Alva's Engineering Concerns, Employment, & Careers Home Page

Of Engineering Interest --

--- Professional Concerns, Employment, Salaries, and Careers ---

 

DEDICATED TO ENGINEERS IN SERVICE TO THE WORLD

by Alva

Welcome!


Welcome to the engineering careers website. I'm glad you've arrived!

This site focuses on the engineering profession and provides a quick reference source for career and salary assessment.

Take a moment to bookmark this site right now, for you'll find much to refer to later.

What's New!


The last change was on 2/2/2001 when a transition to Frontpage was made.

Best Ad Award

Here are salaries offered to $140K! Switching power supplies, RF Amplifiers, Motors and drive, Microprocessor controls.

An interesting new NonNasa Site!

A Career Guide CD-ROM (cheap!)

Career Suggestions

Free Salary Survey and Planning Guide!

Engineering News


News of hiring, changes, layoffs, etc.

7/15/99: The Yahoo Finance message board is humming with news about Harris Corporation (HRS) stock and the influence that the forthcoming layoffs will have on it. (I disclose that I own HRS stock, because the stockholders are rewarded, just not the employees.) You can find the message board at http://messages.yahoo.com and then following the link path Business and Finance, Stocks, Technology, Office Equipment, HRS (Harris Corporation).

Also, the Florida Today newspaper is soliciting Harris employees to contact Mr. Sean Hao, business reporter, at (321) 242-3655. He would like to interview Harris Corp. employees affected by the latest layoffs and restructuring. He also would like to talk with former Harris employees.

4/15/99: Harris Corporation is laying off some 300 to 400 local employees. Harris earnings have been sliding, and the stock price (HRS, NYSE) dropped from about 54 to as low as 28. Restructuring was greeted by the market, and Harris stock increased somewhat. Some 20 years ago, the Electronic Systems Division was split into several Government divisions: GISD, GASD, GCSD, and GESD. The latter was reabsorbed several years ago, but now the others are to be combined. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

5/26/98: From the Florida Today newspaper, Elizabeth McCormick article, this news: Brevard County's largest private employer is offering college grads as much as a 10% hiring bonus.

The shortage of cheap engineers means this Fortune 500 company must compete with nationwide hiring challenges. Software and systems engineers command top dollar in this highly competitive market. Engineers should never accept an initial offer, but negotiate for higher salaries, a higher job rank, and more vacation up front. Once they have been hired, progress will be much more restricted.

1/26/98: AT&T Chairman Michael Armstrong announces 20000 jobs to be cut. -- Internet Week

1/24/98: Raytheon to cut 9700 jobs, mostly in California. -- "Florida Today"

3/14/97: Apple is laying off some 2700 employees in their restructuring. Does this mean that managing a computer company really does take different skills than selling soda pop?

Companies & Acquisitions


As companies continue to "engulf and devour" each other, some economies of scale occur. The elimination of competition is good for business, and more work can be kept in house without resorting to teaming with competitors.

The Big Ones:
1) Lockheed-Martin --
2) Boeing --
3) Raytheon -- 120000 workers, president Kenneth Dahlberg, acquired Hughes defense units from General Motors for $9.5 billion, bought Texas Instruments defense business, bought E-Systems and Chrysler defense businesses, revenues of $20.5 B in 1997.

Recent Layoffs


Layoffs as a result of downsizing are usually overt, but some companies continually lay off selected workers (sometimes of minority status or over 40 years of age status) by finding there is no work for them anymore, the business has changed, or that the business program need has changed. After a month or so, they can "discover" that there really is a job slot to be filled, and a new grad can then be hired at a lower salary.

Age Discrimination


Since those over 40 years of age are protected from age discrimination by Federal law, companies must find other reasons to get rid of the older workers and make room for younger workers. Rankings of employees are often used to reposition engineers in the pay scale ranges once they reach 40 years of age. If you work in a company where this is happening, be certain to leave before you reach age 40. Life is far to short to risk your career in hopes that a token raise will be made up next year. In actuality, if you seem to accept a lower than expected pay raise (or none), you will then be targeted as someone who can be shorted next time as a cost savings.

Be very sensitive to managers who make age-related comments, like "I'm surprised that you haven't retired yet" or "You ought to think about retirement, what with being bald and all that." If comments like these are made, you may be certain that you won't be getting a large slice of the salary pool. It is wise to immediately log the date and time, the exact words that were used, and the person who said it. A written log of discriminatory remarks is important in establishing circumstances in pursuit of damages in a court of law. While age discrimination is forbidden by most companies, the individuals who set your salary use methods to set your salary that are essentially untraceable.

