Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Want to Go Back

Today I got an email from JobStreet. Upon opening it, it was my old friend, Intel Penang, looking for a senior BIOS engineer. Due to my background, coupled with the dire situation in Malaysia to find experienced and competent engineers, a lot of MNCs are looking everywhere to hire the suitable candidates.

I recall BIOS engineer is one of the rarest animals in the engineering kingdom, but the salary doesn't seem higher because of that. During my days in Intel, our department had been looking for years for a BIOS engineer.

Usually BIOS is the software that starts once CPU boots up until the execution is handed to the operating system. A bootloader is part of BIOS, but there are other modules like POST (Power On Self Test) and device configuration (RAID, HDD boot sequence, etc.). In a nutshell, BIOS deals mainly with initialization, self-test, and configurations of hardware system.

BIOS engineers not only need to know programming well (especially code optimization because the memory on chip is limited), they also need to know protocols like I2C, SPI, etc., and have an adequate understanding of electronics. On top of all the above, they must have a lot of patience in debugging because at the BIOS level, even the CPU is not yet fully initialized, let alone the memory systems and other peripherals. With all the above requirements, a good BIOS engineer will need typical 5 - 8 years of experience to be competent, and you understand why they are so rare now? ;)

Back to the resume request, I thought for a while, recalling all the memories I had back in Penang. I shook my head and rejected the request.

It is time to move on.


The Soothsayer said...

I think that the pay doesn't commensurate with the work most of the time in engineering. I agree that a good firmware engineer needs to have knowledge of hardware/software and it takes years of experience to be really good at it. Debugging an embedded system is an art unto itself.

Unfortunately, for us and for the world, companies want to continue to pay peanuts for engineers. It's unfortunate for us because our chosen profession limits us to slave for little remuneration while others enjoy the good life. Unfortunate for the world because so many good engineers have thrown in the towel and moved on to more rewarding professions. Much of the lost experience is priceless. I think many of those left behind in engineering don't really care much for the work and just see it as a means of making a living from it. I think that many of those that care the most are those that get so disgusted that they leave it. Not sure if that can be substantiated but it's a gut feeling I have.

Cuppa Chai said...

I agree with you on most points, except the one on people who left engineering for good.

I feel that the distribution of engineering competencies is also gaussian, with the average ones being the majority. God-like engineers at the one side of the bell-curve, while useless ones take another side of the curve. Now my theory is that most people who left are those in the middle. God-like engineers are crazy about their profession and won't leave. Useless ones have no other recourses, they can't leave.

However I need to note that in Asia, engineer pay isn't something to shout about, compared to finance executives, or consultants.

Flowing Stream said...

(6) Open yourself to the world of possibilities. How much value can an engineer add to the world these days?

iPod needs good engineers. But more importantly, it needs people who can see the big picture, the marketing skills, and the industrial design skills. After those are settled, then they send in the engineers.

Engineers are not scientist. But how are they different? I think the greatest thing an engineer can do is to bring about change through creation.

Be like the engineers in Silicon Valley -- be hungry and be crazy and be ready to create (not serve).