Author Topic: Re-entering the engineering world  (Read 9218 times)

mnn

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Re-entering the engineering world
« on: October 29, 2014, 10:34:07 PM »
Hi there everyone.  I am hoping to get some advice on the following:
I graduated in 2001 with an electronic engineering degree and worked for three years total as a service/sales engineer before moving to the UK from Pakistan.  In the UK I made the mistake of deviating from my career and working in retail for about 8 years.  I was working as an assistant manager.  Anyways,  now I have moved to the US and have been desperately wanting to restart my career in engineering. 
I am enrolled in an electrical engineering graduate program and taking only one class (wireless communication and networking) because I am also working full time to make ends meet (retail again). 
My problem is that since I have been out of college for about 10 years, I don't remember a lot of the things that I learned in undergrad for ex Matlab, AutoCAD, c++ etc.  I have been applying for many positions,  even those that require little to no experience with minimal desired skills, but I have had no luck.  Someone just told me that I should get my certification in CCNA to jump start in the networking field. 
I am very confused at this point.  I am over 34 years old and I dong have a lot of time before I hit 40 (the age employees start discriminating at I heard).  If I take the graduate degree route while working full time,  I will probably finish in three or so years. 

Currently I live with my wife's family so we are not really paying rent and saving up whatever little money we are earning.  We also have a small baby, so I am a little desperate for advice. 

I guess my question is how can I get my foot into the door for any entry level job in order to gain the right skills etc.  Please if anyone has any suggestions, do respond. I have many factors working against me currently ex age, big gap of deviating from career, forgotten skills etc. 

BooksAreNerdy

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2014, 12:59:54 AM »
See if there are any community college courses you could take in CAD or C++. I think being out of engineering for so long is the biggest hurdle at this point. Good luck.

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2014, 01:21:29 AM »
What about an online course in c++,  cad and MATLAB?
Which ones are good?
Does anyone recommend anything else?

Setters-r-Better

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2014, 05:46:22 AM »
Your community college or local university might have online classes in those things.
I know you could definitely find books and do some self study,  right? 
Re entry to a field is hard. I think you're doing it right,  reviewing and improving your skills and looking for a foot in the door.  Keep at it.

megamomo

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2014, 07:39:27 AM »
My problem is that since I have been out of college for about 10 years, I don't remember a lot of the things that I learned in undergrad for ex Matlab, AutoCAD, c++ etc.  I have been applying for many positions,  even those that require little to no experience with minimal desired skills, but I have had no luck.  Someone just told me that I should get my certification in CCNA to jump start in the networking field. 
I am very confused at this point.
EE is a pretty broad field, so it may help to narrow focus in on your existing skill set and interests.  I can't say whether jumping into a wireless communications course is or isn't a good start.  From the programming side, just taking a CAD, Matlab, or C++ course without having a more focused plan could end up being a poor use of your time and money.  It depends on what your EE focus is.  Some careers may require those skills, but many do not.  I haven't done any skilled programming since my college days 15 years ago, but have been a EE this whole time.

Your location may be a big factor too.  Many EE jobs are highly concentrated in specific areas of the country (i.e. Silicon Valley).  Some job types are hard to find outside of a handful of geographic areas.

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2014, 09:43:20 AM »
I have applied for numerous engineering technician jobs which only required reading schematic diagrams etc, which I can definitely do, but still no luck.  I think I agree about narrowing focus, but at this point I am ready to enter through any field.  Which is why I was thinking of improving skills like C++ etc. 
If anyone has any ideas or suggestions about what other fields are looking for in a candidate,  do let me know. 
Silicon valley would be an awesome idea, but the lifestyle is too expensive If I will be starting off in an entry level with a small family.  That is why I wanted to move to Texas or something. 
Current I live on Long Island.

boarder42

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2014, 09:53:53 AM »
CAD courses are a waste of your time as  a EE.  Most places have drafters.  Do you like PLCs take some courses in those.  We cant hire good PLC programmers fast enough at my company.  the control systems industry is booming.

GizmoTX

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2014, 10:13:11 AM »
Texas certainly beats Long Island for tech & is much more affordable than Silicon Valley, but you are competing against up to date EEs just out of school.

How good are you at sales? Tech companies always need good sales people who understand engineering & customer problems. However, this is a demanding, performance driven job that requires strong communication skills & follow through. For those who succeed, it can be even more lucrative than engineering.

NumberCruncher

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2014, 10:30:11 AM »
I agree with Gizmo about looking into tech sales - sounds like a great fit with your background.

