How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ?? - Page 2

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Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??

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How about:
o engineering dispersion methods for anthrax spores
o lawyers who defense tobacco industry in courts claiming it doesn't cause
cancer

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There is personal gain in refusing to work on a questionable project.
If it goes against your values you don't do it.

The world would be a sorry place if everyone used the above
reasoning to justify working on morally questionable projects.






Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??

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I recall when I lived in the UK and about 20? years ago
an electronics company in the West Midlands came to light
in the press because it had designed and manufactured
a piece of electronic equipment intended to torture people,
the equipment was sold to Iran or Iraq as best I recall.
Because this item was not "specifically" marketed as a
torture item the UK government was powerless to do
anything about it. I would not work for such a company, on
moral grounds. So I'm afraid I must disagree with you Lewin.

Mike Harding


Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??

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But that's the whole point isn't because the converse is demonstrably not
true either.

Ian



Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??

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One of the things I was trying to point out is that almost nothing is
black and white.

For your first example, I would counter that it is necessary to
understand state-of-the-art dispersal methods in order to counter
them. Maybe this information can be used to develop an electrostatic
Clump-O-Matic spore aggregator and air cleaner. Or a chemical agent
that can be misted into the air that will coat the spores and render
them largely harmless. Or a survey device that will allow authorities
to monitor exactly where the boundaries of the spore cloud lie, and
therefore where medical resources should be concentrated. You need to
know what you're fighting if you want to develop defensive
capabilities.

I could also counter with the hypothetical scenario that the evil
insect creatures from the planet Trin are attacking, and the only
defense is a dusting of anthrax - and if we don't use it, we lose the
entire human race.

For your second example, I can weasel several ways, but the easiest is
to point out that the lawyers are not arguing that tobacco does not
cause cancer, they are arguing that there is insufficient evidence to
be certain that it does, and that although the plaintiffs may be
right, there is insufficient proof to justify a cash payout.

Those responses are obviously artificial and contrived, but so is the
entire topic at hand.

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Actually, just yesterday, due to my impending layoff, I was musing on
the close similarity between engineering and prostitution. Compare:

I vastly prefer to work (at a day job) [for a pimp] than freelance. My
(boss) [pimp] seeks out (customers) [johns] for me and brings them to
a centrally located (workplace) [whorehouse]. I spend most of the day
working (at a desk) [on a bed]. My (boss) [pimp] (keeps me in a
regular paycheck) [supplies enough drugs to keep me alive] when times
are lean. He protects me from (personal liability for product
failures) [rival pimps]. There are (tasks) [tricks] I'd rather not
(do) [turn] but I need to (eat) [fire up drugs] regularly, so I (suck
it up) [suck it down] when I have to. I have a few unusual (skills)
[piercings/tattoos/additional apertures] that, on occasion, command a
(high price) [whole pile of green].

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The world IS a sorry place, and it's partly because you can't rely on
everyone regarding any particular project as morally questionable. So
you need to be prepared to defend yourself against the worst
imaginable assault, which is a moving target. You need to comprehend
the weapon before you can engineer a defense.

Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??
On 18 Nov 2003 20:27:24 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@larwe.com (Lewin A.R.W. Edwards)

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I just hope your boss doesn't read CAE or you're a gonner
for certain :)

Mike Harding


Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??

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I recall when I lived in the UK and about 20? years ago
an electronics company in the West Midlands came to light
in the press because it had designed and manufactured
a piece of electronic equipment intended to torture people,
the equipment was sold to Iran or Iraq as best I recall.
Because this item was not "specifically" marketed as a
torture item the UK government was powerless to do
anything about it. I would not work for such a company, on
moral grounds. So I'm afraid I must disagree with you Lewin.

Mike Harding


Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??

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systems
other

I used the word "questionable", meaning that different people have different
opinions on the industry, while carefully avoiding giving an opinion of my
own (I could give you an opinion of the tobacco industry if you want - but
it would have to be by email since I don't like swearing in public).

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All true.


I disagree with most of that - it's close to the "just obeying orders"
defense (as in, "If I hadn't massacared the innocent villagers, the others
in my platoon would have done it anyway").  I believe that individuals can
make a difference, and I believe in doing the right thing by my conscience
even when I know the outcome will be the same in the end.  If someone
believes that it is wrong to treat farm animals in the way in which they are
in most "developed" countries, then they can take a stanse and become a
vegetarian.  Will it save the animals?  No, because someone else will buy
the meat you avoid.  But that doesn't make becoming a vegetarian, or
refusing to work for defense contractors, a waste of time.  Everyone plays
their part in society, even if it is small.

