It’s a robust market for EE grads
“There’s a lot of opportunity in the utility industry.” – Andrea Diebold, LG&E; and KU
“Electrical engineers have a skill set that is certainly in demand at Intel.”
– Jason Saavedra
By Michael Garry
There are many solid opportunities this year for engineering grads, including those who majored in electrical engineering.
Seven of the ten best-paid majors for 2013 bachelors grads were in engineering specialties, according to the 2018 salary survey published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE, www.nace.org). In the NACE report, graduates with degrees in electrical/electronics and communications engineering garnered an average starting salary of $63,000, seventh on a list topped by petroleum engineering grads at $97,000.
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, Cambridge), job prospects are considered “terrific” for new grads with BSEEs, says Anne Hunter, administrator for the undergraduate electrical engineering department.
“Industries where new EEs are in particular demand include circuits, other hardware and biomedical, plus startups,” she notes, adding that EEs also may find jobs in consulting and finance. About one-third of new BSEE grads at MIT are women.
MIT undergraduates who major in electrical engineering up their chances for future employment by participating in a broad array of summer internships and research, according to a 2012 survey conducted by MIT Global Education and Career Development. The list of organizations that engage these students includes BMW, General Motors, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, among many others.
DRS Technologies helps keep the lights on
The market for engineers in Milwaukee, WI is booming, says Bill Weber, vice president of engineering for the Milwaukee division of DRS Technologies (Gaithersburg, MD), a defense contractor with facilities in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada.
“It’s hard to find enough potential hires to support the need in this area of the country,” he says.
The principal customers for DRS’s Milwaukee division are the U.S. Navy and companies that build its ships. “A ship is like a small city that needs to generate and distribute power,” explains Weber. “We build the infrastructure for power on the ship.”
Despite government cutbacks, business in the Milwaukee division remains strong because major Navy projects have been protected, notes Weber. He is currently recruiting to fill about twenty-five engineering jobs across a range of disciplines and levels, including EEs, MEs and software engineers.
Some of the division’s EEs write test procedures and evaluate equipment, while others design circuits and develop schematics. Companywide, EEs also work with infrared technology, aviation logistics and network computing.
The division’s test engineering group, with a staff of twenty, hires college graduates who spend three to four years learning their products, Weber says.
About half move into design work, he reports. “They make great engineers because having been testers, they know how to design a product that is easy to test in production.” The group also uses about six interns from local universities. DRS plans to increase that number to eight in 2018.
DRS considers a diverse workplace one of its core values, says Liz Fricke, director of human resources. The company does community outreach at the corporate and local levels and participates in career fairs sponsored by groups like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).
Navy experience helps DRS intern Katie Krowsky
Katie Krowsky, a sophomore EE major at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says that her internship as a test engineer for DRS Technologies’ Milwaukee division complements her former service as an electrician on a U.S. Navy ship.
Krowsky grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from technical high school in 2008 with an electrical focus. Not sure what direction to take after graduating, she joined the Navy and was stationed in Washington State on the USS Abraham Lincoln.
“I worked on motor controllers, air conditioning units and fire pumps,” Krowsky says. She was deployed twice overseas, visiting Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bahrain, Dubai and Turkey.
Her Navy service, and her two older brothers, prepared her for work in a male-dominated field like EE, she notes. Now she’s an intern with DRS, working fifteen to twenty hours per week after school. She’s helping to test equipment, including the main propulsion drive, on Navy ships. She is also rewriting test procedures for a carrier under construction, the USS John F. Kennedy. She finds the hands-on work helps her classroom studies, making it “easier to connect the dots.”
While graduation seems too far off to make plans, she says, “I enjoy what I’m doing now in the internship.” As for being a female EE, she says, “A lot of people think this is a guy’s job. Well, that’s too bad. It’s a great field to get into.”
Many opportunities at the Air Force Research Lab
The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), headquartered at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (OH), has a high demand for electrical engineers to work on weapons systems for warfighters, says Bryan Stevens, lead talent acquisition specialist for AFRL.
