Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Starting A New Job

I’ve been with my latest job now for almost two months. In that time I’ve averaged about 1.5 emails a week and 1 phone call every two weeks with new job possibilities. Most of that activity I chalk up three items:

Ø I still have my resume listed on Many head hunters have programs that troll through piles of resumes and auto-generate emails if you match certain keywords. I’d say a third of the jobs I’ve seen were obviously not a fit for me, but my resume had the right keywords.

Ø I live in a fantastic technology environment. The greater Boston area. Yes, if you do pure software or web work, then the San Francisco Bay Area is probably better, but for cutting edge hardware work (electronics, optics, pharmaceuticals, MEMs) this area can’t be beat.

Ø Test Engineering is often a recession-proof career. We live in an imperfect world, so you always have to test your products. Coincidentally, US News & World Report had a special feature on good careers for a recession this week. Test engineering was not specifically mentioned, though engineering in general was listed.

I wrote those tidbits as a preface to my main point: what do you do before you start a new test engineering position? A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my list of things to do before I leave a position, so this list is complimentary to that. First impressions are important, and it always helps to start out on the right foot.

Familiarize yourself with the company
Yes, you already did this before you interviewed. You read their website, checked out their competitors, read their white papers, etc. Now it’s time to dig deeper. Read up on their technological practices, review the company’s history, and find information on how well their products work. Buy a book on the technology they use.

Project list
Email your new boss and see if you can get a list of what projects will be most important when you start. Having this list ahead of time will help you get a handle on what you can start doing the first couple weeks on the job when you need a break from filling out those new employee forms.

Get a list of the current equipment they use. If you’ve used it before, then great. If not, download the manuals and start reading. Download the LabVIEW drivers for it. Find some example code using it.

Learn about who you'll be working with: Facebook, LinkedIn, or just google them. Knowing about their professional backgrounds (i.e. - papers they've written, patents they've filed, other companies they've worked at) helps you understand what they can do and, consequently, how you can fit in with them.

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