Professions of a Silicon Valley Double-E
Monday, August 27, 2007
  Luck, and the Job Search
"And my favorite tip for sorting through resumes: Throw out half. That way you won't hire anyone who is unlucky!"
- Scott Yates - in a comment on Guy Kawasaki's post about hiring folks via Craigslist
I have been given advice in the past that If I couldn't find a better way to make a choice between employer's, to "Pick the Lucky One". But the nonsensical idea above, almost doesn't deserve a response. But It has been grating along in the recesses of my mind, So maybe it does.

On the face of it, it seems sort of obvious and liberating! Would I want to hire someone who is Un-lucky? Of course not! If I throw out Half the resumes, which half would be the unlucky ones? (I'm a great employers, so OF COURSE it would be the half I threw out!!) So if I throw out half, I cut my work in half, and eliminate a whole bunch of "unlucky" applicants.

Of course some of us see "luck" as just superstition, or as "God's providence" or as a story we (Humans: Storytelling Apes?) use to explain something we don't understand, then thinking we DO understand it. Of course, such explanations can be an example of hindsight bias, or rosy retrospection. It also assumes that there are such things as "lucky people" which is an example of the Gambler's Fallacy. As I look through the list of cognitive biases, I see many examples which could apply to this situation.

Of course, there is a common saying that "Luck is when Preparation meets Opportunity". It may also be true that Luck is an attitude of the lucky. So if you REALLY want to hire lucky people, Hire people who prepared, and who have a good attitude. And when its put that way, it doesn't really matter if they are "lucky" or not.. They'll work hard, with a good attitude, and these are both qualities worth looking for in their own right.

Want to be lucky and get hired? Prepare, and build a good attitude, and Clear up your thinking.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007
  Save the Date: Oct 19 Career Workshop
In conjunction with the IEEE-USA Board 0f Directors OpComm meeting, SCV-PACE and GOLD will be hosting an all-day career workshop on October 19th, at the San Jose Fairmont.

We are shooting for a morning "Skills Assesment" and afternoon - "Networking Skills" and "research resources" + some presentations on IEEE services.

Details (costs?) will follow.

What Career Questions would you like answered ? Comments welcome.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007
  Job Requirement: Ability to walk in Hiring managers shoes.
I enjoy Guy Kawasaki's blog on marketing. If you are currently in the position of marketing your self (ie "looking for a job") you might benefit from his posting today, and how several applicants for a job he was trying to fill "took themselves out of the running". Cover letters might not be important to some hiring managers - or when working with a recruiter, but Guy thinks highly of them.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007
  Conference Attendance
All too frequently I hear from folks who have been told by management that they cannot attend or (even if accepted) present at a conference. The reasons vary from cost to schedule. Naturally we accept this if the reason happens to be "you can't disclose this" - but it shouldn't necessarily mean that you can't attend such a conference.

Should you take vacation, and pay to attend yourself? At this point you should look at the value of that conference to you knowledge, skills and network. After attending many such events I often have a hard time putting a value on them. But in my mind, attendance is practically NOT optional. I will go to great lengths to make sure I can go.. Either by participating in the event organization and planning, or by presenting at some point. Certainly I make sure my manager (and prospective employers) know that I will attend if at all possible.

Thus my involvement in the IEEE. I have accepted and internalized that value to such an extent that non-participation is un-imaginable to me. For you it is probably not yet the case, and its worth an attempt to think about and articulate the reasons.