No one has really mentioned the benefit of networking yet. Do you have friends or friends of friends in tech companies in your area? It's true that your background is not typical, and because of that, finding a job by just applying and posting your resume probably won't be as successful. If you can get into touch with hiring managers and set up "informational interviews," that might be hugely beneficial. If you have an unusual background, making a personal connection could be the spark you need to get back into the field. I had a friend who almost had a degree in philosophy talk his way into a quality engineering job this way. He talked about how his background was applicable, and frankly speaking made it clear that he was willing to work for less than an engineering grad would demand.

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2014, 03:08:05 PM »
Is PLC also called a controls engineer? What do employees usually look for in a PLC engineer?
I have tried networking with a few people,  but to no luck.  It's probably because of my unusual background as mentioned. 
No one has mentioned whether a certification in CCNA will be helpful?
 Can the person who mentioned PLC give me more info on what skills are required? 
I dont think sales engineering is for me.   I don't have an American accent so I might not even be considered for it IMO.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 03:10:26 PM by mnn »

NumberCruncher

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2014, 05:58:02 PM »
Is PLC also called a controls engineer? What do employees usually look for in a PLC engineer?
I have tried networking with a few people,  but to no luck.  It's probably because of my unusual background as mentioned. 
No one has mentioned whether a certification in CCNA will be helpful?
 Can the person who mentioned PLC give me more info on what skills are required? 
I dont think sales engineering is for me.   I don't have an American accent so I might not even be considered for it IMO.

How have you been networking?

If you have been asking friends and family if there are open positions, that's not really the best way to go about it. The best thing is if you figure out what you want to do, find a company that does that, then see if you know anyone who works there to make a connection (or even friend of a friend connection).  Don't feel limited by job postings - there might be a job opening that is not being externally advertised.





mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2014, 07:21:29 PM »
There were several openings for  an electronics lab tech and coincidentally a family friend worked there so he forwarded my resume, but luck was not on my side. 
Can I please get more info on the PLC engineering positions?  Thank you

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2014, 08:00:54 PM »
BTW how can I get in touch with hiring managers for informational session?
How did your friend get to talk his way to a position? Did he know the hiring manager? 

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2014, 08:17:41 PM »
Sorry for the multiple posts but I wanted to show an example of an opening that I think I can qualify for.  The only problem is what if they overlook me because I am not really "entry level" since I am not a recent graduate. Following is the link to the job posting.
https://dashiell.applicantstack.com/x/detail/a2jsjjn4vqti

mozar

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2014, 08:58:12 PM »
Is your name a typical american sounding name (john smith etc?) its messed up but recruiters will ignore names that don't sound american. just find a nickname and out it on your resume. is your resume on careerbuilder.com and linked in? Also you can network through the school where you take classes. they have job fairs, networking sessions, and you can reach out to alumni.

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2014, 09:13:50 PM »
My name is definitely not American sounding at all.  In fact my first name  is a typical Muslim name, Muhammad
  I have definitely thought about my name being a hindrance and thought about abbreviating it like M. x (middle name)  y.  I am just afraid that employees won't like me concealing or changing it.  Is it ok to use nicknames?

bacchi

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2014, 10:21:49 PM »
My name is definitely not American sounding at all.  In fact my first name  is a typical Muslim name, Muhammad
  I have definitely thought about my name being a hindrance and thought about abbreviating it like M. x (middle name)  y.  I am just afraid that employees won't like me concealing or changing it.  Is it ok to use nicknames?

Yeah, sadly, your first name probably alienates some people. I see no problem with using a nickname on a resume.

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2014, 01:15:05 AM »
So I just sent out a resume by using an initial for my first named and using my middle name.  I guess that should a little more ambiguous right?
I think I have the skills (as of now) to start off as an electronic or electrical engineer tech (soldering, reading schematic diagrams,  working with semiconductors).  If anyone has any recommendations let me know  please. 

Goldielocks

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2014, 01:58:24 AM »
I work with a large engineering consulting firm, with many internationally trained persons, and my husband is almost finished retraining for electrical tech work in automation, robotics, and plc.  He finally is rehired after a long work lapse, so we understand your difficulty.  His last professional work was with data encryption programming for military contracts, and that ended quickly after 9-11 and the rise of DHS. To give an idea of the time.

In Canada, the first step is to have your degree accepted by the state engineering association. This should work in USA too, or you write the EIT exam.  Then, become a certified EIT, just needing work experience and another exam before applying for PE status.  You don't necessarily need a full P E but having an EIT status in USA with the license board shows something. .  Then start looking for plc or engineering drafting work, depending on your skills. 6 mos to 1 year max is all you need to take for a couple courses at two levels for either plc or electrical drafting.  Programming in general can work too.  Plc work, testing, and engineering tech are decent choices if you are concerned about nationality issues with some industries.

I would say that at least half of my international colleagues choose nicknames that they like, especially asians, but pretty common across the board. I live in a diverse city.  Your resume uses this name only  or states Muhammed (Charles) Last name.  Don't use the initial unless you really do use your middle name, as we aren't used to seeing it this way. 

