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The recipe for Asian engineer's success

Posted: 13 Aug 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:management? career? engineer? job? outsourcing?

Shih: Directors need not only technical skills, but management and communication skills as well.

With the electronics industry in Asia-Pacific steaming, local engineers are increasingly taking the spotlight. To cope with the evolving industry and growing number of engineering graduates, there's a need to concoct a recipe for them to remain competitive. And this includes spicing themselves up with the right amount of skill set as well as better tools and equipment.

For Jack Shih, regional director for application and marketing at Philips Semiconductors in Asia-Pacific, competency depends on current market needs. While some companies focus on hiring design engineers, others concentrate on applications. Philips, for example, has more than 200 engineers involved in systems applications support to service customers. "Our system application engineers support three areas--consumer, computing and communications," said Shih.

New employees must have the right skill set that will complement the skills of existing teams. Being able to adjust to changes is equally important. Jack Shih went through his own challenges before reaching his current status. Upon completing his degree in electrical engineering at the Taipei Institute, Shih spent 20 months working for Taiwan's government where he specialized in armored unit communications. Later in 1981, he joined Sampo Co. as a system design engineer for color TVs.

In 1983, Shih joined Philips Semiconductors as an application engineer for electronic components for CRTs, ICs and passive components. This business unit is instrumental in supporting the TV, monitor and switch-mode power supply manufacturers for the local market.

He was later promoted to senior marketing and sales engineer in Kaohsiung in 1988. There, he marketed TTL, CMOS, memory, A/V, radio and linear ICs to telecom and consumer electronics manufacturers. After three years, he became senior applications engineer at Philips' Asia-Pacific application laboratory for monitor IC applications support.

Based on his experience in the industry, Shih views Asia-Pacific as getting into production centers, and believes that teamwork between design engineers works well for this kind of setup. "The region's course started in systems application and then later on moved to IC design and research," said Shih as he talked about the career opportunities in the electronics system design in Asia.

Beyond tech capabilities

In "Salary & Opinion" survey conducted by EE Times--Asia last year, it was found that most companies seek not only technical capabilities, but also strong communication skills in hiring engineers. Shih couldn't agree more. "We need cooperation and teamwork. We expect corporate performance, not only individual performance in the organization," he said.

Because of the language and cultural barriers, engineers need to constantly improve their communication skills, Shih added.

Part of the scope of Shih's current job is to manage the sales and marketing activities for computing and consumer applications in the region. "From being a field applications engineer to a director takes a lot of training and adjustment. Directors need not only technical skills, but management and communication skills as well," Shih said as he discussed his work experience.

Since most companies are under multicultural settings, it is important for engineers to have a global perspective, he added.

For Philips, Shih said, "work experience is important, but we also hire new graduates and provide them training." Philips provides training courses for career development in both basic and technical aspects. The company also includes marketing, negotiation and presentation skills, problem solving, decision making, project management and leadership in its training courses.

However, Shih believes leadership is not enough. Young engineers need mentors to provide them with professional and on-the-job training. Guiding young engineers and training them on how to deal with specific problems go a long way in building their careers.

Based on his experience, Shih mentions two kinds of growth: vertical and horizontal. "In vertical growth, you need competenceIn the horizontal, you need not only technical skills, but also experience in marketing," he said.

Head count

When asked if he thinks Asia can produce enough talents to keep the momentum of the growing Asian market, Shih expressed no doubt. Since the region has a large population, with China, India and Indonesia producing a lot of engineers, Shih believes that "Asia will keep its continued growth."

Future engineers seeking a career should look at opportunities not only in technologies involving SoCs and chip modules, but also in digital consumer, portable and wireless applications. "For digital consumer applications, digital TV is a rising star," Shih said. He mentioned that modules integrating several consumer functions such as PDA and MP3 functions are on the rise as well. More opportunities will also come from analog mixed-signal technology and multichip modules.

The future is bright for aspiring Asian engineers. There is so much to learn in this progressive electronics design industry in the region. Technical competence is the main ingredient to an Asian engineer's success, and this should be complemented with a spoonful of communication ability and an ounce of management skills. With this, engineering expertise can always be served hot in the booming electronics design industry in Asia.

- Reden Mateo

Electronic Engineering - Asia

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