Why I [attend|plan|present|travel|organize] Professional Events:
  1. Meet People - By now most of these folks are friends, or at a minimum, long-term acquaintances. These are the folks solidly in my network, that I help, and am helped by as we navigate our careers. Whether we are connected on linked-in or have never even shared each others business cards. The more often you see each other around, the smaller, and yet larger, this industry gets. When times get tough, these relationships will be, are, have been "our" buffer. Tough times include the times your team needs help as well as when you or your team needs work.
  2. Learn. Engineering is a field where you must CONSTANTLY be learning new things. Even if you just learn who the experts are in some arena that is not your own, when YOU have to interface with that later, you have more familiarity with that area, and a broader range of folks to go to. You ALSO get a better feeling for which papers you can put more trust in. The moment you close your mind off to learning new things is the start of the end of your career - at least that this engineers humble opinion.
  3. The Unexpected. This is the SAME reason that Nassim Nicolas Taleb says its better to live in a city than in a small town. You don't know WHAT new idea, person, book or discussion will happen at the meeting. The more often you can be in a situation where you can encounter these unexpected goodies, the luckier you will be. Of course disasters can be Black Swans too, but you can minimize this risk by preparing well when its YOUR turn to be the presenter.
  4. An archive of expertise. While certainly not the same as a daily blog, which Penelope Trunk says is a MUST today, the archive of papers, presentations, seminars that you give over time, becomes a log, or portfolio, of your expertise. It demonstrates your communication skills, AND experience to those who must or might work with you in the future. Certainly one of the things I look for in a prospective employee is what they have published over time. And I think that might override concerns about the embarrassing photos they forgot to take of their facebook account.
Ok.. But why should your boss pay for you to go (if there is a travel cost - or schedule impact)?
On the other hand
Both you and your manager need to set expectations for the number of events, conferences, etc that you plan to attend and that they will pay for. Do it early. Don't let it be a surprise in the middle of tapeout (or what ever kind of deadlines you have) - either that you want to go, or that they would say no.

I think that covers most of MY reasons for going.. Will I see you at a meeting?

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Friday, August 10, 2007
  Keeping an eye on the Horzion Ain't the same as buying maps
As I popped open my browser this morning , I realized that my last two blog titles were giving the impression that I might be LOOKING myself. So I changed one of them to clarify that it was about someone else..
And let me state now, I'm not job-hunting. But of course I do know that a good career doesn't make itself. One has to keep his eyes on his goals ( the ideal job picture from What color is your parachute), the horizon (what industries are on the rise, which are dying, which are changing), the maps (ie payscale), and those around you( your network).
So would I talk to you if you thought you had a better opportunity for me? We'll I can't talk to everyone! So if you want me to relocate, It had better involve some folks I already know and like, and my wife would have to be happy with the idea too.
After all, money is the primary driver for happiness only to a certain extent.. Yes I listen to those ads on the radio about how I can be rich beyond my dreams by flipping real-estate... but I don't ENJOY doing real-estate, and I don't want to be a spam king..
After all, I have a lot of friends where I work right now.

and EVEN if a bunch of keywords match between the slot you are looking to fill and my resume, it doesn't mean I'd be interested in that slot. A couple of years ago, I tried explaining Analog Verification to a couple of the recruiters who called me. They were trying to get me to apply for a design job that I probably wouldn't have been real happy in. As I predicted then, Analog Verification is starting to become its own field. I hope to keep pushing it in the right direction.

Of course I'd love to get the call that says "your work paid off" Here's half a million to do what you want over the next year.. But then, that would sound too good to be true, and I'd probably ignore that too.. unless the message came from a trusted source.

I'm not looking, but I'm not going to drive blind either.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
  More Ketchup? Career counselor gains new Insight on Job Loss
The CareerJournal today published an article about an outplacement counselor who lost his job recently. This guy is probably now a much better outplacement counselor than he was prior to this experience. - and based on his work over the past couple of decades, he'd already set the bar pretty high for others in the field.

the organization he created for those who've lost their jobs "Professionals-In-Transition" was already focused on folks in exactly that boat. And I imagine he'll soon be able to add a new chapter to his book "Career Bounce-back".

While I think of my self as an empathetic person, the experience of loosing my job (other than by my own choice) is not one I share with those who have been fired or laid off, or shunted to the ranks of the "underemployed". I suspect his group is a decent template for many of the organizations around the country dealing with this need. While those out of work are often happy to help run such a group, when they succeed in their job search, how does the group carry on? Maybe we need some career counselors to lead the group?

As I write this it occurs to me that those aspiring to management roles need to have coaching skills in their tool-belt. Being a volunteer leader is a great way to get such experience.

Hoping to plan a new meeting soon:
  On the State of Job Search
Recent discussions about the dire shortage of technical experts on the part of the industry, which werefueled by the government's failure to pass the recent immigration bill, started a discussion on the IEEEUSA - CWPC corresponding members email list about how to get the message out about the OVERSUPPLY of engineering talent, and how to cut back on the "production" of new engineers by the Academic industry.

