Career Development Advice

Created; 5/18/2020Last Updated: 5/25/2020


It's critical to understand what goes on inside hiring managers' mind when looking for and evaluating potential candidates. Here's a collection of what do hiring managers look for in successful candidates and advises for them to stay on a stellar growth track in successful companies such as Waymo, Google, Apple, and Facebook.

Besides growing the team, another important responsibility of a manager is to maintain a great team dynamics, making sure each and every team member is happy and supported. Lastly, it's the manager's responsibility to find opportunities for personal career growth.

Similarly, It's also critical for student and young engineers to choose the most appropriate path that fit him/herself, especially early on in his/her careers.

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These hiring managers have years of managerial experience and are leading world class hardware engineering team at top companies, where their products are seen widely in the popular electronic retail stores.

Career Advice

What qualities do you look for in young engineers?

Hiring Manager Willis

  • Knowledge: Strong fundamentals and they ability to solve problems with the knowledge that they have.
  • Passion and enthusiasm for engineering: A desire to root cause and solve problems.
  • Creativity: A willingness to try new things , find an alternative way to solve problems, challenge and optimize an existing design philosophy
  • Curiosity: Wanting to learn more and dig deeper about how thing works and ways to be improved.
  • Honesty: Admitting what you don't know and wrong, and focusing on data and problem itself when approaching problems.

Hiring Manager Alexander

  • Good engineering fundamentals
  • Show excitement about the prospective job/industry
  • Honesty, openness: say what you don't know and provide ways of how one would acquire the missing knowledge
  • Good listening skills
  • Stay in touch with recruiters to find out more about the interview
  • Be able to speak to everything on the CV/Resume

Hiring Manger Ross

  • Always ask why: Took initiative to find out how TV or radio works? Do not just good with school work.
  • Focus on hands on experience: loved to take apart things, love to build, and fix things when they are young. Prefer experience over degrees.

Hiring Manger Jon

  • Good attitudes and trainable
  • Willingness to learn
  • Proactive and self-guided

Hiring Manager Peter

  • Solid fundamental. Basic things about power, transmission line, L/R/C characteristics.
  • To be able to walk through your resume. Whatever they claim to have done on resume, know them well and at a intuitive/fundamental level not just by memorization
  • Communication. When there's not too much technical aspect to offer, at least be easy to talk to d)
  • Curiosity. Show that you've look a bit beyond your core scope of work.

What are some of common mistakes made by entry engineers that hinder their work efficiency and growth?

Hiring Manager Willis

  • Afraid to ask questions: Not addressing areas of concern or confusion early on impacts work progress.
  • Expect problems to go away by itself: The longer you wait or ignore the problem, the worst it gets.
  • Decision not backed by data: Cognitive bias can lead young engineers astray such as ignoring "one-off" problems, dismissing unexpected behaviors, or cherry-picking data that fit into what you want or expect.

Hiring Manager Alexander

  • Be fearless and freely admit if you don't understand a question or just don't have an answer.
  • Be critical: if you can think of a way of obtaining an answer show how you would go about it.
  • Never lie or pretend
  • Never insist that you are right
  • Interview is your helper: Assume the interviewer is on your side and wants you to succeed.
  • Show respect: dress somewhat formally (ask what to wear), be orderly
  • Make eye contact, but don't stare
  • Relax: there are many jobs for you in this world, smile :-)
  • embrace failures that's how you learn: you will make many; if you don't, you probably aren't learning enough.

Hiring Manger Ross

  • Try to do every thing at once: successful engineers learn to be humble, start with boring tasks, and work their way up in order to lead the team.

Hiring Manger Jon

  • Don't be timid and doubtful about yourself
  • Do hard things: Tackle difficult problems early on.
  • Be open: Most of problems are not seen before, so be comfortable in unknown situations and be open to learn new things.

Hiring Manager Peter

  • Watch out for time fragmentation. Explicitly carve out hours to focus on a prioritized task list. Use tricks like blocking 1-2 hours every few days for yourself on calendar so meetings don't occur there.
  • Growth wise, always look for that insight, ask more senior engineers on why they do certain things and not just what they do. Go a tiny bit beyond the basic things work required you to do will accumulate over time.
  • Do bare minimum. I always see resume that outlines experience working on 5 different digital bus, but turns out they really just know how to route differential-signal with zero knowledge in protocol. That's a classic example of just doing the bare minimum.

What advises do you give to students searching for jobs and preparing for interviews?

Hiring Manager Willis

  • Really understand basic concepts: Domain specific is not expected for a new college grad but deep knowledge on the fundamentals and how they related and can be applied to new problems.
  • Tailor your resume and research for each job interview: Read the job posting closely, do research about the company, the technologies they use, their competitors, and think about how you might approach engineering their product/services. What do you think they are most interested in (cost, reliability, safety, ease of use, etc.)? Before interview, try to understand the system you'd be working on ahead of time so during the interview you will be able to understand the context behind a question that will help you better answer it.
  • Open to new areas/industries: follow your passion but be open to new opportunities. E.g., if you're extremely excited about consumer electronics, definitely pursue roles in that area, but don't ignore other opportunities in different industries.
  • Explore different fields: If you have not find your passion yet, keep searching; there are great jobs in a wide variety of industries, and don;t dismiss any engineering problem as uninteresting.

Hiring Manager Alexander

  • Address job requirements
  • Industry prospect: Is the industry of your choice on the rise?
  • Have a life goal: Look for how do you want to shape the world and what problem are you addressing for the society
  • Do research the company and its opportunities
  • Stay truthful on your CV but it's okay to have multiple CVs tailored towards each position
  • Learn the interview process and best preparation practice from the recruiter.

