Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll

A couple of recent defections of engineers from carriers to vendors raises questions over why engineers might want to make such a move (see Luca's First Day at Cisco ).

Early responses to Light Reading's November Poll on the topic suggest the following:

Why shift to a vendor?

  • More money. One third of respondents say engineers earn up to 25 percent more when working for vendors rather than carriers. A further third say they earn 25 to 100 percent more. Nobody says engineers earn less when working for vendors.

  • More to get your teeth into. Nearly two thirds of respondents say engineers working for vendors have a more interesting job.

    Why stick with a carrier?

  • More influence. 78 percent of respondents think engineers carry more weight when they work for carriers.

  • Easier life. Two thirds of respondents say it's tougher working for vendors than carriers.

  • More job security. 89 percent of respondents say you're less likely to lose your job when working for a carrier. The flip side of this is that it's harder to get a job with a carrier in the first place.

    To give your view on this topic, and to see the latest results in detail, click on this link.

    — Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading

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    vrparente 12/4/2012 | 11:16:14 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll Peter,

    Once again, LR has picked a timely and interesting topic. You and Light Reading have consistently done so and therefore remain the focus of online news and information in the industry.

    But, as I have before, I ask now: "Can you show us the survey questions and data ?"

    As a former service provider architect who has "made the move" to a vendor as well, there is a lot more to it than that. The grass, after all, always greener on the other side. But there are significant differences besides pay and influence. Oncall responsibilities in operations are intense and relentless. While there are oncall engineers in vendor organizations, most of the engineers leaving operations are going into product management, marketing, etc. and not into customer support. This is a huge difference. Then there are the professional issues of standards work. Anyone involved in this aspect of the industry knows that vendors do, oddly enough, carry more weight than customers in suggesting and setting industry standards.

    i could go on in great length about this, but perhaps that would be best left for an article in its own right.

    One other story worth considering would be a consideration of what will happen with talent in the industry as the economy contiues to turn. Despite the perception of an oversupply, there is in fact a significant shortage of experienced and educated engineers (and I use that term broadly) and technicians in the industry.

    Personally I think that there will be a great deal of shuffling as the econmy returns, and like before, enterprises will continue to drain engineers from both operations (what you call carrier) and vendors.

    -Victor Blake
    telebud 12/4/2012 | 11:16:13 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll I would agree geo.
    The LR Poll.
    Why stick with a carrier?
    More job security. 89 percent of respondents say you're less likely to lose your job when working for a carrier. The flip side of this is that it's harder to get a job with a carrier in the first place.

    Does LR Poll Takers consider AT&T to be a Carrier?
    Must not, they have had more engineer layoffs than
    any one and more coming.
    89% Say your less likely to Lose Your Job working
    for a Carrier I think is a rather INFLATED number.
    Who are they asking this question to college
    The Carrier I work for has cut engineer force
    globally more than 50% I would say in last 3 yrs.
    Plus more and more engineer jobs are being
    'farmed' out to Contractors or Foreigners.
    This 89 percent number seems really bogus.
    gea 12/4/2012 | 11:16:13 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll ...that's the reason in a nuthsell. Before I elaborate, the recent carrier-induced collapse of the industry proves this beyond all doubt.

    To magnify, one of the basic problems in any of the large, older telecom companies (both carriers as well as the old vendors) is that good engineers tend to be needed as engineers...mediocre engineers, combined with clueless business types end up making the business decisions, but without being even remotely equiped to do so.

    Now that I have returned to Wall Street (after about a decade in photonics) this becomes even clearer to me. Here, in better companies, the "technical" talent is closely intermingled with business talent: there really isn't a "they" as much in the business world.

    Telecom, on the other hand, is clearly an "us-them" situation, with engineers as us and management being them. This is illustrated perfectly in Dilbert, and that should be no suprise as Scott Adams worked for Pacbell.

    Are their exceptions? Of course, Does Lucent have the same kind of old us-them culture? Definitely. But the carriers are more like this on average, and in the rare cases where technical people rose through the ranks to lead the company (Verizon), it seems to do beter on average.
    vrparente 12/4/2012 | 11:16:13 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll Peter,

    OK. Please accept my apologies for being mistaken. I see that you do post the survey data (results in %) AFTER completing the online survey.