“We had been under a hiring freeze due to the sequestration,” he explains. “But now we’re able to go back out and look for people at the entry level.”
Stevens points out that the country is undergoing a shift in age demographics. “Baby boomers are retiring,” he says. “We have to bring in new talent in order to start the knowledge transfer.”
There are many opportunities for EEs at AFRL, which has nine directorates, or labs, at bases across the U.S., covering everything from aerospace systems and munitions to sensors and space vehicles.
“Within those labs, an EE could work in areas like radio frequency sensing, cyber, diagnostics and more,” says Stevens.
Most EEs who work at AFRL are civilians who are not on active duty with the military, Stevens notes. “Some people think you need to sign up as a military person but that is not the case.”
In its recruitment activities, AFRL attends four to five minority-focused events held by groups like the Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Awards Conference, SHPE, NSBE, and SWE. Each of its directorates is required to target at least one HBCU or other minority-serving school.
Julian Martinez of AFRL is a techie in uniform
Julian Martinez didn’t set out to be a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
While attending the University of Oklahoma (Norman), where he got a BSEE in 2012, he got an email about an upcoming recruitment meeting for civilians interested in engineering internships at nearby Tinker AFB.
“But I went to the wrong room, where there was a meeting for the military side of the Air Force,” he recalls. “There was free food, so I stayed. Then I heard about the opportunity to become a developmental engineer and I got interested in joining the military. Call it a cliché, but I felt patriotic and I wanted to do my part.”
By that point, it was his junior year and it was too late to join ROTC, so he applied to officer training school (OTS). He was accepted to OTS at Maxwell AFB near Montgomery, AL. He reported there after graduation, and three months later he was commissioned as a second lieutenant with a job code of developmental engineer.
He then received orders to report to AFRL at Wright-Patterson AFB, arriving in March 2013. There he was given a choice of jobs with the sensors directorate.
“I toured all the divisions. It was like being in a candy store for engineers!” he says. He ultimately chose the spectrum warfare division. He is an electronic warfare research engineer, helping research and manage programs dealing with systems to counter improvised explosive devices.
In his current job, Martinez works with contractors throughout the U.S. on sensor technology. “I manage the programs and make sure they’re on time and at cost,” he says. “There is some hands-on engineering but I’m more like a program manager.” While he enjoys working with civilians, he would like to work in a more military setting at some point. Meanwhile, he starts a masters degree program later this year.
The Air Force rotates officers like Martinez to different U.S. bases every three to four years, something he is looking forward to. “Each base has a unique job assignment, so I’ll get to see the whole lifecycle of how systems are created, tested, built and maintained,” he says.
Martinez was born in the U.S. Both his parents are from Mexico and have lived in this country for more than twenty-five years. His family includes a grandfather who was an EE, a father-in-law who is one, and his mother who studied the field. He decided to follow suit.
“When I Googled engineering jobs during my senior year in high school, EEs were hot and in demand,” he says. “I chose to major in EE as an undergrad and I loved it. In college, I was that weird guy who loved electromagnetics but couldn’t pass a world music quiz to save my life!”
EEs are welcome at Intel
EE grads can work in many different areas at chip maker Intel (Santa Clara, CA), including manufacturing, product development and research.
“Electrical engineers have a skill set that is certainly in demand at Intel,” says Jason Saavedra, U.S. diversity talent acquisition manager. Opportunities for EEs should continue to grow at Intel, given the importance of its chips in running many of the world’s digital devices, he notes.
Intel partners with diversity organizations to attract the best and brightest female and minority engineers, Saavedra says. Intel hiring managers attend career events at the national conferences of SHPE, NSBE and SWE, and tell attendees about the type of work EEs do at the company. “Managers can make offers on the spot,” he adds. Intel also sends speakers to conferences to talk about technology trends and leadership development.
At Intel, high-tech security is CaLynna Sorrells’ passion
Even with all of the wonders that information technology has brought the world, security remains one of its biggest vulnerabilities. It is this problem that CaLynna Sorrells is helping to solve at Intel.
