Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Remembering "The Dark Side"

Years ago, when I was starting my engineering career (at just about the same time as the HP8510 (automatic) Network Analyzer), I worked for M/A-Com's corporate research. My mentor would jot down some ideas he wanted me to pursue, provide a little scientific guidance and then send me to the lab to experiment. Around this time, a lot of research centered around Gallium Arsenide. Distributed circuit designs that had been applied to PCBs and alumina were being adopted for MMIC interconnects and on-chip passive components. Much of my time was spent using the available design software (SuperCompact or Touchstone) and 8510 to design and test matching, bias and coupling structures scaled for use on GaAs. The job was about science and discovery and it was fun. Who would want to do anything other than research? To do anything else was considered The Dark Side.

At a time when government funding supported the R&D efforts I was involved with, even the idea of working in production was considered moving over to the The Dark Side. High volume testing - where's the science in that? I was not alone in this thinking. Does such "purists" thinking still exist today?

As time went by, I was introduced to another specimen in the corporate food chain. This one talked much faster (and louder) and often dressed differently than the "pure" engineers I worked with. I soon found out that this individual was in product marketing. At one point this marketer had been an engineer, but was led astray, over to The Dark Side.

Eventually I made this journey myself. In product marketing, I was almost immediately surrounded by an even faster and louder talking group of individuals. These people were in sales and as I was informed by my colleagues - these were individuals that had truly crossed over to The Dark Side. Some had even been engineers at one point, if you can imagine that fall from grace !!!

I have not crossed the chasm into sales yet, but I have discovered that salespeople are not evil (for the most part) . Like the research or production engineer or the marketeer, they play a vital role in corporate life and the organization's struggle for survival. Our differences are not so great. In fact, I've heard some of them even bemoan another Dark Side - otherwise known as management.

So do we still live in an environment of mistrust over a Dark Side? Be warned, it may be your eventual career path. Like that hair style you had back in the early 90's, perceptions often become dated with time.