<opinion>

There was a recent discussion on Makerville's telegram group about how students of electronics end up doing jobs made for computer engineering graduates. Makerville is a community of hardware designers, so this is of course disconcerting - as these students are most definitely what we'd think of as the future of electronics in India.

I wrote some opinions of mine on telegram, but wanted to write a longer post here.

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If students leave electronics jobs (or as they are called here "core" jobs) for greener pastures that pay better - it means one or more of the following are true - 

  1. We have a lot more electronics engineers than needed
  2. Computer engineers have a supply-demand problem and electronics engineers are most suitable to fill that void (as opposed to civil engineers for example)
  3. Electronics as a domain hasn't evolved fast enough : remote work culture, community support, open source adoption, agile development, modern tooling

I think all 3 of the above are true. But in this post I am going to talk about the 3rd topic, as we'd need someone with a better understanding of the job market and the throughput of colleges to make an intelligent comment on points 1 and 2 :)

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Remote work culture 

One of the reasons for rise of software engineering in India is that capitalistic forces were able to outsource work to the subcontinents to cut costs. A good book to read about this is The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

Electronics development - for obvious reasons - is not as straight forward as bits traveling over fiber optic cables under the sea. This is changing, with rapid prototyping tools becoming available everywhere. 

I work with a distributed team of hardware engineers at Balena today (6 engineers from 6 countries). It's not simple, and we are improving how we collaborate across borders - but I am genuinely surprised not more people are working on improving hardware collaboration.

Community support

If you open up meetups dot com, and search for programming related communities, you'll be overwhelmed. Same is true about online communities (more relevant post 2019). This is lacking for electronics engineers. 

Open source adoption

One reason is that folks are NOT allowed to talk about their work to protect IP. I think that's misguided. It's possible to increase collaboration with the community, while protecting trade secrets - but we've been lazy about this. Especially in India.

For example, one can create a nice power supply design - not related to their hyper secret industrial project - and make that available to the community. But suggesting something like that in most Indian workplaces would probably be met with confused looks.

Agile development 

Electronics development can be boring. I know this can be hard to hear, and this kind of criticism is met with "YoU nEED tO HaVe PAsSIon". But our processes are dated, and we don't change fast enough. 

There's little to no motivation to make electronics a creative field unlike computer engineering. Indian HR departments have no dearth of cheap talent. This is why there's no real motivation to hire and retain engineers. 

 

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I am cautiously optimistic about this "problem" and I have full faith that market forces will push people into action to make things better.

</opinion>