It is seldom possible to achieve ones ideals.  But you can draw lines
somewhere.  A geiger counter is a useful device - most people would feel it
is "morally sound" to make them, even if a few get used by some military
power that they object to.  On the other hand, many would refuse a job
making land mines or other items that they deem evil (subjectively, not
intrinsically).  It's a tiny step, but you *are* bettering society by making
that choice (this of course assumes that you are in the position to make
this sort of choice).



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That's true, but horribly naive.  Western countries are mostly
representative democracies - you vote for people or parties that you think
can best govern the country for a period of time.  In the words of Winston
Churchill, "democracy is the worst possible system - but it's the best we've
got".  Do you really think that voting makes that much difference?
Remember, the majority of voters are not well informed about the intentions
of the candidates, and a hefty proportion of candidates seem to change their
mind as soon as the ballots are counted (or however they determine the
"vote" in the USA these days).  Sometimes it is because of unforseen
circumstances, sometimes it is because the candidate made pre-election
promises on the basis of what voters wanted to hear rather than on what s/he
actually intended to do if elected.  Even assuming that all politicians are
honest, say what they plan to do over the next four years (using their
prophetic powers to identify future events), and are competent and lucky
enough to do exactly what they said, can you really say that when you choose
between two or three candidates that one of them completely represents your
wishes?  Don't get me wrong here - I think voting in elections is extremly
important ("it's the best we've got").  But it is equally important to vote
with your feet and your wallet.





Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??
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*shrug* I don't have much of a problem with the tobacco industry. The
law allows them to lie and cheat up to a certain point, and they lie
and cheat right up to that point; can't blame them. Anything you can
say about the tobacco industry can certain also be said about the
alcoholic beverage industry, or the prostitution industry, or the evil
zealots who preach {insert name of any religion here}. I don't make a
moral judgement about any of those industries either, though I would
be unhappy to see my children go into them.

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Uh, no. To continue your analogy, it's more like saying to your
sergeant "I'll obey you unquestioningly, Sarge, right up to the point
where you order me to violate the Geneva Convention - at which point,
I'll tie you to a tree and we'll choose someone else to lead the
platoon".

The problem with modern leadership is that it has virtually no
accountability. In the good old days, the village planter examined the
entrails and said "Today is the day for sowing our crops", and if
there were floods next week that drowned all the fields, he'd be
quietly executed to appease the gods. Accountability of modern leaders
is:

1. Diluted by unreasonably delayed repercussions. A President can
almost do anything he wants, and remain in office until the next
election.

2. Diluted by tenuous causality. Nobody really knows who generates the
ideas that steer government; it might be the figurehead, or it might
not. So the head of state is probably frequently blamed for
detrimental things he didn't order to be done, at least as often as he
reaps undeserved acclaim for beneficial things he didn't cause but was
lucky enough to SEEM to be involved with.

3. Deflected by vocal minorities. A loud minority enthusiastically
championing some self-serving cause (e.g. affirmative action) can make
it seem morally right and

And all of these deflections are necessary because our political
systems are built on consumer popularity, not competence.

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It only makes sense if it's combined with a marketing campaign. It is
necessary to *advertise* one's vegetarian stance, not merely live by
it. Otherwise it's an utter waste of time, globally speaking.

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What if the design challenge is to make land mines that are morally
better than existing models? I.e. land mines that have an expiry date,
or a remote deactivation mechanism, or that are designed to target
some specific vehicle (e.g. magnesium-hulled ATCs) and can be
guaranteed safe when singing children and fluffy bunnies are walking
atop them?

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I don't have any illusions about how effective democracy is. But like
the man said, it's all we have.

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The majority of voters have insufficient literacy and comprehension
skills to prepare a microwave dinner according to the directions on
the box.

Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??


< Snip >

I'm sorry to be avoiding a proper discussion here - it's just a matter of
lack of time to do it justice.  I agree with a fair amount of what you're
saying, especially about accountability (or lack thereof) of leadership, but
I'll continue being a quiet vegetarian (here in Norway we're a rare breed,
and commonly referred to as "grass eaters") and refusing to make any sort of
land mine regardless of whether or not the defense company just gets someone
else to do the work.

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They should re-introduce the old Celtic tradition whereby tribal leaders
were elected to serve for seven years (or less, if they did a poor job), and
were then sacrificed to the gods.  Under those circumstances, you do the job
for the good of your people, since it is not really for your own gain.

Or the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy solution, in which the president of
the galaxy is a hermit living in a wooden shack on a lonely planet.  Every
now and again, civil servants arrived to provide food supplies and ask for
decisions on some of the major issues - it's as close to objectivity as
could be achieved.




Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??

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The impression I got from that story was that it was government not
only through objectivity, but through incomprehension. The ruler of
the universe made decisions that weren't just disinterested - they
were arbitrary.

By the way, there is an excellent Clive Barker story in a similar
vein, where all the heads of government receive their instructions on
what to do from a group of people sequestered in a remote place.
Originally these people were brought together because they were great
savants who were expected to have great insight into the world's
problems. They quickly grew bored of the task, however, and started
answering the world leaders' requests for instructions based on the
outcome of frog races.

Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??
           snipped-for-privacy@no.westcontrol.spam.com "David Brown" writes:

[%X]

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Most interesting diversity of views in this thread of late and I can
see quite a few arguments on most sides of the dice on this.

In order to work out where one stands morally you need a reference
set of rules that you can measure up against. Not wishing to invent
a new set I am borrowing four very good ones (you'll probably
recognise where from) and adjusting the wording slightly to be more
generally applicable.

1.  No person or body corporate shall by their action cause harm to
    humanity or through lack of action allow harm to be caused to
    humanity.

2.  No person or body corporate shall by their action cause harm to
    a human or through lack of action allow harm to be caused to
    a human except in compliance with rule 1.

3.  Every person or body corporate shall comply with the requirements
    of humanity and the societies within that they serve except where
    such compliance is disallowed by rules 1 or 2.

4.  Every person or body corporate shall protect their own existence
    except where their continued existence is disallowed by rules
    1, 2 or 3.

The above are a tough set to live by and I know I am unable to measure
up fully to the constraints they impose (my main problem area is in rules
1 and 2 - the "lack of action" bit mostly - but I am trying - honest).

I guess if you set yourself a high moral standard as a target you are
not going to succeed fully. You just make your best efforts and hope
not too many people notice the bits you were not able to fully live
up to.

--
********************************************************************
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Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??
I'm in need of a little moral input :)

This thread is as good as any to ask in and I don't exactly
want to parade this issue by starting a new thread.

You may recall a post I made a few days ago in this thread:

Quote
As an aside; whilst this thread has been in progress and
I have been arguing that quality systems are very overrated
I have discovered that a (electronic) product I own whose
sole function is that of life saving in dire situations and is
designed and manufactured by a company who proudly
proclaim ISO9002 and a TQM Programme, and said
product has been in production for at least five years,
has a major design flaw which could easily render it
useless on that single occasion it may be required to
perform it's task. Looks like a quality system didn't work
in this case. I'll provide full details at a later date.
End quote

I have had discussions with the company concerned at
very senior management level and their attitude is that
whilst they are aware of the problem they do not consider
it likely to occur [often?] in reality. Also they consider their
set of do's and don'ts instructions covers it anyway. Whilst
I agree they do mention the point it is only in passing and
I don't believe anyone (including me and I'm a technical
type) would recognise how sensitive the device is to this
issue. Sorry to be obscure - if anyone want details please
e-mail me.

I want the company to make clear in their documentation
how big an issue this is and also to take out some
advertisements in relevant magazines etc alerting existing
users to this issue. They have agreed to the former (but
watered down) but will not do the latter.

Question:
Should I go the media with this issue given all the implications
of that action? My feeling is to do so but I would appreciate
input from others.

Mike Harding

PS. My e-mail address has a spam block


Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??
snipped-for-privacy@amleth.demon.co.uk ("Paul E. Bennett") wrote in message

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If I may be allowed to argue my point by continuing your plagiarism
<g>, may I remind you of what almost happened to Andrew as a result of
adherence to his three laws, and in particular the precedence order of
them. It is not practical to live by a code like this unless everyone
else also lives by the same code. And it is a HIGHLY debatable point
that such an emasculated society would be worth enduring.

This philosophy is also directly contrary in ideals to the capitalist
system, which is essentially a Darwinian competition for resources
within a framework of set rules.

To get the two systems coexisting reasonably, you have to introduce
corporate citizenship as a variable cost of doing business (a tax or
fine), a cost which increases proportionally as the corporation
ignores its civic duties. The trick is to set the price of citizenship
just right. For example, if a business must spend $1,000,000 to
mitigate some pollutant, it is necessary to set the price of FAILING
to mitigate that pollution at, say, $1,200,000. Tradable CO2 emissions
are a trivial example of the sort of thing I mean.

Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??
Apologies if this appears twice - posting problems.


I'm in need of a little moral input :)

This thread is as good as any to ask in and I don't exactly
want to parade this issue by starting a new thread.