Previous work experience in engineering is great, especially common expat countries like UAE. If you have any.

Your largest challenge is lack of usa experience and references. That would be true if you were a Brit native with four years recent engineering work too.

. So, any decent local fulltime work, even retail would help, but try customer support or call centre for technical company or technical sales too.  Even program testing or debugging works.  My DH started as a program and device tester, but was quickly given plc programming and other projects at his new employment.

Good luck!  It will take 3x as long to overcome the new to the country hurdles, so don't get discouraged, keep plugging.  Good news is that once you are working in the industry for a couple of years, and any telephone accent is mild, you will likely have all the same Opportunities as your peers.

megamomo

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2014, 08:45:48 AM »
Silicon valley would be an awesome idea, but the lifestyle is too expensive If I will be starting off in an entry level with a small family.  That is why I wanted to move to Texas or something. 
Current I live on Long Island.

I think I have the skills (as of now) to start off as an electronic or electrical engineer tech (soldering, reading schematic diagrams,  working with semiconductors).  If anyone has any recommendations let me know  please.

There are a number of pockets of the US that are mini Silicon Valleys of sorts.  San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, Boston, and Raleigh to name a few.  Since you are in Long Island, upstate NY is a tech research and manufacturing area (at least within the semiconductor field).

mm1970

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2014, 11:06:40 AM »
Hi there everyone.  I am hoping to get some advice on the following:
I graduated in 2001 with an electronic engineering degree and worked for three years total as a service/sales engineer before moving to the UK from Pakistan.  In the UK I made the mistake of deviating from my career and working in retail for about 8 years.  I was working as an assistant manager.  Anyways,  now I have moved to the US and have been desperately wanting to restart my career in engineering. 
I am enrolled in an electrical engineering graduate program and taking only one class (wireless communication and networking) because I am also working full time to make ends meet (retail again). 
My problem is that since I have been out of college for about 10 years, I don't remember a lot of the things that I learned in undergrad for ex Matlab, AutoCAD, c++ etc.  I have been applying for many positions,  even those that require little to no experience with minimal desired skills, but I have had no luck.  Someone just told me that I should get my certification in CCNA to jump start in the networking field. 
I am very confused at this point.  I am over 34 years old and I dong have a lot of time before I hit 40 (the age employees start discriminating at I heard).  If I take the graduate degree route while working full time,  I will probably finish in three or so years. 

Currently I live with my wife's family so we are not really paying rent and saving up whatever little money we are earning.  We also have a small baby, so I am a little desperate for advice. 

I guess my question is how can I get my foot into the door for any entry level job in order to gain the right skills etc.  Please if anyone has any suggestions, do respond. I have many factors working against me currently ex age, big gap of deviating from career, forgotten skills etc.
Well, age 40 is when "age discrimination protection" starts.

I wouldn't say that age discrimination starts at 40.
As far as I can tell at work, it's more like 50-60.

If you really want to get back into it, I suggest taking as many classes as you can, including on-line and community college.

It's going to be tough though, with a small baby and a job. Most people I know who are in school with kids have a spouse who works.  I don't really know anyone who has managed job + classes + kids.  Pick 2.

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2014, 11:57:10 AM »
I actually go by my middle name, not by my first name.  In this case I can just use my middle name on my resume?  So when apps have forms that have to be filled out and they ask for name on there,  then should I write my entire legal name or I can still just write my shortened name? When people use a nickname , their references probably know the nickname I'm assuming.   
I am working in retail currently in the US,  so I have US references. 
I actually live with my wife's family,  so we have  help with the baby.   My wife is currently taking a few courses and taking care of the baby.   She has decided to start working again next year. 
Anyways, to become a state certified engineer, I would have to take the EIT? Is that necessary?  I mean do employers like that?
I actually have an interview with a textile manufacturing company as a technician.  I am not sure if this experience would be helpful to venture out in the future.  Ideas?
I do agree this will be a tough road and I need to take classes to be up to date.  My wife is very cooperative,  so I am able to study in most of my free time.  Wouldn't be able to do it without her help. 
Anyways,  if anyone has any openings in mind in the semiconductor industry do let me know. 


4alpacas

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #22 on: October 31, 2014, 12:12:19 PM »
Quote
Anyways, to become a state certified engineer, I would have to take the EIT? Is that necessary?  I mean do employers like that?
The first step to become a PE (professional engineer) is to take the FE (http://ncees.org/exams/fe-exam/).  If you pass, then you're an EIT (Engineer in Training).  For more details, http://www.nspe.org/resources/licensure/what-pe

Different fields require different things.  In my current position, no one cares if I'm a PE or EIT.  Other positions it matters a lot.  Maybe you should ask your networking contacts whether the FE is a good path for you. 

