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'[OT]: What makes an engineer (also long)'
2001\04\11@142542 by Alan B. Pearce

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>I'd say that you do not need a degree to be successful in any
>field......but a good degree will probably get you an interview. And,
>exceptional people will not stop at a degree, anyway, they will go on to a
>PhD.........

I did an electronics apprenticeship in NZ starting over 30 years ago. My
boss at that stage told us a situation one of his old lecturers had at that
stage. He had given the class a simple project to design and build a
preamplifier suitable for use with a dynamic microphone, specs to be 60dB
s/n ratio with 1mV input, I forget the required gain. This is not an onerous
specification, even then with suitable low noise transistors. I am not sure
of the class size, but there were a handful who did about 10dB better than
s/n spec, about 1/3 to half of the class reached spec, and the rest were
hopeless, and not within the ballpark.

30 years later I applied for a position in the space science department of a
research institute in the UK, without a degree apart from a polytech
qualification, and beat various university graduates including at least one
with a masters degree. I was asked various questions by the interview panel
including things like drawing the basic circuit of an inverting op amp,
which was no problem, and some questions on doing things like balanced line
use, and identifying problems in transmission lines using TDR. None of these
were a problem to me, but apparently were big problems to the graduates.

Having said that I had been round employment gatherings, and found that I
was very much in the minority, not having any sort of degree qualification,
and it was very hard to get any interview.

I worked at the DSIR in NZ for a couple of years, and one of the guys there
who had a doctorate quite freely acknowledged the practical aspects that a
couple of other technicians there had used to keep him on the "straight and
narrow" practical way of doing things and kept his projects out of trouble.

This guy was no dummy, he was just happy to acknowledge that his degree gave
him no practical experience in the necessary ways of the real world, and
this is where the university training lacks.

I had dealings with a young guy here where I am currently working who was
doing a year's work in what is known in the UK as a gap year before doing
the final year of his degree. This seems to be done to endeavour to get
round the lack of experience problem. He did not have any idea about simple
things like the necessity for bypass capacitors on power supply lines.

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2001\04\11@152620 by Dan Michaels

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Alan B. Pearce wrote:
......
>30 years later I applied for a position in the space science department of a
>research institute in the UK, without a degree apart from a polytech
>qualification, and beat various university graduates including at least one
>with a masters degree. I was asked various questions by the interview panel
>including things like drawing the basic circuit of an inverting op amp,
>which was no problem, and some questions on doing things like balanced line
>use, and identifying problems in transmission lines using TDR. None of these
>were a problem to me, but apparently were big problems to the graduates.
..........
>I had dealings with a young guy here where I am currently working who was
>doing a year's work in what is known in the UK as a gap year before doing
>the final year of his degree. This seems to be done to endeavour to get
>round the lack of experience problem. He did not have any idea about simple
>things like the necessity for bypass capacitors on power supply lines.


Alan, you are entirely correct with what you are saying, except you
are overlooking the problem the universities have to deal with.

They teach students math, physics, circuit theory, power, electronics,
field theory, systems theory, control theory, prob/statistics, logic,
digital systems, computers, programming etc, with the idea that they
are presenting a broad background. They cannot go into complete depth
in any one area the way trade school programs can.

You have to draw a compromise between depth and breadth, in a world
where technical info is growing exponentially. [plus of course, the
students would rather ski and party, anyways].

Therefore, students aren't necessarily going to know the answers to
specific questions in every area - [although you "would" hope they would
know more of them in their "major" areas than some of the guys you were
citing :)].

The theory is that a broad education will allow someone to more easily
solve a broad range of problems, and that on-the-job training will
give them the details in the specific area they end up in. Plus
they will more easily be able to move into other areas and other
problems than someone with a more narrow education.

This being said, there are always going to be 'A' students and 'C'
students, and this also has to be factored into all of the previous
discusisons of specific cases.

best regards,
- dan michaels
http://www.oricomtech.com
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2001\04\11@184333 by Bill Westfield

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   My boss at that stage told us a situation one of his old lecturers had
   at that stage. He had given the class a simple project to design and
   build a preamplifier suitable for use with a dynamic microphone, specs
   to be 60dB s/n ratio with 1mV input, I forget the required gain. This is
   not an onerous specification, even then with suitable low noise
   transistors. I am not sure of the class size, but there were a handful
   who did about 10dB better than s/n spec, about 1/3 to half of the class
   reached spec, and the rest were hopeless, and not within the ballpark.

I have a BSEE from a "F**cking prestigious" Ivy League University.  The
cirriculum was strong in math, physics, circuit analysis, solid state
theory and (labwise) measurement of contrieved circuits.  We didn't
learn about building actual working circuits.  We analyzed a 555 timer
at the transistor level, but we didn't go further than the basic two
circuits you can make with it.

Assuming no other educational input beyond the BSEE requirements (including
the 'liberal arts' requirements, but not necessarilly the "other
science&Engineering" electives), I would have graduated with knowlege that
would have equipped me to go to either grad school, or some large
engineering company equipped to round out my education (ie Bell Labs,
Hewlett Packard, etc.)

I've worked at Stanford, and with PhDs from assorted places, and I've hired
people with nothing more than high school diplomas.  I've participated in
the hiring of people for C coding positions that didn't know C (yet.)
EVERYONE has apalling gaps in their knowlege.  What matters is how well
they'll be able to FILL those gaps that are likely to get in their way in
the job they're being hired for.  As a guess, people with advanced degrees
will be better at filling theoretical holes, while people with large
amounts of practical experience will be better at solving the practical
problems that creep up.

Things work best if you can get the accademics and the wizards to work
together...

BillW

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