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Question from an Undergrad's Dad: For folks familiar with engineer hiring

College Dad

New Member
Hello,

I wonder if folks familiar with hiring might help a poor father with a question for folks who know hiring and the job market in America? (Thank you, and please move this post if in the wrong place.) Our son was just accepted at Virginia Tech and Penn. St., and he also made the waiting list at Wisconsin Madison and Purdue, all for electrical engineering as a freshman this year. We are happy.

We will probably accept Virginia Tech, because we really like what we are seeing for how they welcome and assist freshmen. (I will mention that, although a U.S. citizen, our son was raised in Japan and is bilingual Japanese really.)

MY QUESTION: Putting aside that he is coming from Japan, and just as a general question, in the small chance that he is picked from the waiting list to be accepted at either Purdue or Wisconsin, would seeing the "Purdue" or "Wisconsin" name on a resume, years from now, rather than "Virginia Tech" really make such a big difference that we should think to abandon Virginia Teach and send him there?? (I know that they are all good schools, but that Purdue is now considered a "Top 10" electrical engineering program everywhere I check.) Or, is it really such a small difference or factor, that we should not worry about it, and just stay with Virginia Tech which we are liking very much?

Thank you for any guidance for folks with hiring and company experience. Until I started to help my son apply to college, my only knowledge of electrical engineering was how to change a light bulb. :)

Dad
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
I can't comment on the relative values of the different colleges, as it's a different country - but, I can state that having qualifications from a good one makes a HUGE difference.

I went to fit a TV on the wall for a guy a few years ago, retired old guy, nice bungalow, Bentley in the drive!! :D (so he wasn't short of a few bob).

So we were talking, and he mentioned he was originally a Chemist, and worked as such for a number of years for the same company, then took a Business Degree and moved to the management side with the same company. My daughter at the time was taking a 4 year masters Degree in Chemistry at a Russel Group University, hence the conversation.

Once he moved to management part of his job was selecting new graduates every year to start work for the company - and there were always a huge number of applications for only a small number of jobs (something like 12 jobs, hundreds, if not thousands, of applications). Obviously, you have to apply filtering to try and bring the numbers down to sensible levels - so the first filter was by University - if he hadn't heard of it, then the application was rejected without been looked at any further.

This brought the numbers down to manageable levels, and more intensive filtering was applied to the remaining applications.

So it wasn't a matter of "we only accept applicants from the 'top' University", it was probably the top 20 or 30 Universities - and once past that hurdle the rest was based on the applicant, not where they attended.

So as I see it, as long as the listed colleges are fairly similarly rated, then it should probably make little difference - but members here from the USA will probably have suggestions for their personal favourites.

You mention "years from now", once you get a few years in the future it doesn't matter much - you're unlikely to be even asked where you went to college, or to produce a certificate, your experience since graduation is what's important - but getting employment after initial graduation is a different matter.
 

MacIntoshCZ

Active Member
Depends on teachers. And yours son ability to learn. But this all is just philosophy.
 

Visitor

Well-Known Member
One thing that could make a difference....

In the not-entirely-distant-past, I returned to college at Seattle University after taking some time off when I went to college right out of high school. A very important part of engineering courses was the year-long engineering design project. Many projects had cooperate sponsors. A group of 3 or 4 students worked with an engineer from the sponsoring group to define, design and build a working prototype of whatever the project was. This generally wasn't a "make work" project, but instead to provide a solution to solve real-world needs.

These projects have regular meetings with the sponsor to report progress, decide on needed changes, etc., with regular presentations to the collective group of design program students. It's typical of a real-world design project.

The success of this program is shown by the number of students who go on to work for the sponsoring company. The companies get to know the students and how they work, and the students get an idea about what working for the company would be like. Basically, if the student does a good job working on the project, chances are they will have a job waiting for them when they graduate.
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
One thing that could make a difference....

In the not-entirely-distant-past, I returned to college at Seattle University after taking some time off when I went to college right out of high school. A very important part of engineering courses was the year-long engineering design project. Many projects had cooperate sponsors. A group of 3 or 4 students worked with an engineer from the sponsoring group to define, design and build a working prototype of whatever the project was. This generally wasn't a "make work" project, but instead to provide a solution to solve real-world needs.

These projects have regular meetings with the sponsor to report progress, decide on needed changes, etc., with regular presentations to the collective group of design program students. It's typical of a real-world design project.

