2)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961367)

After all these years. I'm fourty-seven now, and I still earn all my living from cutting code. I expect to be still cutting code (and still earning my living from it) in twenty years time; I might just still be going in thirty years time.

The answer to getting laid off is to employ yourself.

Re:I'm still standing... (1, Flamebait)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961397)

they probably hire you because they find your use of anachronistic terms like "cutting code" to be charming.

Dump engineering. Get an MBA instead. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961369)

Thirty plus years ago I got an M.S. in Computer Science from a big-name university. The stuff I learned then was so closely tied to hardware that nobody needs it anymore. How many people need to know how to develop a real-time operating system optimized for some given environment? Or how to write a compiler? Damn few is the answer.

I got out of software and got into sales after about 10 years. Best move I ever made. But if I had it to do over again, I'd have worked on an MBA instead. Or started selling real estate.

Another View (2)

SimJockey (13967) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961373)

This article is a bit of an eye opener for me. I am an engineer, but in a "mature" industry. I design petroleum and chemical facilities, mainly oil refineries. In my industry, we have never been busier. Clean fuels legislation has been a boon to us, lots of work getting sulfur out of gasoline and diesel fuel. Early in my career, I looked wistfully at the mega-salaries and bonuses of colleagues in the computer industry. But now, those who I know who still have a job are admiring the stability I have. And that's not to say I'm not well compensated, it's just that my pay has progressed more slowly.

As far as knowledge having a half life, I'd have to agree. I work my butt off to stay current and know what clients will want before they do.

It seems to me that there still will be rewarding engineering careers in the computer and programming fields. I just think that the attractiveness of the industry became it's own worst enemy and drew a ton of talented people who would have been good at anything they put their minds to. I think as the tech industry matures, it will grow a more solid foundation that will give engineers good careers, but without the outrageous perks. Sure, they may feel like they have to join a more plebeian "real world". But really, it's not that bad.

GIve me a shell, a good language and... (2, Funny)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961375)

I am one of the most powerful forces on the planet. I can conjure sets of ordered instructions that can be used to bring down governments, save economies, destroy enimies, save lives and maybe even make me a few dollars.

I'll never give that kind of power up.

"Programmer" is not the same as "Engineer" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961376)

There seems to be a common misconception that programmers and often times IT professionals are the typical engineers, similar to how the term "computer scientist" is incorrectly applied to programmers. To me, that seems a broad application of the title, similar to calling car mechanics engineers as well. I many times looked over the classifieds section in the paper in the 90s and saw jobs requiring a BS in computer science when they were simply database programming jobs, for which one really only needed a trade school education.

Personally, just from looking at the numbers from my high school, I would guess that there will actually be a shortage of engineers (i.e., electrical, material, chemical, aerospace, etc.) in the next couple decades. With the boomers retiring and decreasing numbers in my generation going into engineering (because science and math are too "hard," and they have been taught very poorly in the last 20 years by the public school system so they opt for law), the US is losing its engineering workforce. One of the best observations I have heard was from a professor at MIT who observed that 50 years ago engineers outnumbered lawyers by far, whereas today the opposite is true.

Just because Microsoft and Oracle are hiring foreigners to do the programming doesn't mean that the other traditional engineering fields are waning as well. Think of how much software engineering is design versus implementation. The implementation workers are really akin to skilled factory labor, and that is why they are replaceable by cheaper foreign labor. Erecting barriers to immigration will just cause companies to leave the US.

Not a Good Engineer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4961377)

Not to be harsh, but if this guy was any good he wouldn't be laid off. The article said he was already disgrunteled with his career choice. It sounds like he was one of those people who got into "engineering" for the money rather than having an interest in it. If he was any good he would get another job elsewhere or for a fraction of the cost of going back to school be able to start his own innovative business.

Alas people who get into engineering for the money rather than having an interest in it, quit when the going gets tough.

Defense Contractors (2)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961379)

May be the only place left for American citizens. Can't outsource those jobs over seas or hire visa holders.

Go War On Terrorism!


Choosing engineering? (1)

drdanny_orig (585847) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961380)

No fucking way would I "choose" software engineering. And in fact, I never chose it to begin with. I just sort of fell into it as the path of least resistance. But now, at the age of 51, laid off, living in the Silly Valley where 40 is considered over-the-hill, I'm seriously considering moving to Canada -- better health care for the under-employed -- or turning to a life of crime.
Bitter? Yeah, a bit. :-)

Global Competition and Pressure (4, Insightful)

webword (82711) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961384)

I am not a programmer. However, I work with several programmers, engineers and designers. We have discussions about work all of the time. A couple of years ago programming and engineering seemed like great careers. However, with global competition (e.g., China and India) my colleagues are under a lot of pressure. You can cut the stress with a knife. Here are some of my thoughts on this.

1. These people enjoy stress. They spend so much time at work, it is insane. Yet, at the same time, this type of stress is different. It is inter-work stress, not intra-work stress. That is, it isn't stress related to solving interesting and complex problems. They are having a hard time dealing with it.