Career Assessment

General


Career assessment establishes what you are worth in the engineering market. The various human relations (personnel) departments of diverse companies have frequent meetings and exchange salary information, and naturally buy copies of expensive surveys to know the market.

Even if you feel you have had good pay increases, if you are relatively young and have valuable skills, you should always be aware what other companies will offer you, and check the market every three years or so. (The prudent will do so every year.) Complacency especially hurts in the early period of your career. Periodic checking allows you to know what you are worth elsewhere. You can then make a rational decision as to how much the difference must be to justify a company change. Some job openings with salary levels are listed below to aid you in assessing your salary and responsibilities against those elsewhere.

The power of salary compounding is very great, just as with financial investments. The younger you are, the greater the effect of compounding over your remaining career until retirement.

Salary


Salaries must always be compared in terms of dollars per hour invested. Some companies may mandate a 50-hour work week, resulting in 4/5ths of the salary rate quoted when you hired in. Since unpaid overtime similarly reduces your pay, these policies are especially useful to a company in getting free work. A true professional works for pay, not for free. If your company doesn't pay for overtime, do your very best in forty hours, and be satisfied that you have done what is ethically right.

In companies using the "Pay for Performance" scheme, target salaries are set annually by ranking the individuals by performance determined in various work and personality areas. A graphic chart or spreadsheet look-up then converts the performance rating to a target salary. This graphic line or spreadsheet lookup is used to map the lowest salary in a title class to the lowest performance rating, and the highest salary to the highest performance rating. Once your performance score has been determined, your target salary is found. This target is used as a guide to the actual payroll action.

After a year or so, the next performance appraisal will indicate a new salary, likely different than that negotiated when hiring in to the company. If higher, the basic salary might be increased or perhaps a partial value might be given as a bonus instead. (A bonus doesn't compound, thus saving the company money in the long term.) If the indicated target salary is less, the salary might well be reduced to lower than the hiring salary, or raises might be withheld until inflation overwhelms the salary. Once a new employee is hired, it will take more money to entice him to leave the new home, so there seems to be an easy initial salary negotiation, followed by a possible reduction or stagnation later.

Keep in mind that the "right" score for an employee may be iteratively determined. If anyone in the approval chain believes that the salary computed isn't correct (is too high or too low), that means that the group leader has surely made an error in scoring that must be corrected. The group leader must then readjust the individual attribute scores (and elicit the right kind of further inputs from work managers as required) until the final score and proposed salary are "just right". (I can imagine these conversations, "But surely he did a lot better than that?" or "How could he possibly have done that well? There must be something else you didn't like; let's focus on that", etc.) The group leader could fill out the forms much faster if told what salary to justify in the first place, but that wouldn't be playing the game, and the shortcut process would be too easily leaked to employees, who might become cynical.

Be certain to consider this "pay-for-performance" possibility before accepting a position with a company using this technique. Ultimately, employees are worth only what a company will pay to keep them there. Scoring procedures assume that the intangible values can really be measured in a quantitative way, as opposed to subjective impressions of what they might be. When metrics are mandated, there is usually something along the lines of milestones met. These are easily counted for viewgraph charts, while quality of work is really difficult to measure. This leads to the equivalent of counting the broom handles in the closet to estimate the particulate matter of the floor. The former method is cheap and easy, expensive lab analysis is avoided, and the real question is side-stepped.

You must ask recruiters, or for greater honesty, several of the interviewing nonmanagement engineers, exactly how salary increases are determined. Ask about past layoffs, paycuts, reorganizations, and how long ago they occurred. Is another round expected? Compare the responses of those who have been there ten years to those who are relatively new to the company. There may be significant differences that will give you insight into company treatment of employees.

Remember that you will have to outperform those employees who have worked there long enough to know the company procedures and processes well in order to maintain your starting salary.

Cost of Living

The local cost of living greatly influences the quality of life you can enjoy. A significant factor is the tax rate. Some states have high income taxes, and some cities also have income tax. States such as Texas and Florida have no income tax, and are especially attractive. In a perfectly fluid market, salaries will match the total cost of living and advantages. Because of average personal preferences, California salaries usually are highest.