The success of this program is shown by the number of students who go on to work for the sponsoring company. The companies get to know the students and how they work, and the students get an idea about what working for the company would be like. Basically, if the student does a good job working on the project, chances are they will have a job waiting for them when they graduate.
That sounds like a particularly excellent scheme - and I really like that it was a 'real world' project.

My daughter did a 4 year Masters at the University Of York, along with a 'year in industry' - and York is unique in that it does that year in your 4th year, everyone else does it in the 3rd. So it's good for your job opportunities as you can finish your 'year in industry' and start working for them pretty well immediately, rather than not until a year later.
 

sagor1

Active Member
The paper the degree is written on has little value shortly after you graduate and get your first job. Recruiters look for "exceptional" things, things that are above and beyond just the degree. Good marks is a factor, but what the graduate did while in college is also important. Did they join any groups/clubs? Did they volunteer for things? The "ambition" as demonstrated by their history is a large factor. A person that is active with more than just studying in college will get that second look-over of their resume. A person who just sits there and says "I got the highest marks in my class", but has done nothing else to better themselves or lacks demonstrated leadership or activities elsewhere, is of minimal interest to a company that is looking for people that can take that company forward.
Unless a degree is specific to a company's interest (ie: doctorate in a specific research field), the degree itself is just foot in the door, but that does not mean the door will open further.
 

simonbramble

Active Member
I agree with Sagor1. I have just gone through 30 applications as part of a graduate program for a well known silicon chip manufacturer. They all say they are hard working and keen to learn, so how do I distinguish amongst them? I looked at a number of things. Grades definitely were a big factor, but also having an enquiring mind and an interest in electronics (and having demonstrated this) was also key. Do they do electronics as a hobby? Do they constantly wonder how the world works? Do they take apart cars at the weekend? Have they written any mobile phone apps etc?

Engineering requires you to have an enquiring mind and the more enthusiasm you have demonstrated for the subject, the more you will make a good engineer. I have used very little of my degree since leaving university, but decades of headscratching and wondering 'how the hell does this work?' has taught me infinitely more than many of my peers who graduated with much better degrees. To me, engineering is common sense, just because I have worked on making it all fit together in some large cohesive picture instead of looking at engineering as a series of subjects to be learned. I also find that enquiring people are better to work with. Pure academics can be difficult to get along with as they generally think on a different plane. You need to fit into a team and get along with people.

This might be of no use to you whatsoever (!), but hopefully it will tell you how an experienced engineer and interviewer thinks

The very best of luck to your son
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
I agree with Sagor1. I have just gone through 30 applications as part of a graduate program for a well known silicon chip manufacturer. They all say they are hard working and keen to learn, so how do I distinguish amongst them? I looked at a number of things. Grades definitely were a big factor, but also having an enquiring mind and an interest in electronics (and having demonstrated this) was also key. Do they do electronics as a hobby? Do they constantly wonder how the world works? Do they take apart cars at the weekend? Have they written any mobile phone apps etc?
Very true, something I've always asked applicants is "what projects have you made" - while I wouldn't expect an applicant to be able to tell me details about something specific I asked them about, I would expect them to be able to "bore me senseless" about a project they have built. I also used to throw them a random 5% resistor (5% as there's no colour ambiguities), and ask them what value it was.

So if out of the 30 applicants above, only one was able to describe in detail the projects he'd built, and how he over came whatever issues he came across - he'd be a VERY strong contender.
 

Visitor

Well-Known Member
When I worked at an engineering services firm, I was asked to sit in on a few interviews. Beforehand, we met with the HR person and discussed how the interviews would go.

Much of our work involved instrumentation so some electronics background was a useful skill. Much of our work was troubleshooting mechanical systems; you never knew what the next phone call would bring. I said I'd like to ask the candidates about their hobbies, as a way to judge what they might bring to the game.

I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn't ask that question. "Suppose they said 'I like to bite the heads off frogs in my spare time.' If we didn't hire them, they could claim they were discriminated against for that reason." I was dis-invited after the first interview after I told HR what I thought about that idea.
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
When I worked at an engineering services firm, I was asked to sit in on a few interviews. Beforehand, we met with the HR person and discussed how the interviews would go.

Much of our work involved instrumentation so some electronics background was a useful skill. Much of our work was troubleshooting mechanical systems; you never knew what the next phone call would bring. I said I'd like to ask the candidates about their hobbies, as a way to judge what they might bring to the game.

