Robert Boguski

Next-gen test engineers are an investment for all of us.

Two years ago I wondered in this space where we would unearth the test engineers of the future (“Who Replaces the Old Guys,” CIRCUITS ASSEMBLY, September 2014). I promised to report back what we found, once we found it. I was, I thought, realistic about our prospects. We were competing, as humble manufacturers, for future engineering talent against the magnetic allure of app designing. We were shunned by the prestigious universities. We contacted the “commuter schools,” hoping for a warmer reception. Reception was decidedly lukewarm. It is perhaps stating the obvious to note our company is not for everyone. In the Miss Universe of corporate beauty pageants, the most we can hope for is to secure Miss Congeniality.

Nevertheless, and in spite of the process taking far longer than we anticipated, we have seen the future, and it comes for us, this year, in the form of several risk-taking individuals at a boundary-breaking university (The University of California, Davis), who offered us its best: a 21-year-old, smart-as-a-whip, Hispanic female.

Who were you expecting?

Maybe she’ll join us.

If we don’t scare her away first. She’d be partnered with old guys, after all. Who just get older. And crankier. You see evidence of that in their magazine columns.

All the more reason to strike a firm blow on behalf of diversity.

Basic qualifications:

Just like every other red-blooded American boy and girl.

Intimidating requirements, to be sure. Doubtful we can find someone who meets all of them. About as likely as Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize.
Oops.

But first comes the interview.

Questions to ask in an interview to a potential engineering employee:

The few. The proud.

This summer we hosted an internship for the first time. Our Hispanic female was selected to endure 12 weeks with our kind. She prepared questions for us. Very thorough. Her rivals didn’t. Guys. The kind who are good at math and science, but deficient in questions. She blew us away. We chose her. She came armed from day one with those incessant questions. Intellectual curiosity. Made the old gray-haired guys squirm to find answers and remember what their acronyms stood for.

Makes you remember why you do what you do and what it all means. Re-questioning timeless assumptions to make sure they withstood scrutiny from the next generation. That’s healthy. That old nagging “why?” again. She brought more questions, an avalanche of them, when a friend graciously and proudly toured us through her manufacturing facility. At the conclusion of the tour, with the perfunctory “any questions?” request, out came the list. Typewritten and single-spaced. It’s good to see clear evidence of considered thought. She took nothing for granted.

Good. We want people like that.

Success = Preparation + Opportunity + Luck.

And positive cash flow.

But first you have to set one foot, metaphorically, on the path.

Her move.

OK, so she ran the gauntlet. Now what?

Our move.

Now comes the test for us. How can we, as a small engineering firm, embrace test engineering and sell it in a sufficiently compelling way to attract new talent?
Someone with the requisite qualifications has many choices. We compete at a disadvantage. We aren’t sexy. We are, however, sincere. And we offer the opportunity to learn how stuff works, why it breaks, how to fix it, and how to keep customers happy. We also offer unique exposure to the running of a small business.

Gotta start somewhere. So here is where we’ll start.

Deep breath, the kind one takes before launching into the Unknown. Casting out into the deep waters, as it were.

Our politicians say America needs much long-delayed investment in infrastructure. This is ours, and here is our investment. Our pipeline construction begins now.

Au.: The author is grateful for the assistance of AnaIsabel Huezo-Fernandez in compiling the qualifications and interview questions listed herein.

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

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