You may recall a post I made a few days ago in this thread:

Quote
As an aside; whilst this thread has been in progress and
I have been arguing that quality systems are very overrated
I have discovered that a (electronic) product I own whose
sole function is that of life saving in dire situations and is
designed and manufactured by a company who proudly
proclaim ISO9002 and a TQM Programme, and said
product has been in production for at least five years,
has a major design flaw which could easily render it
useless on that single occasion it may be required to
perform it's task. Looks like a quality system didn't work
in this case. I'll provide full details at a later date.
End quote

I have had discussions with the company concerned at
very senior management level and their attitude is that
whilst they are aware of the problem they do not consider
it likely to occur [often?] in reality. Also they consider their
set of do's and don'ts instructions covers it anyway. Whilst
I agree they do mention the point it is only in passing and
I don't believe anyone (including me and I'm a technical
type) would recognise how sensitive the device is to this
issue. Sorry to be obscure - if anyone want details please
e-mail me.

I want the company to make clear in their documentation
how big an issue this is and also to take out some
advertisements in relevant magazines etc alerting existing
users to this issue. They have agreed to the former (but
watered down) but will not do the latter.

Question:
Should I go the media with this issue given all the implications
of that action? My feeling is to do so but I would appreciate
input from others.

Mike Harding

PS. My e-mail address has a spam block


Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??

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There might be a much more practical reason for not working for military
contractors: they almost always require US citizenship if not some kind of a
security clearance. For this many people in the US will never qualify for
these jobs independent of their technical expertise/experience. Of course I
don't know if the OP is in this shoe.

Regards,
Andras Tantos



Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??

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Companies do hire graduate engineers.  They think that they can get
someone who will work harder for less pay.  Just keep knocking on
doors, and go back and knock again.  It's not right to say that you
have no experience, you've been doing electronics since you were 10.
Make sure your potential employer knows that.  Make sure you have a
good resume that promotes your skills.  If a job is advertised for
someone with xx years of experience, apply for it.  Don't look for
high pay, you'll get that when you've proven yourself.  Offer to work
for a low rate.

Dan


Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??
On Fri, 14 Nov 2003 13:25:42 GMT, the renowned Dan

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Although someone older (the OP said he was 40+) who's a recent
graduate might be seen as having little in the way of upside for the
company as they probably have something in the way of a life. Not that
they'd ever admit that was the reason, of course.

I'm sure there are ways to work around it, but it might take a bit
more effort than otherwise.

Best regards,
Spehro Pefhany
--
"it's the network..."                          "The Journey is the reward"
snipped-for-privacy@interlog.com             Info for manufacturers: http://www.trexon.com
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Re: How do I build a career in engineering (hardware design) ??
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An older recent graduate would certainly be interesting from the point
of view of needing less basic training in how to work effectively as
part of a team, and generally in having developed the streetwise
qualities needed to survive unassisted.

I've interviewed some very impressive "mature student" graduates for
development jobs in the past and the best of them are very confident,
highly organised self-starters with a real commitment to improving their
academic and professional skills. They've usually realised that they
need to get out of a (personal, professional) rut and gone off and got
the education they needed, usually involving a significant degree of
personal sacrifice.

You'd almost certainly start getting RoI sooner from a "mature graduate" than
from someone who went straight from high-school to college and obtained
the same class of degree, although the chances are the mature graduate
would need a higher salary...

Fresh new college kids are cheap - there's a reason for that, though, it
takes a long time for them to be truly useful and it takes a lot of
someone else's time to make them useful.

pete
--
snipped-for-privacy@fenelon.com "there's no room for enigmas in built-up areas."

Do cookie cutter people make good engineers ?
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This is the cookie cutter mentality, which is as long as everyone is
like everyone else, we can all fake our way through life together
without having any problem.

  When I got out of high school, I went straight for technical
comunity college electronics .. nearly all people there, just like
engineering school, were different in that I love electronics, and
everyone else was there because they didnt know what they want in life
but knew thay could make money this way.  They are on track to fake
their way, so no wonder I have so much difficulty getting interviews,
the market and workplaces are awash in people who don't care for
engineering, but just want to have the money.

I'd could make some more salient points, but there is no use, this is
public domain America, mostly, so it will quickly deteriorate into a
lot of mud - slinging crap.

Re: Do cookie cutter people make good engineers ?
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Really? I wouldn't think you will get much argument here in cae. It's
a fact that there are people who are 9-5 engineers and there are,
conversely, people for whom engineering is a raison d'etre, an
avocation and not just a profession. And I suspect the latter are
present here in quite high concentration.

I think the division can be seen quite plainly when the CS lecturer
asks for a show of hands: engineering is an art? or a science? People
in the latter category are more likely by far to be "cookie people".

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