Teamwork in Electronic Engineering
In fact, teamwork has become a key aspect of product design in the past decade or so. Technology has gotten so complex in recent years that the stereotype of a single engineer coming up with a product that alters the company's fortunes is quite rare.
Design teams usually comprise several engineers with slightly different skill sets. Working together allows for the accumulation of a range of potentially constructive ideas, increasing the chances of getting a product to market quickly, with the best possible set of attributes.
This emphasis on team development is forcing individual engineers to think more about how to make the case for their own approach. So-called soft skills such as presenting before groups, consensus building and cooperating with team members are increasingly important. The electronic engineering field has historically been dominated by white males, and many in the industry now feel that this lack of diversity has compromised the effectiveness of some products. For example, a group comprised only of men might not consider the size, weight or strength of women and children when devising a certain product. But a competing company with women on its design team might come up with a product suitable for a broader audience.
Because of this, many American companies and universities are working to attract more women and other groups historically less well-represented, like minorities, to the field. This initiative, along with the growing number of students and working engineers who are emigrating to the U.S., is increasing the diversity of engineering teams.
Some companies are beginning to scatter design sites around the country, and even the globe. For businesses racing to beat the competition to market, this means projects can be worked on around the clock--as some engineers go home, the project is passed to another time zone where workers are just arriving.
Marketing and other non-engineering personnel like purchasing agents, whose expertise is not in design, but in buying parts at the best price, often provide feedback to design teams. In many industries, products might also involve mechanical engineers, materials engineers and others.
For engineers, all of this requires being able to work with team members who might have very different ideas about how to do things. The trend toward global design teams won't impact every company, since smaller companies are less likely to need branch offices.
Most universities are responding to this team concept by encouraging study teams, with groups of students working together. There's also a growing tendency to pull in students from other disciplines, such as marketing, to work on semester-long projects with engineering students.