Welcome to our third annual edition of "Your Most Important Issue of the Year," in which we step back from technology to focus on you and on the career issues surrounding EEs. This issue offers a look at how the profession is doing and how your compensation and other job-satisfaction influencers measure up.
The heart of the issue is our annual survey. We'd like to thank the thousands of you who participated. Thanks also to those of you who talked to our editors and are quoted inside the issue, offering your unique perspectives.
One theme that emerged is the changing global face of the EE profession. Between offshoring, outsourcing, and the growth of the contract work force, design teams are now time-and place-shifting, and EEs are collaborating and competing with designers around the globe.
Despite these challenges, many of you are optimistic about the future, as uncovered by Wayne Labs in his focus on the shifting design cycle. As Andrew Perkins, an engineer at AML, points out, "You cannot outsource free-thinking and innovation—and so there will always be... necessary jobs here in the USA." Ron Schneiderman, in his overview of the outsourcing picture, cites statistics showing that the influence of the North American design community is actually rising. And, the most recent Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that the tech sector is finally generating jobs again.
More than a few good men (and women)
But the burning question Schneiderman raises is why so few U.S.-born students pursue a career in engineering. Further, as our survey results continue to underline, why do so few women and minorities enter the field?
It's hard for me to imagine that people with personalities drawn to engineering—those who want to know "how it works and how to make it work better"— could find as much satisfaction on any other career path. As one of our readers, Chester Page of EEW, comments, "Anyone who isn't already spending most of his or her time building stuff and trying to get it to work by the time he or she starts thinking about careers probably isn't an engineer in the first place. Anyone who really is, in that sense, already an engineer probably won't find any other career as personally satisfying."
Indeed, as survey analysis by Jay McSherry shows, those of you who followed your instincts to become practicing engineers are largely a content group that's happy with your career choice. And when it comes to job ROI, many of the inventive people who are drawn to engineering make such monumental contributions that we really must wonder what society as a whole would miss if those people were diverted onto other career paths. This year, you readers have voted in six such geniuses into the Electronic Design Engineering Hall of Fame.
Are there really fewer people drawn to the world of invention? Or maybe the root of the problem is that the digital age makes it so much harder to pull things apart and visualize how they work. If so, then we must do all we can to propagate the excitement that EDA guru and Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli sees in meeting the challenges of programming tomorrow's embedded devices.
Finally, everyone wants to have some fun on the job. Our issue concludes with our Day in the Life photo contest, which illustrates the daily rewards and perils of the engineering profession. Thanks to all of you who submitted photos, and congratulations to our photo contest winners.