Dream Jobs 2004

These 10 EEs have the jobs of their dreams--and maybe yours as well

AS YOU READ THIS,Dave Fruehling may be sitting in a soundproof studio, jamming on a classic electric guitar. John Gage may be in Beijing, hanging out at a local university and practicing his Chinese. Steve Sullivan may be on a movie set or tweaking the performance of a virtual actor. Karl Stahlkopf may be on a Hawaiian beach, pondering the waves and the wind. Lau Kofoed Kiersteinmay be sitting on the floor with a few six-year-old boys, playing with action figures.

Sounds like fun? Of course. But, for these electrical engineers, it's also work, just a part of their jobs.

In this special report, IEEE Spectrum identifies 10 of the coolest, baddest, hippest, grooviest (depending on your generation), most gratifying EE jobs in the world. Our criterion was simple--find the people having the most fun. We zeroed in on jobs involving a deep connection with technology--not corporate leaders, not venture capitalists.

For some, like Sony's Yoshihiro Kuroki, having fun means building some of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world, the stuff of science fiction. For some, it's about people and places as well as the work--Sun Microsystem's Gage travels the world to meet people with great ideas. And for others, it's a childhood wish come true: Canada's Julie Payette is an astronaut. Jim Newman, at the Institute for Exploration, had fond childhood memories of the sea. Now he designs deep-sea submersibles and spends a month each summer sailing the globe.

We found that many of these dream EE jobs were held by people with nontraditional academic backgrounds--mathematics degrees, multidisciplinary majors, unfinished EE studies. Gehry Technology's Dennis Shelden has degrees in computation, information technology, and architecture. Sun's Gage spent some 20 years going to college on and off but rarely finished a degree program. He credits his attendance at IEEE and other industry conferences with giving him his real education. Newman got a degree in ocean engineering but immersed himself in programming and electrical design.

After reading these stories, you may find yourself thinking about your dream job, the job with just the right mix of technical challenge, adventure, fascinating people--and a dash of your favorite hobby. And you may think that it doesn't exist.

Think again. "Join the technical societies in and out of your field," says Gage, "go to the conferences, and read the journals."

"Get a job in a related field," says Sullivan, "and start making personal contacts."

"It's not a bad thing to work at a big company, an IBM or a Motorola, first and get some engineering chops," says Fruehling. "Then you'll have something to offer."

When you've identified that dream job, pursue it. Some got their jobs through sheer persistence: dogging engineers at conferences, sending e-mails, making phone calls until they found an engineer willing to talk to them. "Once you get through to them, engineers are too nice to hang up," says Fruehling.

We plan to make a dream jobs report an annual feature. If you already have a dream job that meets our criterion, or know someone who does, we'd love to hear about it, ateedreamjobs@ieee.org.

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