Sorrells got her PhD in EE at Prairie View A&M; University (Texas) in 2012, and wrote her dissertation on the detection and mitigation of security attacks in cognitive radio networks. Those are wireless mobile networks that communicate on an opportunistic basis, Sorrells explains.
She worked on her dissertation while serving as an intern at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Previously, she graduated with bachelors and masters degrees in EE from Tuskegee University (AL).
She joined Intel in 2012 at its Hillsboro, OR office. She was a reliability engineer performing security assessments on emerging products like 3D graphics, advanced media and display components. She is now a cloud security solutions engineer developing trust attestation solutions to ensure that cloud infrastructures and associated workloads are secure. “I make sure efficient security and trust solutions are implemented to satisfy compliance requirements,” Sorrells says.
A pre-college summer program at Tuskegee sparked her interest in engineering, and proved to be a turning point in her life. “I was exposed to engineers from a variety of companies who came to speak and I became fascinated with what an engineer does,” she says.
Sorrells, who believes interest in science and engineering should be fostered at an early age, volunteers several times a month as an engineering mentor to a group of girls ages from ten to fourteen.
“The goal is to introduce them to STEM fields,” she says. “A lot of kids don’t know the purpose of engineering. They think it’s something men do, or that it’s being a train driver or mechanic.” The program is supported by the Delta Academy, a service of her college sorority Delta Sigma Theta, for which she is the local chair.
Utilities prepare for the future
Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company (LG&E; and KU) will see a number of retirements in the near future, says Andrea Diebold, senior recruiting and staffing specialist.
“As a result, the utilities have been ramping up their co-op/internship program. It comprises sixty-five students, half of whom are engineers,” she adds.
LG&E; and KU is trying to fill both EE and mechanical engineering jobs, but has a shortage of applicants for EE positions. The utilities need EEs to perform maintenance work at their power plants located in rural communities. But EEs tend to prefer working in the transmission department, which operates locations in urban areas like Louisville and Lexington. “It’s challenging to find candidates interested in power plants,” says Diebold.
For entry-level EE positions, LG&E; and KU first looks at its co-op/intern pool but also considers new graduates who have interned elsewhere. “We like to see applicants with co-op or intern experience somewhere,” she says.
LG&E; and KU tries to have a presence on college campuses so “people can see who we are,” Diebold says. To promote workforce diversity, the utility works with Tennessee State in Nashville, an HBCU. “We tell students there’s a lot of opportunity in the utility industry.”
To help educate young female students about engineering careers, LG&E; and KU supports the Women in Science and Engineering Club, a student program at a local high school. Club members come to the utilities’ corporate headquarters to meet female engineers. LG&E; and KU also hosts about sixty elementary school girls in a series of math games to get them excited about the subject, explains Diebold.
Dinaben Patel keeps electricity flowing at LG&E; and KU
Dinaben Patel, an EE 1 specialist with LG&E; and KU’s Simpsonville, KY control center, has a lot of responsibility.
When LG&E; and KU schedules a planned outage to do maintenance or make a change on a line, she is on the transmission team that analyzes the request to see if it will cause problems. If problems are identified, the team comes up with a solution. She also deals with unplanned outages that stop the flow of electricity to residents of Kentucky and beyond.
“It’s challenging and I learn a lot,” she says. “It’s definitely exciting.”
Born in Gujarat, India, Patel came to the U.S. with her parents when she was eleven. She earned a bachelors degree in both EE and computer engineering at the University of Kentucky (Lexington) in 2012. She interned at LG&E; and KU in summer 2012, and did a co-op there in the fall. She became a fulltime employee in March 2013 in the transmission system operation group. As an intern and a co-op, she shadowed engineers to learn about their work.
Patel says she would eventually like to move into a management position. “I see opportunities to do that here.”
The NRC needs electrical engineers
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Rockville, MD) expects to have internships for EE students as well as permanent positions for newly graduating electrical engineers, says Susan Salter, chief of the outreach and recruitment branch in the agency’s office of the chief of human capital. These positions will focus on digital instrumentation and controls and cybersecurity.
