Welcome to this year's edition of Your Most Important Issue of the Year. A major focus of this year's issue is "Dream Jobs." This got me thinking about my own job and how it all started for me.
As an engineering student at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York, I wrote a paper for my control engineering class - something to do with damped oscillations of a particular control circuit. I added all the necessary illustrations, tables, captions, and so forth. My professor was duly impressed, which gave me the confidence I needed to apply for a summer job at Hayden Books, a technical book publisher. I'd like to say that my paper helped me land the job, but it didn't. I got turned down based on my deficient copy editing skills and had to wait several years for another chance at writing on electronics engineering topics.
I got the chance in the early 1980s, when I applied for a position as technical editor at Popular Electronics magazine. That job was a great experience for me. Not only did I get to cover the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for the first time, but also got to meet lots of industry people through the years. I can still remember the day when I sat in a conference room at Apple Computer's headquarters with a few other editors, and Steve Jobs walked into the room with what seemed to be a backpack over his shoulder. He put the "backpack" on the conference table and pulled out a Macintosh computer - unveiled for the first time!
My colleagues at that job had impressive credentials, too. Editors Art Salsberg and Les Solomon were instrumental in bringing the first Intel 8080-based computer kit, the Altair, to the pages of the magazine in 1975. If you've read the book Fire in the Valley or watched the TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, you know that this article was the inspiration for Bill Gates and Paul Allen to develop the operating system for that computer.
When my employer at the time decided to switch to covering computers rather than the broader electronics market, I was offered a job at a new computer testing facility that the company was creating to cover the exploding personal computer industry. The lab took its name from the magazine it was associated with, PC Magazine's PC Labs. I was one of four engineers on staff at the labs. Bill Wong, who you know from this magazine, was one of the others.
This period of time was simply amazing. It was not unusual to see industry people like Bill Gates at a Microsoft press conference at a restaurant like Tavern on the Green in New York City showing the company's latest products and providing a clear vision of the future of personal computing.
After that stint, I came to Penton Publishing (now Penton Media), landing a job with Electronic Design as technology editor for test and measurement. Although I had travelled to most of the major U.S. cities in my previous positions, I now got to travel to places like Munich, Germany and Paris, France to cover test conferences. As always, I enjoyed covering new developments in the industry as well as getting to know the people behind the products and technologies.
My current position at Electronic Design is a challenging one, but one that is as exciting for me today as when I first started in the industry. Like the electronics industry itself, change is a constant in the media industry. Whereas 25 years ago, print magazines held sway, information today is more spread out, with the Internet playing a major role in satisfying the information needs of design engineers. The job now is to provide compelling content for both venues.
There is always opportunity for engineers who want to take advantage of writing skills to forge a career in the media. If you've ever impressed professors or others with your abilities, you might want to give this career serious consideration.
On to the Salary Survey
It had to happen eventually. This year, our annual salary survey shows that the average income for U.S. engineers has surpassed the $100,000 mark. In this section of the issue, contributing editor Jay McSherry compiles the results of the survey for you, showing salaries by engineering title, geographic region, job function, and other metrics. The bottom line: salaries are up 7% this year. On a less optimistic note, though, Jay reports that bonuses are flat and stock options and other perks are down by 3%.
Dream Jobs Other Than This One
For this issue, our talented editorial staff of Kristina Fiore, John Arkontaky, and Rich Gawel interviewed readers who told us via our issue survey that they had dream jobs. In addition, this issue has a "dream jobs through the years" section. For the space program era, Rich interviewed astronauts Rich Mastracchio and Scott Kelly. For the personal computing era, John interviewed Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs' buddy at Apple. And as a representative of today's young engineers, Kristina spoke with the "Electric Boy Genius," Ryan Patterson. The interviews make for great reading as well as inspiration.
As if the tales of dream jobs weren't inspiration enough, we also interviewed this year's inductees of Electronic Design's Engineering Hall of Fame. This illustrious group includes Paul Baran, Nolan Bushnell, Aart de Geus, Doug Engelbart, Don Knuth, and Walter LeCroy.
Nearly 3000 Electronic Design subscribers participated in this year's survey - our biggest response ever. Jay McSherry, Kristina Fiore, and John Arkontaky have pored over the survey results and written articles and presented tables that summarize those results. We're happy that so many of you took the time to answer our questions and share your insights, and we hope you find the issue to be both interesting and enlightening.