on January 14th, 2009

Dear colleagues

1. Back to school

After being a few (or indeed many) years in the workforce, is it worth going back to school, or, for my British Commonwealth readers; engineering college or university? Especially in these recessionary economic times? This depends on several things, including; your industry, long-term career goals and your financial situation. If a graduate degree, or indeed any further study, makes sense, this rather despondent (and slack) period of the economic cycle can indeed be very productive to enhance one’s credentials and make oneself even more employable for when the economic cycle turns. Certainly being unemployed or underemployed can take a psychological toll and one starts to question one’s worth. Working towards something and re-inventing yourself can make for a healthier disposition. Other benefits, besides skills and know-how, are building up useful contacts with others in industry to enhance your career.

Obviously, consideration of your financial situation is important before making a decision – to avoid financial hardship in the short term. You may be able to access government loans to attend the courses, but this merely delays the financial bite. I recently completed a postgraduate degree at a local university and was horrified to find some of my fellow students (academic addicts) owing over $80,000 for the numerous courses they had been on. With very little chance of paying this back in the immediate future they were facing a horrible financial millstone. The million dollar questions: Are you going to be more marketable when you finish the course? Is the industry expanding or shrinking? Will you get paid more? A brutal “return on investment” question is required.

You may want to explore the “road not taken” type career. For example, you may decide to become a patent attorney working in the engineering and scientific areas – you will then need to add a law degree to your engineering degree or diploma. But take a hard look at where the jobs are growing. Join professional associations and talk to others to identify hiring trends and industry leaders. Don’t go into an industry or career which is dying. For example, moving into the car manufacturing business in the western world may be a challenging experience as it is in terminal decline, I believe. Whereas changing to medical technology from mining may be a smart move due to the rapid growth in the health care arena.

It is also a possibility that employers will view taking “time out” for study as “hiding out”. But with this recession being more severe than others in living memory, most employers, I believe, will be fairly tolerant if not encouraging. Obviously the course must be aligned with your career goals – a course in Mediaeval History is unlikely to elicit enthusiasm from your employer when you want to rejoin the engineering workforce. But then you may be applying for the position of creative design engineer at some movie or animation studio such as Dreamworks.

The other question to consider is whether the study should be part time or full time? Much depends on whether you can manage with a reduced income (or indeed non-existent income for full time study). Part time study, on the other hand, although taking longer, does give you the flexibility to work during the day or to take on a part time job. In my experience, employers do not see any difference in quality between a part time or full time course for engineering (but I would imagine the situation is different for other disciplines such as for Law where prestigious schools can count).

And finally; just bear in mind that traditionally, at this time of the business cycle, graduate schools are inundated with applicants; so get in early and be persistent about your application once you decide to go for it.

Thanks to Eileen Zimmerman for her thoughtful comments on career guidance here.


2. Our regular Wednesday web conference sessions

I know I have mentioned this before; but our New Year’s resolution is to provide regular free webconferences on engineering topics of interest every Wednesday.

Industrial Wireless is rapidly moving in everywhere and as part of our regular Wednesday web conferences we are offering the following thought provoking non-sales presentation for those of you that are interested in, or currently working with radio and wireless:

Major disasters in industrial wireless and how to prevent them”

The presentation is over the web – with a live instructor. It is free. On Wednesday January 21.

We ran it late last year to over 90 participants.

You haven’t experienced a wireless disaster yet? Well, it is probably only a matter of time! But there are tricks and strategies to follow which can help you sidestep real calamities. The webinar will involve discussion of disasters both real and potential, and the basic methods of preventing them. You can ask as many questions as you would like and interact live, with the instructor and  with the other participants.

Your presenter will be Edwin Wright from IDC Technologies.

The 45 minute presentation will be live in real time and repeated three times on Wednesday, January 21:
Session 1: 11am Sydney, Australia time (8am Singapore, 1pm Auckland)
Session 2: 2pm Johannesburg, South Africa time (12noon London)
Session 3: 3pm London (5pm Johannesburg, 10am Canada East)
 Join this webinar from anywhere and ‘bring an expert to your desk’! If you are interested or involved in industrial wireless you will benefit from this free session.

All you need to participate is a computer with an adequate internet connection, speakers and (ideally) a microphone. Joining the session is entirely free of charge. We will send you instructions about how to download the software and join well ahead of the session. Places for this webinar are limited to 20 participants to maximise the interaction and value to you.

To register simply email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Indicate which session you will be joining:1 or 2 or 3, and we’ll send you the joining instructions.

3. Volunteers for Advisory Board for postgraduate engineering study

We have always dreamed of shaping the perfect postgraduate engineering qualifications through using highly experienced instructors and designed for what industry really needs. To this end we are currently working on registering to provide masters degrees in engineering. The method of instruction will involve distance, interactive online learning. Our 20 years of experience as engineering trainers has provided us with the necessary impetus. We do not aim to compete with universities, but will draw on their most experienced lecturers to work with us in preparing and presenting the degrees. We have an ex-dean of engineering, from a prominent university, who will be heading up the academic department.

What we do need are volunteers to serve on our advisory academic panel. This panel would meet, online, once every two months for an hour or so and have considerable dialogue before then. The meetings will be conducted using web conferencing. There would be a small stipend to compensate you for your time. If you are interested; please contact our Accreditations Manager, Ms Edwina Ross at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. detailing your background and experience.

 Just remember whatever job you are in or are targeting – as Aristotle remarked so sagely a few thousand years ago (translated from Ancient Greek): – “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”

Yours in engineering learning


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