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Robert Boguski

Needed: Solder joint forensic scientist. Common sense preferred.

Wanted: X-ray engineer. A test engineer with an interest in x-ray technology will suffice. So will a skilled and teachable technician. Hell, an intelligent person with a pulse will do in this economy. We’re open-minded. Just show us. No shrinking violets here. Honesty still matters to us (like being honest about the state of the economy and its effects on available talent). You should be honest, too, if you’d like us to hire you. Bring the aptitude; we’ll give you the qualifications.

We will train you.

 

Job description: People will bring you stuff. Usually that stuff doesn’t work. It just sits there passively when power is applied to it. The handover is usually not a happy occasion. (Note severely furrowed brow of customer as they hand you the malfunctioning item.) Check facial expression and nervous laughter of the person delivering the stuff. It conceals little. Much rides on the diagnosis (their job, perhaps). Failure in this instance is a career option for you. Diagnosing the source, that is. You just need to find the defective solder joint.

That inert object represents job security. Just do your job, using x-ray and CT scanning technology. Think of it as solder joint forensics in an x-ray cocktail, complete with a materials science chaser. The source of the defect might be obvious; then again, it might be elusive. That’s what you’re paid to do. If the art and science of detection attracts you, and you’ve ever wondered about doing the real thing, read on. You may have just found your future.

“Stuff,” as we know it, is usually printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs), either singular, or in larger combination with other assemblies. They are joined together, mostly by connectors or flex circuits and cables, sometimes by solder joints. Often the jumble comes encapsulated in a bigger box. The common thread is the assembly worked for a while, then it didn’t. The culprit is embedded deep in that box, covered by other stuff that inhibits examination and discovery. Hence the customer’s furrowed brow. Accelerated facial aging may be more pronounced and proportionate to dollars on hold (pending resolution) if the job of the subject engineer and/or their existing OEM business relationship is riding on the outcome of the stuff you are being asked to scan. Tangible, actionable results are needed quickly from the 3-D images you will produce. The customer will wait in the lobby – if not next to the x-ray system – for said images. No rush, except you need to do it now. You hold the key. No pressure here. That’s our life.

The methods to accomplish this can be learned. That’s why we’re willing to take the risk and train you. The personality needed to execute them is harder to find.

We need a special individual. For us to assume that risk, they should possess one or more of the following attributes:

1. Common sense. An innate ability to sift fact from fiction and know the difference between well-founded, fact-based opinion, and bias, hearsay, and prejudice. Add to that skill at recognizing incongruity in situations where facts tell otherwise, political pressures notwithstanding. Fluency in technical buzzspeak (granularity, drilling down, takeaways, etc.) is helpful, if only to detect obfuscation. Aversion to use of same in colloquial language is a big plus. Short declarative sentences (e.g., “Your board is crap.”) are encouraged.

2. Technical aptitude. That is, numeracy: comfort with quantitative representations of reality. Whether expressed as linear measurements, area, volume, percentages or other values, you must understand them and be equipped to explain these same measurements to those who do not. The facts don’t lie. They are necessarily inconvenient. In this role, you will deliver the facts, come what may.

3. Articulate nature. A comfortable, jargon-free facility with the local language. Since our local language is American English most days, make that written and spoken English.

4. Even keel. We work under pressure most of the time, intense pressure some of the time. Some of that pressure is fueled by unreasonable customers. Some of those same are jerks. Don’t let that get to you. This too will pass. They may be jerks, but they’re our jerks. They pay our bills. Do your job. Let management tell the jerks to go to hell. That’s their job. Yours is to furnish the data to refute the jerks. Furnish data wisely.

5. Intellectual curiosity. A disposition to want to know why things work. Even better: an obsession with figuring out why they don’t. If you are a tinkerer, you’re home. This is your sandbox.