Preparing to Advance Elsewhere

General


Since companies tend to pay more to get new employees than they are willing to pay current employees, there is always a salary differential. This hysteresis effect occurs because the employee must only be paid to stay, rather than to attract them to a company against competition from other companies. You must judge whether this difference is tolerable, or if moving to a new company for a few years will pay off in long-term salary. The difference may tend to grow with longevity, since if you haven't left, your pay is perceived to be acceptable to you. Ask this crucial question: Does the best success seem to come to those who are leaving the company? Do co-workers happily refer to the departure as a {abandoned company name} success story? Do those left behind seem vicariously happy (even thrilled) for those who are promoted to another company?

Sometimes, it becomes clear that you will not only earn more money, but have a better life at a different company. You may have a great deal of inertia in staying with your present job and the familiar conditions, but eventually, the pull of higher salary elsewhere will become overwhelming. Check your marketability at least once a year to avoid significant losses in income. Unless your company has adopted the "pay-for-performance" scheme, your increase from moving will compound year after year through rest of your career. The younger you are, the greater the compounding over your career.

This compounding effect is just as important as with money investments. If you get a 2% raise each year, you will be making 10% more after five years. If you get a 5% raise each year, you will be making 28% more after five years. Changing jobs usually results in a 25% to 70% increase in this job market. This is likely exceeded if you previously received a pay cut or demotion in downsizing. In changing jobs, you can command the market rate and catch up.

Even the company that cut your pay may be paying more than average to hire new employees, but they won't gratuitously offer that to you. In some instances, the hiring is at the 60 to 70 percentile level, while the total worker level is likely at the 50 percentile level.

If you are leaving, your current employer make a counter-offer, but they are probably going to search for your replacement. Avoid accepting a counter-offer, as they can backfire. Benign neglect for being a disloyal employee will affect your career if you should stay then.

If you change jobs for a 25% increase and get 5% raises each succeeding year, in five years, you would be making 60% more than now, 32% more than if you stayed where you are and got 5% increases each year. Obviously, compounding your salary can help you, and even small increases in the rate significantly affect the outcome.

Clearly, younger employees have a longer time to compound their earnings. If you get a 2% raise each year, you will be making 35% more after fifteen years. If you get a 5% raise each year, you will be making 108% more after fifteen years.

These examples show the need to get large increases early in your career, and to ensure that you continue to progress. Do not become complacent, wishfully thinking that if you didn't quite get the raise you had hoped for, and that things will be better next year. From a company viewpoint, profits are highest if you sometimes think you are so underpaid that you should leave, but then don't. If you were really happy with your pay, they are paying you extra money that should have gone into profits and executive bonuses instead of being wasted.

This kind of thinking then leads to monitoring the attrition rate, where a low rate indicates that employees think they have it too good. Management then tightens up on pay raises and benefits until enough employees leave each year that the attrition rate goal is met. I'll note wryly that some companies that downsized employees, salaries, and job titles have not only met their attrition rate goals, but have vastly exceeded them, driving the company into intellectual bankruptcy. I wonder if the Human Relations vice president got a huge bonus for exceeding the goal.

You can check on this by asking one of the interviewer engineers (not a manager) what percent of the employees of five years ago still work there. If 70% have left and been replaced by new hires, the essence of the technical base has significantly changed. What previously gave the company success probably wasn't the management, but the intellectual assets of now-departed employees.

Net Aids


The Internet is a great leveler of the past company advantages for engineers seeking jobs. Whereas in the past, only personnel or human relations workers were well apprised of the job market and salaries, now engineers can also make use of this knowledge.

Most large engineering companies advertise their needs on the Internet. In addition, you can readily email them to investigate potential openings. Salary surveys are available to all websearchers. Links are provided below to assist you in quickly checking opportunities in case of being downsized or for proactive career enhancement. You are responsible for promoting your career -- resolve to take charge today!

Area Cost of Living


The cost of living varies significantly throughout the United States. Salaries are often higher in high cost of living areas, compensating for the cost. Because of this effect, some HR representatives claim that it would cost so much elsewhere that you're better off at your present company. As a better understanding of salaries and cost of living spreads throughout the Net, adjustments are expected to level the after-tax income in a cost-adjusted manner.

