RF Engineers: Looking Forward to 2009

Project Managers Should Be Planning Ahead Their 2009 Hiring Needs: According to a number of HR executives, typical search time for an RF engineer extends from three and up to six months in the tougher cases. Considering the diversity of related fields of expertise, we can expect to see different lead times locating qualified candidates according to the skill-sets they possess. In any case, none of them are easy or quick to find... Examples: High-power (such as HIRF) and low frequency are among examples of scarce fields of expertise, while Wi-Fi and RFID are examples of large and booming sectors pacing faster than the supply of skilled professionals.

Looking forward to 2009, although demand for RF engineers might possibly decrease somewhat, the shortage is here to stay for a while longer. Planning ahead therefore means overlaying the realistic, skill-dependent average time-to-hire over the projected needs of your project or firm. If planning on advertising, considering long-term job posting plans will be the right move.

A Note to Fellow RF Engineers: The employed engineer should also be watching the industry in his/her marketplace and location. Although somewhat reassured with the stable demand for RF engineering skills, one should consider that industry trends in his/her sector can sometimes reach very close.

Numerous applications and markets have been evolving in recent years. Combined with economical uncertainty of late 2008 it might be a good idea to consider career path: “Am I in the right industry? What will be the demand for my skills 10 years from now, and where?”

2008 Retrospective: During the year 2008 I have gained (and hopefully earned) the privilege writing this Career Column for Microwave Journal. The challenge in voicing out the relations and observations linking employment issues with microwave engineering technologies and skills has been an elaborating experience. Every month I found myself very keen to publish the Career Corner column.

Looking back at the headline of the first Career Column (March 2008), it stated that “employment topics should be part of the professional engineering media.” Doesn’t it seem to be even more relevant these days? In a rapidly diversifying technology, while all industries undergo extreme changes, the subtleties of engineering skill-sets and experience is what counts for one’s feasible career path and yes, his/her “market value”.

The decade-long and ongoing shortage in RF engineers (among other analog engineering sciences) at times where the country is losing jobs to offshoring is truly a sad reality. Researching before every month’s Career Corner column during 2008 I ran across numerous articles addressing this issue since the late 1990s. Unfortunately, the industry and education system have been ignoring these desperate calls throughout all those years. I am hopeful that recent realization from imaginary economies will steer back economical progress to leverage on creativity, science and technology.

It is my hope for the New Year to see the government, industry and academia jointly facing this challenge before the technological edge we have is lost as well.

Isaac Mendelson