2. The impact of offshore competition is really starting to gain ground in most companies. Small companies, large companies, high technolohy companies, low technology companies. Especially if you are in IT, this is no joke. The global economy has arrived. Many workers never thought it would hit them, but it has. This means adjustments in salary expectations, job prospects, networking with others, and more.

3. In my opinion, most development companies outside of the U.S. don't realize the economic and social impact they are having on U.S. workers. They are relatively ignorant of how they are extracting money and jobs from U.S. workers. This isn't a complaint against these companies. It is merely an observation. (I'm curious what others have to say about this, especially developers from India, Eastern Europe, and other such places.)

4. The main competitive advantage for U.S. workers is their "sfot skills" in areas such as business analysis, communication, creativity and project leadership. A friend of mine recently interviewed with a company. They were entirely uninterested in his Java, Lotus / Domino, JavaScript, CSS, HTML, etc. skills, but they were very interested in his ability to communicate, his analysis skills, his writing skills, and so forth. In other words, they cared that he had a clue about how people actually work, versus just being a code monkey.

5. Most technical workers I know don't enjoy technology. Instead, they enjoy the challenge of technology: creativity, problem solving, analysis, puzzles, etc. Therefore, leaving technology wouldn't be such a big deal for most folks I know. One guy wants to be an English professor, another guy wants to drive a truck, still another guy wants to build houses. This is amazing to me because these guys are diesel. I mean, they are seriously good with technology and it would be a shame to see them go.

What did the employed physicist say . . . (4, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961387)

to the unemployed phyisicist?

"Would you like fries with that?"

It's a bit of cruel, sick joke, but the more so because of its truth. In some respects you should be greatful if you get several good years in your major field. Most people don't you know. The real crunch is going to come in about 4 years as the univerisities are really just cranking up the "mill" to turn out programers and CS grads.

Odds are these people will never work in the field at any high level capacity. Code grinders maybe, if they're good, and if they're lucky.

An education is still a good thing you know, for its own sake. Really. And just because you end up in the plumber's union by the time you're 30 doesn't mean you can't still code and enjoy everything that the *act* of coding gives you.

If you didn't get into CS because you love it, *that* was your mistake. Coding is one of the few remaining fields in which you can still do top grade work in your "spare" time and with the internet even in cooperation with groups of like minded individuals.

Real hacking is like poetry really, a creative art form. Guess what? The poets have been used to having to be plumbers for thousands of years.


engineering or plumbing? (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961388)

Wouldn't this analysis be the same for virtually any career? The only alternative is always having a really boring job. At least with a CS/EE/ME... degree, you have a shot at getting an interesting job.

It's not about money, because plumbers make more than most engineers and programmers. It's about doing what you like to do. Period. All this talk about "strategic" career selection is ridiculous. If you like coding or engineering you really have no choice. You're stuck. Or maybe you could get a plumbing license as a backup :).

Those of us who happen to like this sort of thing are actually lucky, because the world seems to have some use for these kinds of skills, even if there is not enough demand to keep all of us employed in our fields for our entire lives.

Would I be an engineer? (1)

SniperPuppy (443143) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961392)

Almost definitely not.

I've loved tinkering with computers since I was six (the same as most of you, I'm sure), and it had always been my hobby. But almost immediately upon entering college, I realized that making my hobby into my career ruined the hobby, and that it wasn't going to be as exciting, sitting in a cube coding 40+ hours a week.

I have just come off of a four-month layoff, which, had it not been for some decent connections and more than a little luck, would still be ongoing, and I had already started exploring other options. The real deadly thing is that when prospective employers looked at my salary history, they all shook their heads and made no bones about the fact that because my salary was much higher than they could offer, they didn't feel confident I would stick around if an engineering position opened up at another company. And so, I got locked out of other career paths because of my previous salary history.

During my layoff, I developed PalmOS software, something that had intrigued me while I was employed, but never had the time to explore. I wrote two games for PalmOS, and would have very much liked to make PalmOS software development a career.

But, I ended up back in Win32 software development, and still wonder if I could be good at other things. I can write well, but never saw myself as "creative" enough for creative writing.

As for my shelf life, I have no illusions that at age 35-40, things get tougher, as younger, less salary-demanding kids with fresher skills and less jaded attitudes will make me easily replaceable. What will I do then? Good question...

But I do know that all this instability, had I known about it (and not been blinded by the high salaries that go with tech jobs), I certainly would not have gone down this road.

The pie is shrinking (1)

COredneck (598733) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961398)

Engineering pay, like IT is shrinking because those people who are in charge are not willing to pay people what they are worth. Those in charge also don't look too kindly on increasing the size of the pie but instead, want to reduce it so they can keep more money for themselves especially marketing.

I took vacation this past week and I sat next to a man who is in marketing on the plane and we talked. I mentioned that I was in IT and he mentioned "It is about time that compensation for IT workers go down". He then added that the downturn would be good for IT workers and it was long overdue for them to get hit. I thought, "what an asshole".