Resumes


Resumes are your ticket to getting an interview, nothing more. Get a good book on the current styles of writing a resume, as different expectations are to be met today. A clear, easy to read style may well get you the interview, while a complicated, fact-crammed page may be a turn-off. Remember that many companies use resume-screening software that looks for keywords. You must list every key word that applies to you, and then construct your resume using each one. stuff it with all alternatives, for it may be that human eyes don't look at it until the program has screened you.

Interviewing


Interviewing is a selling job on yourself. Practicing with a friend may be a good experience. Try to visualize yourself talking with the interviewer. You are striving to present yourself in the most desirable light, something that we don't always do. You must become an honest actor to be at your very best.

A key issue is that when you are interviewing with a technical (nonmanagement) engineer, be certain to ask them how salary changes are determined. The salary that you are offered may be high to get you in, with intentions of lowering it later.

You should also ask if they have had any salary cuts, layoffs, urged retirements, or paycuts in the last ten years. What happened to others may well happen to you in the future.

What To Do If Laid Off

General


If you are laid off, your new job is to find employment. Only if you are about to retire anyway, will early retirement be an option.

Immediate Action List


Here are some of the first things to do if laid off.
Take a few days to deal with the situation.

 

Make or review your budget. (You should reserve six month's living expenses in a checking account.)
Review this website for ideas and links to employment sites.
Consider using an employment agency to gain a market advantage.
Rewrite your resume from scratch; then compare it to the most recent version to see which seems most effective.
Realize that your ego may be somewhat battered. Wait at least a week before talking to recruiters.

Unemployment

Applying for unemployment benefits is important. You may find this difficult if you've never had the experience. Call your State Unemployment Office to hear what to do next.

Job Hunting

Job hunting is easier if left to the professionals. A reputable employment agency knows where hiring is hot, and they can provide valuable guidance in marketing yourself to achieve the highest salary offer. Use only company-paid job finders, not one where you pay a fee.

Professionalism

General

Engineering professionalism requires a devotion to the public good, even if you are not registered as a "Professional Engineer". Remember that industry-employed engineers are not required to be licensed, only those who provide engineering services to the public. Professionalism is not a legal issue, but a moral and ethical sense of doing what is right for your customer and for yourself. A salaried engineer may have several "customers" within the company.

Organizations

Organizations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers maintain standing committees on professional activities. These groups may be able to assist if a company urges you to act in an unprofessional way to gain a market advantage. Some helpful contact points are provided at the end of this page.

Professional Ethics

The ethics required for an engineer are not always identical to those that a corporation desires. One errant manager can locally enforce policies that the corporation as a whole denies as poor business ethics. There is usually a corporate ombudsman who can provide a review of questionable policies. It is in a corporation's best interest to avoid lawsuits and liabilities.

Sometimes, local areas of a reputable company may choose to do questionable things to increase profits. Have you seen instances of copying copyrighted materials or software? These acts are just plain illegal if not in compliance with personal "fair use" permission or as described in frontispiece legality or in software licenses, and may be actionable in a court of law. If complaints are met with demurrals, rather than quitting, check with an appointed "business ethics" ombudsman, and if necessary, report the details anonymously to one of the monitoring organizations.

Friendly Ears,

that may welcome your email!

Gary Fisher, Engineering Job Topics

Walter Elden, Engineering Ethical Harassment Topics

Walt Elden's home page for background

John Cooley, CEO Overpay

Current Exciting Employment Ads!

Here are some consolidated pointers to future employment. Would you want to work for a company that didn't have a Website? Future-thinking companies tend to develop a website even if they don't quite know how to use it. A company without a website is perhaps suspect. If they do not allow web access for their employees, their business may quickly fade.

 

Priced Employment Ads!

There aren't many priced ads, but they seem so much more sincere!

 

Typical Recent Employment Ads!

Try these for a quick survey of the market.

Typical Recent Recruiter (Headhunter) Ads!

Other Recruiter Ads!

Job Search Tools!

Links to other sites on the Web

About Work Career Info

Retire Early's Kareer Korner

IEEE Home Page
IEEE-USAB Home Page
IEEE Salary Survey
Walt Elden's presentation of the IEEE Salary Survey
NASA RIF Page
Space Coast Rumors

 

Here's a tear sheet of website addresses to post for your friends and coworkers. Just cut across the lines from right to left, leaving the left margin to hold it together.

index.html Page Last Modified on 8/2/2003 ; 7/27/2004

Thanks for visiting Alva. Keep the faith, your ethics, and your professionalism!

 

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