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Engineering

Technology advances boost demand for engineering skills

by Nicole Wong

Freda Ho, senior human resources specialist; Allen Deng, systems and applications manager, Asia Pacific, wireless and mobile systems group, Freescale Semiconductor Hong Kong Ltd

Electronic engineers must be ready to embrace challenges and diversity

For those with the talent and will to succeed, the diverse field of electronic engineering now offers numerous exciting opportunities to work for companies that are on the cutting edge of technology and are adept at turning the very latest breakthroughs to practical and commercial use. "Our expertise is required in various industries, so there are plenty of openings and different career paths for young engineers to explore," says Allen Deng, the Asia Pacific systems and applications manager in the wireless and mobile systems group of Freescale Semiconductor Hong Kong Ltd.

When starting out, junior electronic engineers are usually assigned to project development work and sub-project tasks. Their duties will include working on and testing both hardware and software, which gives the chance to pick up a range of industry experience in a relatively short time. Like most other graduates, Mr Deng realised the importance of beginning his professional career with an open mind and showing that he was willing to accept different roles. "I gained experience by working with various supervisors and teams on a number of engineering projects and found that the time doing that helped me to define my future direction," he recalls.

In his view, people who have decided on a career in electronic engineering tend to dedicate themselves to acquiring the necessary expertise and welcome the chance to enhance their skill sets. Typically, this means they are keen to work on different products to gain hands-on experience and the latest technological know-how. They realise the need to understand the different roles they may have to play, the responsibilities entailed, and that their work location may change as they move forward. "Continuous development is one of the most rewarding aspects of the profession, since we get to perform different tasks and pick up new skills all the time," Mr Deng says.

Supply and demand

Although the level of demand in the local market is less than in places like China, it still outstrips the supply of qualified graduates. This has caused some employers to look to the mainland and overseas for high-calibre candidates. However, if possible, most still prefer to recruit in Hong Kong, believing that local candidates will have fewer problems adapting to the culture, management style and working environment of local companies.

"Our young electronic engineers have extensive knowledge of computer engineering and software development," says Freda Ho, Freescale's senior human resources specialist. "This equips them for job opportunities in China, which is where most companies now have their production facilities."

Ms Ho encourages employees to take advantage of professional courses offered by tertiary-level institutes and the government-backed Hong Kong Productivity Council. These programmes provide in-depth training in the technical aspects of electronic engineering and allow young engineers to explore new areas of expertise. "At Freescale, we also provide financial support for staff pursuing an MSc and run short courses in collaboration with local institutes to give comprehensive training in interpersonal and presentation skills," she says.

Future prospects

The salary scale for entry-level engineers ranges from about HK$8,000 to HK$10,000, while remuneration packages for other positions depend on candidates' experience and what they can bring to the job. Senior engineers with certain skills which are "hot", tend to have a good understanding of their own market value. For instance, there is currently high demand throughout Asia for specialists in the development of and applications for wireless and consumer electronic products. "The definitions of these products are constantly changing and there is fierce competition for talent," Mr Deng explains. "This is posing a real challenge for the human resources professionals in our industry."

Once junior engineers have worked their way through a series of project development and management posts, then can expect to move up to become team leaders within an engineering department and even chief technical officers. "For those with substantial industry experience, it is also possible to switch to sales, marketing or general management positions," adds Ms Ho.

According to Mr Deng the basis for a long and successful career is to keep acquiring knowledge. "Engineers must be willing to learn academically and through hands-on experience, so that they are prepared to assume new responsibilities when ever they come up," he says. "To reach senior positions, they need technical expertise as well as solid project management skills."

In view of rapid advances in technology, electronic engineers are part of an industry that is constantly changing and where no one can afford to stand still. Mr Deng notes that much attention in recent years has been on wireless communications, but that the focus may shift increasingly towards multimedia entertainment and security applications for different handheld products. "It is crucial for us to stay abreast of market trends, since new technology means our industry will keep on changing," he says.

Always learning

  • Electronic engineers are needed in a variety of industries in which technology is bringing rapid change
  • Adaptability and a desire for continuous learning are characteristics of those who will do well in the field
  • Junior engineers usually start on project work and should expect frequent new challenges during the course of a career
  • Ongoing training programmes cover technical as well as soft skills
  • A move into sales or general management is a valid career option



Taken from Career Times 29 July 2005

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