The major problem with IT right now are:

H1B Visas help drive down wages and jobs go to foreigners for 50 to 70% of the wages compared to what US citizens earn

Companies are willing to spend only cheap beer prices for IT workers but demand champagne type of systems

Without IT, comapnies would be a world of hurt and they need to recognize this and be nice to their IT workers through things such as good pay, relaxed dress codes, flex time.

Whould I pursue the same path again ? I don't know. I just got my Master's in CS and kind of seeing the writing on the wall, I am thinking of pursuing a law degree instead of going for a Ph.D. The down side of doing law is having to wear a suit quite a bit which I don't care for too much. The upside is it is good money especially in business law.

Darn. (2)

maelstrom (638) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961404)

Well, during the hight of the dotCom era, I said many times that I would be doing this whether or not the pay was good, and it's still true today during the layoffs and recessions.

It always seemed that there were two types of people in my Computer Science program, those that would be there no matter what and those that thought it was a ticket to a higher salary. Even if I was working at a minimum wage job flipping burgers, I'd be spending my evenings tinkering with Linux and a junked out 386 :)

job security has always been a mirage (2)

budalite (454527) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961405)

This article is 99% fluff. Skip it. I do wonder, however, how much of the percentage of out-of-work engineers are simply "between projects"? The End-of-the-Project (and, sometimes, the Project itself) seems to be something many companies do not handle well. (Speaking from experience...) I will say that getting laid-off was the best thing that ever happened to me. During the 9 months I was out of work, I reevaluated just about everything in my life, reworked priorities, and, essentially, woke up to the real world. And survived.
First thing you need to do is to be absolutely honest with yourself. On everything. You are simply who you are. Work from there & have fun. Good luck to all who are in tough times. :})||

I dropped mine. (1)

s0l0m0n (224000) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961410)

I love technology, probably always will. When I did tech work for a living, I was miserable. Although I was a decently paid, competent sys and net admin, I was under educated, and generally poorly treated in my opinion. I don't work in the feild anymore for a number of reasons, not the least being the amount of education required to find a stimulating job. Plus, once you find that decent, stimulating job that doesn't require selling your soul to microsoft (or some other corporate giant), they are as likely to roll over and die with out a whimper as they are to take you to the top with a roar.

Turns out, I like making things. With my hands. Big hammer and a furnace that brings steel up to 1500 degrees f. It doesn't pay as well, hammering hot steel into swords, but it sure feels a hell of a lot better.

Adaptation is key (2)

wizzy403 (303479) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961412)

I've been working in the engineering world for just shy of 14 years now, and here's what little advice I can give. Those folks who have a good foundation and spend their time learning more than they have to on the job are still working. Those folks who specialized in one area are unemployed. Yeah, it's not a hard and fast rule, I was out of work for a few months between end of last year and early 02, but now I've been working steady since February. I'm in a completely different space than I was last year (moved from finance to GIS) but I proved to my potential employer that I could adapt and that what skills I brought to the table were useful.

Of the folks I've worked with recently, about half of them are out of work, but the ones who really know their stuff have done alright, even if it means changing companies or changing industries. If you can design a good circuit, there's work for you. Same if you can write good code, or take care of a network.

This subject was well documented 25 years ago (0)

OneInEveryCrowd (62120) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961413)

Go to your local library or used book store and browse through a copy of Programmers and Managers: The Routinization of Computer Programmers in the United States by Philip Kraft. This is a study of the programming profession by a sociologist that was first published in 1977. This book was not well liked by programmers at the time because Mr. Kraft basically got the programmers he interviewed to admit they didn't really have careers then critisized them for not doing anything about it.

It's worth a reread if you can find it. Although some of the details have changed in 25 years the parallels to todays situation are pretty amazing. One of the other more unpopular things he concluded in his studies was that programming careers were basically over when you hit your mid thirties. Too bad people generally believe what they want to believe.

I would do it different! (1)

eingram (633624) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961417)

I'm not a professional programmer or an engineer, I'm one of those it's-all-your-fault IT guys. ;) Right now I'm going back to school to do something that I'll really enjoy, teaching high school physics. So going back and doing it differently would save me a few years, nothing else. But given the choice, I would've said, "I hate computers, hello <insert your favorite scientist here>!"

Not to mention I feel doing the stuff that I do isn't really that rewarding. Sure, I solve problem #2,382 today, but user #182 won't remember problem #2,382 tomorrow. I'm not really making a difference or anything. *shrug* I better stop rambling before I get all... weird in the head. :)

management is the way to go. (1)

edstromp (522727) | more than 11 years ago | (#4961418)

I love to program, so as it was said before, my career is more of a passion than a job, but even so, the writing is on the wall. Factory work has already been moved overseas. IT is doing it too, and I might add that it is likely to have a much higher success rate: Shipping a shirt from costs a bit of cash. Shipping that program you wrote: free thanks to the internet. Language barriers are only going to hold up so long. Working from home is pushing the envelope so that the infrastructure is already in place to work from india.

All that being said, I believe management and the service industry will be the last job holdouts in the US (they are the hardest to ship overseas). Everything else is (eventually) subject to overseas competition. Since McDonalds doesn't pay well, my direction is management.

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