Hiring Manager Ross

  • Do projects: Have projects ready to be explained in full technical depth.
  • Experience in working in a team: and describes your role and responsibilities and how it went. Be able to understand what other roles and responsibilities on the team.

Hiring Manger Jon

  • Research the company, products, and teams ahead of time.
  • Do background research: come with prior knowledge about the what they do and have specific questions about their future work and company direction. This shows initiative and that you care about their work.

Hiring Manager Peter

  • Preparation !! Everything you mention in the resume is fair game, actually study hard and know them well. If you reach out to hiring manager or recruiter, make sure you read the job description and not appear as if you just spray the application and hoping to get lucky.
  • Look at the job requirement and have a sense of what you know in each category, but don't be afraid to apply once you have 40% of the requirement.

What are things students should do while in school to find the right career path?

Hiring Manager Willis

  • Apply what you learned: Applying what you learned to new problems paves a path to finding the interesting engineering problems that you enjoy. When learning something new, ask around to see where this skill might be useful, seek out new problems to solve that that skill, and try to apply that skill to a small project/experiment/problem.
  • Find an intersection between engineering and your interests: If you like cars, find out how motor driver and ECU works. If you like cooking, building a digital scale, thermometer, or timer that would improve your cooking experience. If you like music, build a circuit bending or amplifier design.
  • Build connections and friendships: help others and find others who are willing to help you as well.
  • Try as many things as possible!

Hiring Manager Alexander

  • Pursue your passion: Do things that are exciting, captivating, and really difficult to achieve.
  • Making an impact: Ask yourself, are you making world a better place by doing this? (subjective and you define this yourself)
  • Be proud of what you do: Would you be proud to tell your parents and your future children about what you are working on?
  • Job prospect: Will this job be around in 10 years or will it be wiped out by automation such as AI?
  • Is it environmentally sustainable: How is your contribution going to help nature which we are part of?

Hiring Manager Ross

  • True to yourself and interests: You might be great at writing code but not very hands on in the lab.
  • Decide your tolerance for risks: Automobile industry has a lower pay but more stable over long term comparing to consumer electronics.
  • Take risks while young: Explore different roles and industries. There is time to course correct if certain roles doesn't suit you.
  • Networking: Never miss an opportunity to network.

Hiring Manager Jon

  • Don't over specialize early on: Electrical Engineering is a huge field. I would try to get a good general education, and only consider specializing after I have had enough breadth to survey the EE landscape. Engineers who can only do one specific role find it difficult to transition to other jobs, so I would avoid getting too specialized at the undergraduate level.
  • Specialized based on industry trend: I would also look at the up-and-coming specializations that are more industry specific. For example, to be successful in AR/VR, you might want to have some experience with graphics and optics.

Hiring Manager Peter

  • Internships are extremely important. Try a few things out and mingle with your coworkers, observe the company culture. Interns usually form a strong network among themselves too so keep those contacts.

Career Progression

Entry Level

  • Work on small design that is part of a single system design
  • Support and maintain existing design

Mid Level

  • Techlead on subsystem design with little direction
  • Manage relationship with Chip vendors
  • Take on crossfuncational task

Senior Level (qualified to be manager)

  • Techlead on a single system design with moderate complexity
  • Improvement over existing design and practice
  • Mentor

Summary & Conclusion

Career Tips

  • Q1: What qualities do you look for in young engineers?

Solid fundamental, curiosity, honesty, willingness to learn, good listener and good communicator.

  • Q2: What are some of the common mistakes made by entry engineers that hinder their work efficiency and growth?

Afraid to ask questions, try to do everything at once, not be open to problems, pretend you know it all, lack of prioritization, and do the minimum.

  • Q3: What advice do you give to students searching for jobs and preparing for interviews?

Preparation!, do research on the company and its products ahead of the interview, address job requirements, tailor your resume for the role but stay truthful, and open to different roles and industries.

  • Q3: What are things students should do while in school to find the right career path?

Applied what you learned, find your interests, build connections and friendships, don’t over specialize early on, understand industry trend both short and long term, take risks while young, do lots of internships, and be practical and evaluate the job prospect.

Career Trajectory:

  • Short term Entry level-> Mid level -> Senior Level

Hiring managers are not intimidating and work environment is not law and order. Great manager are also mentors for career and personal growth.

As a student or young professionals, finding the right interests with right managers is as important as finding the right company to join. It's a search for both parties not just the hiring managers.

Different engineering levels has different responsibilities. Do well at each step. Understand the scope of problem, learn to be to solve problems creatively, handle stress well, and develop leadership early on are very critical to have a successful career.

Author's Comment:

At time of writing, the author has a total of 5 years of industry experience.

The most important lessons that I learned are ask questions early on to unblock yourself, be courageous to take new problems, be humble to everyone, and be honest on your work progress and intention.

A short anecdote: I remembered clearly when I first joined the hardware team as a fresh college grad that I thought I clearly understood how audio amplifiers works and how it affects audio fidelity. One day I was very adamant on why Class D amplifier has inferior audio fidelity than that of the class AB amplifier to an engineer whom I later found out was an audio team manager. He explained that audio is heavily depended on human hearing but I didn't believe it and was insistent on why PWM after a low pass filter is not a perfect analog reconstruction of audio signals.

5 years later, I am working with audio processing for speech recognition and has written acoustic specs for smart speakers. I now finally understood that the audio is very subjective and different weighting technique are applied to sound pressure level frequency response to resemble human ears. Since automatic speech recognition are mostly deep learning based, making traditional audio hardware performance and audio pre-processing techniques less stringent.

Be humble is a great quality that allows one to accept feedback and see one's own shortcomings. As a result, one is able make fast and iterative corrective actions; In the end, this is how you grow fast.