Hardware Development: Graduate Area of Work
The hardware industry is very wide-ranging and often covers a broad spectrum as almost all industries will need some form of hardware product to operate – some requiring more than others.
In Singapore, key industries that will benefit most from a developed hardware sector include electronics, manufacturing, telecommunications, defence, and aerospace; but it also serves and supports other less typical sectors such as tourism. The recent rise of the mobile and “smart” technology has also invigorated the sector.
Due to its inclusivity, graduates hoping to join this industry can find opportunities in various markets, primarily with IT employers that have hardware development divisions. There are also many specialist IT service providers that focus only on developing hardware for certain industries, and may be an alternative option for graduate computer scientists, engineers, and physicists as well.
Most graduates joining major organisations will be invited to enter through graduate schemes, but there are also those who prefer to hire directly into a position. If you are recruited through graduate schemes, then there is a high chance of being rotated around the sub-divisions/teams of the hardware development department.
You will then be able to gain a quick exposure of how the whole department functions. Otherwise, you will be mentored and are expected to develop your skills through hands-on experience.
Typically, graduate recruits in this industry are initiated into work with a small scale project and a small area of responsibility to wet your feet. For instance, you may be asked to assist one of your team members with one of his/her tasks as he/she guides you along the way.
Once your manager/mentor feels that you are ready, you can then begin to manage certain tasks or parts of a project on your own before letting you take part in more formal technical projects.
Task-wise, you will be involved in a lot of upgrading and improving of the current configuration of the machines that you are responsible for. IT specialists in this industry often need to review and analyse the existing system to identify flaws, and then develop new designs that can be integrated to help improve performance.
However, some of you – especially those of you who are working with specialised IT services providers – may also be working with clients who outsource projects requesting for the development of a completely new hardware. Often, you’ll be involved in the production process, and may be required to test the prototypes for quality checks.
Most employers don’t limit their recruitment by degrees, and are generally willing to hire graduates with a good numerate and technical degree, especially those with an electronics component to them. Apart from electronic engineering, physics, mathematics, and computer science graduates are also generally welcomed to apply for positions in the industry.
That said, there are some organisations and positions which call for specific degrees as they will require specialist knowledge. In these instances, having a postgraduate qualification or professional degree may stand you in better stead than other candidates.
If you intend to grow your career in the area of research and development, you should also consider doing a postgraduate study to give you an edge over the competition.
It is also crucial that you are able to demonstrate understanding of the latest developments in the industry. For instance, there is widespread demand for increased device speed, but what are some of the ways to reconcile it with the battery life, processor requirements, and design limitations?
There is also an introduction of FPGA technology, a kind of programmable semiconductor application that makes late amendments in the design cycle possible – something that is not previously conceivable.
Be sure to develop good communication and teamwork abilities as well, as you’ll have to be able to nurture a good working relationship with your team members. It’s also crucial that you cultivate commercial awareness – being able to assess customer/industry needs can help you in the long run.
Pros and cons
Working in this field will not be dull as you’ll be involved in a wide range of roles and responsibilities, such as electronic design (schematics) and programming (firmware/software), testing, mechanical design, and design ergonomics. There is also a chance to travel as many companies opt to have their production plant in Singapore or other countries within the region, with their headquarters elsewhere.
However, career progression might be slower than your peers in other industries, and constant continuing education is necessary in order for you to remain relevant in the field.