6. Willingness to learn, even if it leads to unexpected roads taken. Corollary to #5 above. When you set up a 225kV x-ray machine, and you have access to even bigger machines, word gets around. Engineers bring you unfamiliar things to inspect, observe and measure. Fossils. Citrus fruit. Rocket motor nozzles. You know, common household items with defects. Be open. Learn from it. Don’t shy from admitting it’s a new experience. It’s no discredit for you to be honest. Your (our) customer may find it refreshing to hear that. They’re used to sales speak, so you will stand apart in a good way. In doing so, you may well have discovered our next business. (Try doing that at one of the big Silicon Valley companies). Enjoy the discovery. We’ll give you the credit.

7. Decisiveness. Given the facts and evidence our instruments produce, can you synthesize what it all means? Can you defend your conclusions? Can that synthesis help a desperate customer fix their problem? Can you engage with customers who have predetermined notions about why systems don’t work, your contrary evidence notwithstanding?

8. Sense of humor. You will be working with a team, and that team will include your (our) customer. Everybody is different, but all are in the same rowboat for the duration of the current project. Sometimes humor defuses pressure-filled minutes and hours in that boat. Use it. Someone may remember you favorably one day.

9. Analytical and organizational proficiency. No fake news here. For that, consider politics as a career. Here we still traffic in hard evidence. Some of our decisions support equipment that preserves or saves lives. We need to be right, not biased or predestined in our outcomes. We go where the evidence – objective evidence – leads us.

10. Open mindedness. We’re talking to you, aren’t we? And you’re reading this, at least so far. Q.E.D.

11. Trainability. See #10 above. If you are willing to invest in us, we will invest in you. Many companies shy away from this. They complain there are too few qualified candidates for the available positions. The question is are candidates born (plug-and-play) or made (we will train)? The truth is many companies are lazy or simply don’t want to take the time and expense to develop their own workforce. We do. Hence this ad.

We.

Notice I didn’t say a college degree is a prerequisite? Note this carefully. Yes, a college degree is nice to have, minus the debt, but interesting people come from all walks of life, and many don’t walk the college path. Why foreclose opportunity to those who, for good reasons, make other choices besides college? Should lacking a scrap of paper exclude anyone demonstrating the right energy and aptitude? Having the “right” degree should not be a disqualifying factor either. STEM degrees are helpful, but let’s face it: If you aren’t scared of math, the textbook material can always be taught later. We don’t want the nerd to obscure the poet. In certain situations, an English degree would be just as beneficial because you need to explain yourself – in an economy of words – to anxious customers. The same applies to defending your x-ray methodology. Written and spoken English is a time-tested and effective way to do that. Shakespeare as test engineer. Imagine that. Assuming he made it to the second interview.

Will.

Haven’t scared you off yet? Consider this:

Train.

What’s bad about us: We’re in Silicon Valley, but we aren’t G----e. We aren’t glamorous. You won’t get rich holding our stock because there isn’t any. We aren’t those other big-name brand tech companies either. Nor do we aspire to be them or like them. So, we don’t have their amenities. Sorry, you’ll have to do your own laundry, buy or fix your own dinner, and find (and pay for) your own gym, should you choose to join us. But take heart: that’s what millions of adults do every day, so you’ll be in good company. Those glitzy amenities at the G company and its kind are there for a reason – to keep you there. We’d prefer you had a life outside of work. Selfishly, we think a more rounded life makes a better employee, with more depth to contribute. Go find a hobby that doesn’t revolve around work. On your time. Don’t worry, we’ll give you plenty of it.

You.

What’s good about us: Once again, we’re in Silicon Valley, but we aren’t G----e. We’re a small company. We are not corporate in the least. Tech “bros” would not do well at our company. Those who wish to learn how a business runs will thrive in our workplace. Those who excel will eventually lead us. So, learn the x-ray stuff first (we’ll train); then you can move into sales, or marketing, or finance, or maybe even management. We’ll train for each of those jobs, too. See #10 above under qualifications for a refresher, lest you doubt us.

For those still vacillating, we’re an equal opportunity employer. Feel better?

Enough subtlety. Let’s get to the point.

Is this you? Or what you aspire to be?

Do I have your attention now?

So, who are you? And what do you want to do?

Think about it. Then make your choice. You know how to reach me.

Did we mention we’ll train you?

Robert Boguski is president of Datest Corp. (datest.com); rboguski@datest.com. His column runs bimonthly.

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