The Good Fight Print E-mail
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Written by Pete Waddell   
Thursday, 03 June 2010 16:18


Inspired by last month’s column, a designer saves his job.

It’s always good to receive feedback on our columns or articles. After the May issue mailed, I heard via email from a designer (and friend) who read that month’s column, the gist of which lamented the US’s loss of engineering know-how and expertise.

As the writer related, he had been in a situation very similar to the subject of the column. When he learned his position was going to be outsourced, my friend went into proactive mode and decided it was worth fighting for.

I just read the article you wrote. Until about a week ago, I was in a similar situation! I was asked to move to another department, because India has lots of highly educated engineers salivating over the chance to do the kind of work that I do.

Small world, huh?

Anyway, I wanted to let you know that after thinking about the situation for awhile, I sat down and wrote a long letter to my supervisor explaining there is much more to circuit board development than placing components and routing traces. I wanted him to know what he would be losing by casting off a 20+ year veteran in favor of several brand new, gung-ho college grads. Nothing against the fresh up-and-comers – we all had to learn our skills somehow – but while they are busy learning what is a via and what solder mask is for, someone with enough technical experience has to be available to address supplier questions, discuss fab/assembly/test issues, incorporate tools, investigate materials, explore new technologies, improve processes, etc.

It took me several pages to explain what I really do for the company, but after a few days of behind-the-scenes discussions between my supervisor and others, he came back with four words:  “Congratulations, you can stay.”
I just wanted to let you know that every now and then, making a case for yourself can pay off.

Of course I was happy for my friend, but mostly I was impressed that he felt that keeping his job was worth the extra effort. I am proud of him for taking the initiative to ensure the decision-makers really understood what they might be losing.

As senior editor, Chelsey Drysdale details in this month's cover story (pp. 62-65) fear of one's job being outsourced lies heavily on the minds of the 400 designers who responded to PCD&F's annual salary survey. I don’t know that it was the case in this instance, but I can’t help but wonder if those who decide to outsource PCB design really understand all the potential ramifications, or whether the decision is made without a thorough examination of all the factors that affect the cost of doing the job. Here in the US, I’ve never heard it said that PCB design is being outsourced because of a lack of local talent. It always seems to be a perceived issue of dollars and cents. And yet, I know of cases where work was sent to India or another country only to find they lost their competitive advantage, and ended up bringing the work back in house.

As my friend says, this is not a personal battle against workers in India or China or the Philippines or wherever. These are some of the oldest and proudest cultures in the world. Their citizens deserve to be proud of their culture and to better lives and standards-of-living.

As someone who has had to make some tough business decisions – especially those that have to do with employees – I know that there are always costs not obvious at first blush. Thankfully, I’ve had people to advise me and help make what I always hope are the right business decisions. As an example, I’ve fielded calls from companies wanting to print our magazines in another country. In many cases the prices for paper, ink and printing are better than our current printer could match. But when we do our due diligence and examine all the costs, including time, quality and shipping, we always find we are better off where we are. And as much as we all love to bash the US postal service, when compared to others in the world, it remains among the best – if not the best – in the world.

The truth is that sometimes outsourcing makes sense. But all things even, or close to it, it does not seem right to add someone to the unemployment rolls by sending that function overseas so that the C-level executives can get a bigger bonus.

For many years, I’ve been telling designers that, unless you are self-employed, you don’t own your job. In the strictest sense, you may feel you have no control over your future. But if you suspect that your employer is about to move your job function, and you really care about trying to save it, take a lesson from my friend and fight for it.

Unless, of course, you don’t really care.

Stay in touch, and we’ll do the same.

Pete Waddell is design technical editor of PCD&F (; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Monday, 07 June 2010 15:15


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