“During the government cutbacks of the past few years, the NRC took a very conservative approach to hiring. We are actually in a hiring mode right now,” says Salter. “Like many organizations, the NRC is facing many retirements and needs to continue hiring EEs at the entry level so we have time to train and grow them.”
EEs at the NRC inspect and evaluate the effectiveness and performance of reactor facilities. Their duties encompass design verification, plant modification, equipment evaluation, maintenance and testing.
The NRC has a robust diversity program. During 2018, the agency plans to attend forty-five events at universities and professional conferences, many with a focus on underrepresented minorities.
“The NRC campus outreach and recruitment activities will concentrate on schools and events with a large presence of minorities, women, and persons with disabilities,” says Salter. These include events sponsored by HBCUs, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and minority professional and student organizations.
NRC’s Stephanie Galbreath helps to keep nuclear energy safe
In March 2011, as Stephanie Galbreath was about to graduate with an EE degree from Tuskegee University and join the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a tsunami devastated nuclear plants in northern Japan, causing a catastrophic meltdown of reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi site.
For Galbreath, the event was an eye-opener and underscored the great responsibility of the work she was about to undertake.
When she was a teenager, Galbreath’s father, a pilot, helped set her direction when he told her about a two-week summer program at Tuskegee for minority students interested in engineering. She attended before her senior year in high school.
“We learned about chemical, mechanical, aerospace and electrical engineering,” she says. “I fell in love with the electrical program. I was good at it and it interested me.”
At Tuskegee, she discovered the NRC at a career fair and decided to enter the agency’s two-year nuclear safety professional development program. “I wanted a developmental program so I could see all aspects of what the NRC does,” she says. She liked her experience and applied online for the nuclear safety professional developmental program. She’s now moved into a permanent position as a reactor inspector in Region 1 (the northeast U.S.), based in King of Prussia, PA. Her position is in the electrical branch of the reactor safety division.
As an inspector, Galbreath underwent additional training in nuclear and mechanical engineering. She does fire protection inspections at nuclear power plants, examining design, operational status and material condition, and ensuring that fire barriers meet standards. Her EE background comes into play when she looks at the fire safety of circuits and cables in a plant. She has performed inspections at Three Mile Island, about ninety miles from Region 1 headquarters, where a partial nuclear meltdown occurred in 1979.
Unisys looks for EEs with software backgrounds
In recent years, Unisys (Blue Bell, PA) has changed its focus from hardware development to the development of operating systems and software. The company recruits software engineers, plus CS and computer engineering majors, but is also open to hiring EEs with backgrounds in software development.
“We consider EEs because we want to hire the best people, regardless of degree,” says Caroline Flood, senior HR consultant.
EE majors interested in Unisys should consider an internship. Over the past few years, the company has ramped up opportunities for interns and co-ops. Unisys hired about thirty interns and twenty-five new graduates last year and hopes to do the same in 2018.
In pursuit of a more diverse workforce, Unisys participated last year in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and plans to work this year with professional groups focused on women and minority engineers. The company sponsors students from China and India, and invites female high school students to shadow women engineers during the work day.
EE Brittney Burchett was intrigued by Unisys
Brittney Burchett became interested in Unisys when, as a student at Temple University (Philadelphia, PA), she attended an awards banquet given by the Philadelphia chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. She’s now a board member of the chapter. “An engineering vice president from Unisys gave a great presentation on innovation that intrigued me,” she says.
She landed a summer internship, and joined the company in May 2013, following her graduation with a double major in EE and bioengineering.
Burchett developed her programming skills in a C programming class at Temple. At Unisys she is working on secure partitioning, dividing hardware into as many as six separate Windows or Linux partitions. “It’s cool to see how software can take the physical limitations of hardware and make it better,” she says.
Burchett also has conducted a series of training sessions on partitioning at Unisys. “Bringing technology discussions to a level that everyone understands
is something I enjoy,” she says.
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