So where exactly does a person who wants to “do it all” get a job? That’s a loaded question. There are many different correct answers. Different strokes for different folks and all that.
My dream, like many rengineers, is to own my own business. I’m not there yet, but I’m working toward it on a number of fronts.
Until then, I’m stuck “working for the man.”
I’ve had a few jobs over my career – but I’ve definitely not seen it all. My experience may differ from others, so feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section. My focus has been embedded systems. That choice in itself has steered me in a number of directions I would not have expected when I was fresh out of college.
When it comes to jobs, there seem to be two basic choices out there – big companies and small ones. By small, I mean the tiny shops – the garage operations, the start-ups. I’ve found that your best chance of working on everything – from requirements through hardware and software design, to the end of implementation and release – is to work at a small company.
I went to work at a small company straight out of college. It was a start-up in the barcode industry. In my humble opinion, I learned more there in a few short years than I would have learned in a decade at a big company.
Small companies have their own risks though – start-ups fail, companies get bought out, new management comes in, you name it. In my case, the company did well. Ultimately, the president decided to take the company out of state, and re-launched with a new staff.
Since then I’ve worked for a few large companies, mainly in the defense industry. What I’ve found is that larger companies have much more defined and rigid job structures. What’s worse is that politics come in. The software managers don’t want software budget used for hardware, and vice versa. Throw systems engineers into the equation and things get even more sticky.
All hope is not lost though. There are ways to be a renaissance engineer in a big company. The first thing is find out what the culture of the company is. Culture really defines how accepting a large company will be to rengineers. Don’t be afraid to ask – right in the interview phase. In my own case, my current employer made it clear up front, I would be working the software side of things. Why did I take it? At the time I needed a job, and other life pressures were in play (you know, a house, bills, etc).
But even at my job – I’ve found a way to do both hardware and software. It’s in the small jobs – the small budget hardware and software projects. Not much money is available, and not much time. if you are lucky enough to be under a manager who is open to it, you can find yourself playing the role of the rengineer.