    Like all surveys though, the questions are leading or could be misleading. For example, while vendor salaries are often higher, this is because vendors are located in some concentrated areas like Silicon Valley and Northern CA, Boston, (and some others like Dallas, Pittsburg, etc.) where costs of living are high and higher on average than the centers of network operations like Denver, Northern Virginia, (dare I KC, OK City, etc.). So most of the salary difference ends up being cost of living related. I've lived in Northern VA and Northern CA, and there is a BIG difference in cost of living.

    BobbyMax 12/4/2012 | 11:16:09 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll Having been associated with business for a long time, it is indisputable conclusion that the jobs with Carriers are nuch more routine. Like a teacher, the carrier employees are of lesser calibre and do not learn anything about technology.

    IN many of the RBOCs, many line and trunk men became the President of these companies. The RBOCs are mostly overstaffed and there is no work to be done. It is very easy life and relatively good pay with all union benefits.

    For the most of the public carrier companies. It is not unusual to heve 40-50 VPs but no work. The job trend and very high salaries at the Bell Operating Companies was started by AT&T and it is continuing to this date.

    Most of the jobs in Engineering have become routine as they do not require higher education from a reputable university. A graduate from community college can do the job. The jobs in semiconductor industry cabe likened to brick makers. It becomes very scary when an on-line University, Like Phoenix University start to claim that they have produced more President and CEOs than the country's most famous business schools. I find this tom be very scary. But then I have toconvince myself, that anyone become anything wheather qualfied or not.
    Peter Heywood 12/4/2012 | 11:16:07 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll Victor - interesting point about an emerging shortage of talent. I have in mind to create a database that would enable people to list very granular information about their previous experience, so that companies (vendors or carriers) can relocate all of those folk that got laid off even though they had an enormous amount of experience.

    I'd be interested to get some feedback on whether folk like this idea.

    vrparente 12/4/2012 | 11:16:07 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll BobbyMax wrote:

    "Most of the jobs in Engineering have become routine as they do not require higher education from a reputable university"

    I disagree. By the way, the name we have for the routine jobs is called "technician." So by definition those aren't engineering jobs.

    As a former manager of operations architects and engineers, I had college educated staff who did everything from civil to electrical and everything in-between (including mechanical, etc.). My staff had to manage outside plant facilities, construction projects, DC power systems, and ... of course IP routing and switching.

    There are most certainly people without engineering degrees who can do this work. But I left it to staff with degrees to figure out the power systems requirements for our POPs and both I and my former employer were glad I did, otherwise the stuff wouldn't work.

    I could list numerous examples of problems that technical staff had that were solved by engineers. That was after all their job. To build things and solve problems (to get systems to end users working effeciently).,

    -Victor Blake
    st0 12/4/2012 | 11:15:59 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll Easy and difficult are relatively speaking. When you don't know what are you talking about, anything is possible. This has been the downfall of many PhD based start-ups vendor. It would be excellent idea to get some QA engineer jump ship to vendor side and get some real optical components out rather than optical "ppt components". The down size of carrier R&D provide ideal situation for vendor pick up few good chaps (too bad that many good chaps just took the package and change the field... the long term impact on Telecom due to the fault of management is going to be felt in many years to come). As for vendors, it is time to change their head in the cloud design and get some design for manufacturing, design for reliability and design for automation going... use some real engineer instead of "paper engineer" (computer modeling only, power point automation).

    It is about time to change the landscape...

    As for jobs, take on carrier job would be nice for some engineer working many years for vendors as well. Both side should have exchange program for engineers. It would benefit in long run (can't do it with competitive bid process at US.... The japanese close nit vendor/carrier relationship provide an edge).

    SIVROCX 12/4/2012 | 11:15:58 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll Bobby your comment about teachers shows what kind of a person you really are:a no count. You should see a "real" doctor soon before you hurth yourself. +£
    OpticalDelusion 12/4/2012 | 11:15:58 PM
    re: Engineers' Jobs Debated in Poll "carrier employees are of lesser calibre and do not learn anything about technology"

    There are bright people everywhere. Different people enjoy different things at different times in their career.

    I have been on the vendor side of numerous deployments and product evaluations and I've seen both extremes from the carrier folks.

    For one customer I remember a co-worker lamenting: "they don't know what they need to know, and they don't know they don't know it"

    On numerous other projects I have really been impressed by how sharp the carrier side teams were. You have to consider that in a bake-off they are getting huge amounts of in depth training on the thing they are trying to buy, as each vendor trots in their experts to pitch their solution. Smart people can (and do) absorb this and apply it.

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