Not wanting to deal with this highly controversial issue lightly, I got to thinking about what economists would call a "lack of transparency" in the current engineering employment marketplace. Given the internet and "instantaneous" job search, the fact that many Scholarly papers (often with contact info) are accessible by way of Google scholar and IEEE xplore, why is it so difficult to connect the right (local?) talent with the right employers?

Does the IEEE need to do something different to help our members land those jobs that are out there? Is there some better way to address this need?

To satisfy a Side interest in the state of Analog HDL in the IC design process, and "test" the IEEE job site, I tried some of the Search engines to compare the number of jobs needing Analog HDL expertise, to the total number of (open) Jobs in Analog IC design.

I used some typical search terms that I would use If I were actually looking to see what is out there, "Analog IC Design Mixed-Signal".. to see the fractions of jobs that might require more of my expertise, I added "Verilog-A" or "verification" for a total of 3 searches on each site. (limited to the USA)

Here are the results: Analog IC Design Mixed-Signal +Verilog-A +verification
  1. IEEE job site 2 0 2
  2. Hotjobs 195 3 52
  3. Linked-In (exclusive) 3 0 0
  4. Linked-In - simplyhired 680 97 167
  5. Monster 145 17 31
  6. CareerBuilder 56 0 16
I think its a good sign when the description the recruiter provides matches a company you KNOW is trying to hire. And to that end, Linked-IN provides a really nice way to connect thru friends and friends of friends to the people who are hiring to do your homework first.

The IEEE job site? - maybe it works better for Academia, or the power industry outside of Silicon Valley, but it seems NO one in silicon valley is posting their jobs there, in the hope that someone like me will see it. (the 2 jobs that it found were both out of state for me).

If it were up to me, I'd kill it, and partner with Linked-In/simplyhired.
If I were really looking, I doubt I'd even update the resume I uploaded there many years ago.

An idea rattling around in my mind is that maybe we need Agents. Like the Actors in Hollywood. Rather than recruiters, who get paid, a good fee, once when someone walks in the door.. the agent would be paid by me, based on how much he could get for my services... a fixed percentage over the life of the contract, and he'd be negotiating for increases based on who else was interested in my work.

Of course this would start to entail product based accounting, IP-reuse residuals and all similar features of the film industry which by some stories, mainly feeds the accountants and lawyers.

The payment ratio between the stars and the extras is also too big.

Then I think to the number of recruiters who call me, and the number of my friends who DON'T get called, maybe we are already in a similar boat?
I used to hate getting picked last for softball games at recess.
If you want to connect with someone like me, don't call me and ask if I can help you find someone ("heh, heh, maybe even yourself!"). After all, I am not really an Agent. Either have the name of someone I respect who told you to call me, or better yet, skip the recruiter all-together, write me an email, and let me know why my expertise intrigued you.

A call from someone who knows of, and can fully appreciate prior work will get a lot more attention than a cold call from a recuiter.

If you are still looking for work. Take heart. There are many people hiring these days.
If you are hiring, maybe its time to take a chance on someone with the right skills, and a good attitude, but not quite perfect experience.

We'll leave actually improving the job market to another day.
- Jonathan

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Ruminations about the Electrical Engineering profession as practiced in Silicon Valley by an IEEE Senior Member. Disclaimer: All Posts here are official IEEE business in that they are messages about IEEE activities from an IEEE volunteer. These messages do not constitute official records of R6-PACE activities, nor official IEEE or IEEE-USA policy statements. Website:

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Location: San Jose, California, United States

When he is not working on IEEE stuff, Jonathan does Mixed Signal Design Verification at Qualcomm. Senior Member IEEE. Founder IEEE-SCV-SSC (the first Solid State Circuits chapter). Past Section Chair, Santa Clara Valley Section - the Largest Section. Co-founder IEEE-SCV-CAS. IEEE-SSCS Membership chair 2001-2003. IEEE SSCS chapters Committee member. IEEE-SCV-PACE committee member 2001- IEEE-SCV-PACE Chair 2006-2007. IEEE R6 PACE coordinator.


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