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I am currently working as an electronic/software engineer at small Australian company.

I started here as a part of my work experience required by my university. After I graduated, I have continued to work there for around a year and a half. I was mainly hired on to assist the company's sole electronic engineer develop an electronic access control system. My role was to mainly focus on software as my degree focused on more computer systems and network engineering, while he focused on the hardware as he had a more pure electronics background.

My supervisor (the electronic engineer mentioned before) has recently left the company. This now leave me as only person in the company with knowledge when it comes to anything electronic or computer related. (The majority of the product development team are mechanical and manufacturing engineers).

When I ask management about their plans to find a replacement, I am told that they don’t plan on finding a replacement and that they believe that I am capable of handling both software and hardware. As part of my studies, I was introduced to the fundamentals of electronic hardware design, but anything more than the fundamentals I am still currently trying to teach myself.

Recently I demonstrated a functioning prototype of the system as a proof of concept. I stressed that it was just a prototype and it still requires a lot of work and testing, but management now consider it complete and sales have started giving customers quotes. Most of these quotes have been for large installations where the customer also wants considerable customisations and additional features.

The more this project grows the more difficult it becomes for me to manage on my own. When I try to communicate this, the responses I typically get usually are things like “I know you can do it because you are a genius at that computer stuff” or “I don’t really want to hear that, we need those orders to make the budget. Just make it work”.

Are there any better ways I can communicate my situation to without appearing either lazy or incompetent to my management?

  • 1
    Do you have any "official" professional training / education in electronics design? If yes, you only need to get experience using your knowledge (eve if it going to be not so simple, being alone). If you have no real knowledge of electronics, things are different. After you answer this (editing the original question), we shall be able to give you better answers. – virolino Sep 25 at 6:10
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    Sounds like a good time for a new title and the salary to go with it. – Phil N DeBlanc Sep 25 at 6:30
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    Those responses you get suggest you might be working for an idiot. – AakashM Sep 25 at 8:18
  • @AakashM: Will you please provide an argument to support your claim? The question misses a lot of information regarding the business, the job, the projects... I could be in that situation any day. I worked in automotive and semiconductors embedded software development for almost 20 years. I would be mostly incompetent to design hardware, at least for a few months. But I actually have a degree in electronics, and allowed time, with supporting trainings, I could become a very good hardware engineer. – virolino Sep 25 at 11:06
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First of all, don't stress.

This kind of thing is common in a first job. You feel overwhelmed because you suspect your capabilities don't match the demands being asked of you. They probably do, actually, but it's also entirely possible they don't yet.

The point is to test your capabilities in a real situation which will stretch them way beyond anything that's come before, and learn. Everyone who's good or senior at anything did that thing for the first time. They felt the same pressure you're feeling. This is your time.

Now, from what you've written it sounds like one of two things is true

  1. Your management are fully aware you might fail but have decided to push you into the deep end anyway, and take the risk on you. Maybe making the best of a bad set of circumstances.
  2. Your management are genuinely in denial about how bad the circumstances are and are ignoring the risks of failure.

Either way you've done the right and responsible thing in communicating your concerns early and clearly. Should it fail, it's now mostly on them, assuming you really do try to the best of your abilities. They know the risk and are continuing regardless. There's not a lot more you can do.

I would actually now just recommend using this as an opportunity, get on with the task and really do try to make it work. You'll learn a lot! Good luck.

  • I agree, but sometimes at the beginning is best to learn from people on your team instead of 'learning' alone how to survive a storm. You learn on both, that's true :) – eballes Sep 25 at 7:45
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    Agree completely, and I think you actually need both for different reasons. OP has now been with the company for 1.5 years, and I'm assuming was getting mentorship from the senior person before they left, so actually now would seem a decent time to test how they get on doing something really challenging without that support. You have to some time! – davnicwil Sep 25 at 7:51
  • There's not a lot more you can do. - actually, he can do. He needs to be pro-active and request trainings, considering that his position in the company will not change. Simple report-and-ignore is not welcome in any healthy business. – virolino Sep 25 at 10:34
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    @davnicwil I think your first line hit a truth. I probably am letting stress affect me a bit. In your comment, you are also correct in that I was getting a fair amount mentorship from my supervisor. My main goal is for the project to succeed, maybe I am struggling with the belief that I am one who is responsible for the success or failure of the project. – L_Beaumains Sep 25 at 12:34
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Regardless of having or not studies in electronics design, you need to agree with the management of the company a training plan for yourself as an employee.

You need to go through the following steps:

  • asses your current level of knowledge;
  • asses the company's needs of engineering;
  • based on the delta, make a list of topics on which you need more training.

These topics can be (and are not limited to):

  • communication busses;
  • eletro-magnetic compatibility;
  • amplification vs. oscillation;
  • signal reflection and noise management in communication lines;
  • for very high frequencies: microwaves;
  • and so on...

Some obvious ways for training:

  • books;
  • videos on the net;
  • collaboration with a local university;
  • training on the job - learning by doing.

Of course, you will need very good tools, to compensate for whatever you are missing.

Since you are not able to calculate some things in the circuit, it might be easier to buy a software to run some automatic tests, see if the system fails or not.

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Firstly, congrats on your promotion. That is what this is whether they call it such or not.

Tell them you are now doing the job of a mid level engineer and they need to pay you accordingly or they need to hire on a second engineer to help with the workload. That way either you get a second engineer which will lower your work related stress level or you get more money which will lower your outside of work stress level. Making this a money thing to your boss will incentivize them to take action far more than simple recommendations from you, and as the sole EE for the company you have far more power right now than you think.

check out the EE stackexchange if you need help with specific EE projects btw https://electronics.stackexchange.com/

I think you'll do great, and remember finding failures in a project is just another step to launching a fully functional product.

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