Advice for getting first job in product design

Postby dwb » January 18th, 2017, 3:18 pm

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I just graduated in December with an Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Texas-Arlington. I've begun the hunt to start my career and I've really been focusing on finding gigs at small product design/development firms in Dallas. Before my engineering degree, my background was in art/design. That's all I did in high school, and I went to art school in Chicago for a little while after high school.

My electrical engineering senior design project was the first time my background in art/design and fabrication became a valuable asset to an engineering project, and I really enjoyed it.

From what research I've done this past month while starting my job hunt, I'm starting to think that product design could be a good path for someone like me. I'm trying to focus on smaller companies right now because I would think a smaller company with a smaller team has team members working on all aspect's of the project, not just the parts they went to school to do. Is this a fair assumption?

And for the people that work on the engineering side or do hiring would you be more inclined to work with/hire someone who could be useful in all aspect of the development cycle or someone with an exact requirements match that could do an exceptional job but nothing else?

I am aware that it is not always going to be white or black like that, but I'm just trying to get a baseline understanding if I'm on the right track or if I'm wasting my time. Because the truth of the matter is, and it bums me out to think about it, but there are way more qualified engineers looking for work right now than me. I did good in school, I ended up with a 2.8 GPA, not quite the illustrious 3.0 that entry level job postings love to put in their requirements but its pretty close. I didn't do any research and I regretfully didn't get an internship and I had to keep a part time job to keep gas in my car so I wasn't too involved in extra circulars. I have taken and passed the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. So hope is not completely lost.

So I'm trying to play up on everything else in addition to the engineering, but the engineering is what will get me in the door. I'm concerned the kids with a resume worthy GPA and internship/research experience are getting asked for the interviews while someone like me who might be a more useful hire are getting overlooked.

Should I stick with it, or just take whatever job and do some or similar classes to fill in the gaps in my resume and try again in a year?

Dang, this got long. Sorry!! Thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks in advance for any advice you might have!

Re: Advice for getting first job in product design

Postby iab » January 18th, 2017, 4:35 pm

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People hiring care about GPA? Since when? Sure, for getting into grad school, but not a job, least wise, not around these parts.

As for a small firm, they will hire you for your EE work and don't expect more. Your job is to have billable hours and you doing something other than your background is less likely to be billable. Not to say you won't have an opportunity to cross-pollinate, but your employer wants to profit off of your work. There is no profit in training.

On a side note, if I need EE work, I go to an EE firm, not an ID firm with EE. I want depth, not breadth.

Yes I am being a Debby downer, sorry. The path you seek is out there, but it is not a common path and you have to sell what's in it for your employer, not what's in it for you.

On a side note, I'll be interviewing an ID graduate who has been doing hard-core engineering for the last 4 years. They probably took the job because they needed the job. Maybe it will work out, I do need someone with front-end experience instead of back-end.

Re: Advice for getting first job in product design

Postby yo » January 18th, 2017, 4:55 pm

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That said, a lot of ID firms do have ME's and EE's. But they might have one or two engineers to bolster their billable and deliverables, and in my experience they are doing engineering work, not design work.

Think of it the other way around. If i guy graduated with an ID degree and liked to tinker with electronics would a firm or company hire him to do EE work?

Another way to go might be to play the role of what is sometimes called a "Technologist". At frog there was a pretty large "technology" team of tinkerers and mad scientists we would bring into programs to help do some front end conceptualization as well as build proof of concept prototypes that used all kinds of tech.

Re: Advice for getting first job in product design

Postby dwb » January 24th, 2017, 12:53 pm

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I've been away the last few days, sorry I couldn't get back sooner, but I appreciate the insight. That does make total sense that if I'm hired as an EE that's what I'll be expected to do.

Regarding the GPA, I've also always heard GPA doesn't really matter and I'm sure most of the time it doesn't. I've just seen several job postings for entry level positions with GPA requirements. I haven't been too interested in most of those particular jobs but as someone who hasn't entered the workforce yet, thus not having an understanding of what that reality is actually like, it certainly makes me wonder.

Never the less, it's always good to hear from new people that something that's worrying you isn't necessary so I appreciate it. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts, they will certainly help focus my search.

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If you want to do EE in a design firm I would look at the larger firms that work at the forefront of innovation and experiment with new technologies. If you have a sense for design, are good at working in teams doing rapid development cycles in semi-chaotic environments with tight deadlines and you have good ideas about innovation then you have a good chance in being able to merge the two fields. More important than your resume and school achievements is your portfolio, also as an engineer. Focus on upcoming technologies, you are likely to land jobs if you have knowledge and skills in specific fields such as software for intelligent robots, autonomous cars, drones, 3D printer firmware etc.


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I am an EE working with product design/development. Coming from a family of engineers I have a big interest in mechanics and some electronics but programming was like magic for me and I needed help to learn it. Thus I studied EE, specializing in mechatronics and robotics which is really good and all-round.

I have become specialized in small Internet-of-Things devices and Wearables. I can quite fast give designers an idea how much space is needed for the electronics and what the limitations and functionality are. I am also keen on design so I always look for new smaller components, materials or processes that can make electronics more flexible and follow organic shapes better, so the designers have as much freedom as possible.

In a sense, I can shape a product towards my vision by arguing with the designers, engineers and managers with a solution for a problem that I find the best.
One problem can be solved by complex, vulnerable mechanics or expensive electronics or just one line of code.
But other problems such as EMC issues might require advanced power saving algorithms or big additional electrical filters but can easily be solved by a mechanical EMI shield.

I often end up as the spider in the web in a project because I can communicate, understand, aid and translate the problems between engineers, designers and programmers. Doesn't matter if it is a small or big company, there is a huge demand for multiple disciplinary people who knows a little about everything because everything today contains a little bit of everything.

Re: Advice for getting first job in product design

Postby AVClub » January 27th, 2017, 12:52 pm

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I'm not 100% sure of your intent. Do you want to be an EE who works with product designers, or do you want to be a product designer with EE knowledge? If you really want to pursue Product/Industrial design from a design standpoint my opinion is that you will need the skills (Research, Sketching, CAD, etc) to do the job. The part where you said "I'm concerned the kids with a resume worthy GPA and internship/research experience are getting asked for the interviews while someone like me who might be a more useful hire are getting overlooked." throws me off a bit because from my experience (keep in mind I am a young designer) your GPA really doesn't really matter, and your resume isn't necessarily even that big of a deal, its your portfolio that really gets you the job. Good luck, i'm excited for you that you're finding your true passion.

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