I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn't ask that question. "Suppose they said 'I like to bite the heads off frogs in my spare time.' If we didn't hire them, they could claim they were discriminated against for that reason." I was dis-invited after the first interview after I told HR what I thought about that idea.
Shows what a complete waste of time HR is! :D

I suspect I would have been dis-invited a well.

I did ask a candidate once if he "had any wind problems" - with experience of previous employees. He said not, he got the job - he lied!! :D
 

College Dad

New Member
I just want to thank everyone for the comments, which were really helpful to clarify things. I'm also going to pass on some of the wise advise to my son. Thanks.
 

Reloadron

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
in the small chance that he is picked from the waiting list to be accepted at either Purdue or Wisconsin, would seeing the "Purdue" or "Wisconsin" name on a resume, years from now, rather than "Virginia Tech" really make such a big difference that we should think to abandon Virginia Teach and send him there??
No, and I will share with you why. I retired in 2013 after a long career in electrical engineering here in the US. While seeing MIT on a resume is nice it was never a deal breaker or maker. Not even close. One fine engineer I worked with graduated Cleveland State University, not exactly a known school. I remember when his first boy became ready for college and he was all excited about sending the kid to Ohio State University. I had to ask him why? When we interviewed we were less concerned with the university and more concerned with the grade transcripts every interview included. We wanted to hire engineers we felt could learn the product and test methods. Also depending on the position how well they would interface with our mechanical counterparts. I pointed out how one of our best and brightest graduated Toledo University. We never did place much stock in the name of any university, it was about grade transcripts and how well an applicant presented themselves. We also hired several who interned with us over a few summers.

Japan huh? I spent quite a few of my younger years in parts of Japan working as a civilian component of the US DoD under naval engineering units. I really enjoyed Japan tremendously.

I wish your son all the best in his career and choice of higher learning. Again, you are only getting my take and how we looked for new engineers. Main concerns for us were transcripts, written and verbal communication skills.

Ron
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
No, and I will share with you why. I retired in 2013 after a long career in electrical engineering here in the US. While seeing MIT on a resume is nice it was never a deal breaker or maker. Not even close. One fine engineer I worked with graduated Cleveland State University, not exactly a known school. I remember when his first boy became ready for college and he was all excited about sending the kid to Ohio State University. I had to ask him why?
In that vein, our 'local' University is the University of Derby, and is a poorly respected and fairly crappy University as Universities go, and ranked pretty low in University terms.

However, originally it was a Teacher Training College, and the Primary School my wife works at still takes students from there and finds them excellent. They have occasionally taken students from other Uni's, with VERY poor results - both from the students, and from the support staff behind them. So now they will only except students from Derby, and not any other Universities. So even poor Universities can excel in certain subjects.

I mentioned above my daughter went to York - now York has two Universities (like many UK cities) - the University of York (a top University that my daughter went to), and York St. Johns - a low ranked University, on a level with Derby. But like Derby, what it does well it's very good at.

Now the University of York have built a massive new campus, specifically to add more of the 'lower' courses that St. John's are good at - that seems a very poor idea to me, it's unlikely that they can do it as well as St. John's, so why bother trying - invest your millions elsewhere.

So the point is, it's not as simple as "this one is good", "this one isn't" - a poorer University may be far better at specific courses.
 

simonbramble

Active Member
a poorer University may be far better at specific courses.
I agree. Brunel University is the best university in the UK, but then I am biased! Seriously, many league tables rank a university across many subjects and its ranking also includes things like how much research they do. Both of these are not specific to a particular subject nor the quality of the teaching in that subject. In the UK, the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is about as accurate as it gets as this just looks at the quality of the teaching, not the R&D budget. However, this is not subject specific and applies across all courses making it difficult to decide, if, say, the electronics course is any good.
 

Reloadron

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Like I mentioned, I can only comment on how my company looked at interviews here in the US. The universities the thread starter mentioned are all well known and very good universities. We just didn't limit our search criteria to larger let's say "brand name" schools. We focused on transcripts and what we felt were viable candidates. H.R. may rule out a few dozen and we may get a few dozen applicants to weed through.

On a humorous side when I submitted my intent to retire it was January15th of 2013. My date was 01 May of 2013. I made it clear I would not be any part of hiring my replacement. :) I did not want to take the blame for a poor decision when I was gone.

Anyway, what I am saying is we did not really consider the school and I agree some schools here also have a bad rap. Just in our process the school name was pretty low on the list.

Ron
 

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