Goldielocks

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2014, 12:23:27 PM »
Even though there are not many PE's in my field, I found having EIT status very helpful when replying to US positions, and I am a Canadian, with experience working for US firms (CDN office).

 It is a proof of your foreign education, if nothing else.

90% of the jobs do not need it, only engineers who need to testify on behalf of company, govt employees and consulting companies.  PE staus will also let me apply for TN work visa. But you need to be a NAFTA citizen.


OptimizeOptimism

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #24 on: October 31, 2014, 12:37:31 PM »
Have you looked into if your school provides job placement assistance?

My college had a pretty good program that basically networked with companies for us, allowed us to put in applications from an internal database, and also provided resume critiques and mock interviews.

If a good program like this is available to you it is invaluable.

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #25 on: October 31, 2014, 01:41:03 PM »
Oh yes I completely forgot about the career center.  I can look into that,  but don't want to end up at a dead end like many others who had trouble with career centers in the past.  Which is why I was gathering more info just in case. 
Anyways,  Goldielocks can you elaborate on the courses needed for PLC training please ? I think PE sounds like it might not be really needed.  I will ask about it though.   

Goldielocks

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #26 on: October 31, 2014, 07:05:27 PM »
At our technical institute (the state one) here that grants diplomas, degrees and trade certifications...  it is simply called PLC 1 and PLC 2.

LOL!  They are part of a trade ticket.  I think that some CNC programmers take them, Robotics and automation and electrical tech programs take them.

The PE may not be needed, and I never suggested that you get it. 
However to validate foreign credentials, the EIT (first step) can be very very helpful.  At least in my company, we interview people for "Engineering" jobs even if they only have their EIT, and we don't worry too much then about universities that we have never heard of.

Nb.  I have had my US EIT for over 20 years, and no plans to get the US version of the PE.

Spondulix

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2014, 07:56:20 PM »
In regards to being overqualified - I had the same problem when I got into the field where I had a Masters Degree but was looking for entry level work. I had multiple versions of my resume, and experimented with sending different versions (moving education to the bottom, removing details about my degree), and just see if I got a response and what they asked about in interviews. You don't have to put what year you graduated, for example, because they can't ask in an interview how old you are anyhow (that would be discrimination, as would be asking about ethnicity, religion, etc). It's not uncommon for people to go by a nickname (or middle name), then use their full name on legal documents.

My background is in audio - which if you're interested, try looking for jobs in that area. There's not a lot of schools that offer EE degrees for audio (most programs kids come out of school and want to be music producers and engineers anyhow). I know a number of people who got jobs with audio manufacturers with no audio background, and just received that training on the job.

mozar

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2014, 08:58:02 PM »
You can put a nickname on your job application and on your resume/ careerbuilder.com and linked in. But if you actually get the job you then need to give them your legal name. You can tell a recruiter/ employer to please use your legal name when calling references. It's not unusual for people to change their names, like for marriage for instance.

mnn

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #29 on: November 02, 2014, 10:18:15 PM »
Cathy are you in the US from Canada?
I need to know if there are any PLC training courses online.  If anyone knows of any please post the links. Thank you.


Goldielocks

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #30 on: November 02, 2014, 11:11:21 PM »
Cathy, generally I agree with you, but it is quite a hill to climb when you are new to the country or local community industry, so anything helps.

Plc programming is generally not a certificate, but part of certificates for other things, and you do not need a plc certificate to gain employment as a plc programmer, it is a good entry to other engineering work, and gets you into the industry, generally.

You could also look into training for elevatpor repair and HVAC balancing for large buildings.. Both require fairly sophisticated  programming, like plc, but more and specific to equipment.

NumberCruncher

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Re: Re-entering the engineering world
« Reply #31 on: November 06, 2014, 12:08:26 PM »
I mentioned a friend in a previous post - got the story from him, as I forgot some details:

He was unemployed for quite a while, and he figured out a specific type of job that would fit his skills, despite him not having the degree usually associated with that engineering work. He  was talking about this to a friend who worked at a local company, and some time later there was an open position in that company that fit. He didn't know the hiring manager, but his friend was basically able to let him know about the opportunity/put in a good word.

So, his steps were:
(1) Figure out the best fit/narrow job search
(2) Talk to friends at local companies to see if they know of any opportunities/can let you know if any open up
(3) Personalize applications with tailored cover letters and resumes, making it clear how you can be a huge asset to them
(4) Keep at it! :) 

He was unemployed for about 7 months while he was looking, but he ended up with the job he was looking for. He was paid less than the right kind of engineering degree would have been paid, but he got some pretty good raises over the years and now has the experience necessary to make a lot more.

Are you selling yourself short on the accent? Your written English is better than many American-born engineering grads...your accent might not be that big of an issue if you wanted to pursue technical sales.

Good luck!