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What are the CORE SKILLS needed in most areas of electronics?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Enigma, Aug 24, 2012.

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  1. Enigma


    Jul 15, 2012
    My question is simple: what are the most improtant , most used and most essential skills that everybody in the field of electronics actually needs on a daily basis wether to construct/invent circuits, products or carry out repairs etc..
    Heres why:
    Ive always had in my heart that I would one day get into learning electronics. Then, one day in the library whilst waiting for my laptop to boot, I picked up a book on electronics and BANG! It started... Now, as a learner of around 1.5years I have learnt so many new things and my understanding of the nature of electronics has changed my view of the world. I really have been obssesive in absorbing as much as possible so far and I have managed to start a small repairs business on the side of running a busy salon. I study hard everyday as much as I can handle. I have developed my own lab space with lots of kit and components and more reading/learning material than I can remember. I have always loved opening up electronics products as a kid but never went to study at a formal institution.
    My plans: I want to walk the path in electronics and have aims of being able to make anything I want in future and develop all kinds of useful and crazy gadgets. I want to get into microcontrollers/fpga's/solar power/wireless and learn programming to a high degree BUT I DONT WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL AND HAVE NO INTEREST IN WORKING FOR ANYONE ELSE.
    Ive set out a learning programme for myself that extends ahead about 2 years but I always change bits and adapt others. I extend this programme as I go along.
    I want to be a self learnt and able creator and inventor with the ability to put together ideas and make them work for me and others. I want to run my home on solar power and use wireless smart home automation systems just for starters and be master of my life as far as my knowledge permits.
    The reason I have presented the above is so I can give a better reason for my question...
    What are the cores skills that will put me on par with the professionals and self taught masters around the world who I admire so much as well as the self taught masters of the past like Faraday and Tesla.. ? Hope that doesnt sound arrogant.
    Are there any additions that will improve my Programme Of Study?
    How should I construct my skills over time and what areas of study are the most beneficial to someone like me?
    How has the study some of you guys have done benefitted yourselves?
    What were some great turning points in your path of understanding and learning?
    From what your have learnt, what skills do you use most day to day and what knowledge or learning materials, if any, have become obsolete e.g I know lots of people probably used ic's like the 555 to explore but why and when did you stop using these and moved to other technologies etc..
    I can see that there are so many people in this industry all working hard to develop new technologies and products and they all have different starting points and views as to how electronics should be used and developed but what do they all share in common? What is the centre of the sphere of all these guys and your knowledge.. the ground work, the fundemantals, the bread and butter of it all.. the foundations that the house sits on..?
    Im very smart and have a very strong will so all your advice and help will be put to good use be me.
    Sorry for the long post!
    Thanks for reading and please add your 2 cents... :)
  2. GreenGiant


    Feb 9, 2012
    There really arent CORE skills, its different for everybody

    I have been working with my father for close to 15 years while he repairs all sorts of things, so I know how to look for blown parts with an experienced eye.
    I started out with analog meters/scopes so I have a 1 up on most of the people who have only used digital stuff.
    I have always dived straight into the hands on stuff and that has done well for me, a classmate of mine struggled with hands on but when it came to the theory they flourished.
    If you find a theory that is interesting, explore it, then test it physically, and prove that it works the way that it should, that is the best way to learn, in my case anyways.

    I would STRONGLY recommend going and getting at least an associates degree (2 year) at the very least or you wont be able to find a job that will help you move forward, at least thats true with the US.
    Doing it on your own you will not have access to even half the resources that would help you immensely (analog scopes, digital scopes, virtually limitless parts, software, etc)

    start from the basic analog stuff (resistors, capacitors, diodes, etc), move to more complicated stuff (RC circuits, transistors, semi-conductors), next move into the world of digital electronics (logic gates, more transistors, ADC/DAC, etc), then into the larger more complicated maths of the subject (circuit analysis through Kirchoff's stuff etc) after that move onto programming (assembly, C#, C++, VBA, Arduino, VHDL/AHDL, etc)

    Thats my suggestion anyways, I still recommend some classes of some sort at the very least
  3. AWEMawson


    Aug 23, 2012
    When I was recruiting electronic enginers I wanted people who had a 'feel' for the things they worked with. It's amazing how many university graduates didn't have 'the feel' - lots of theoretical knowledge that never got past their elbow joint!

    I'd start the technical bit of the interview with very basic stuff - simple r/c network, and most would try to recite equations. When I'd say things like - ok if we double the size of the capacitor does the time constant get bigger or smaller, and they'd have to use the equation to find out, I'd know they didn't have the feel, only rote learnt data, and weren't going to be much use on their own, back against the wall with a major plant outage and an upset customer! Usually it was the people with a hobby interest rather than just college / university training that proved good in these circumstances.
  4. Jotto


    Aug 24, 2012
    Safety is probably the most important skill that is required when working in electronics, if you dead you won't work on anything.

    I am a bench tech, responsible for all repair of electronic equipment. This includes monitors, CPU, MPU, input output devices. I also do design of basic equipment. I don't program code, but have experience with C++ and associated programming.

    Depending on what you wish to accomplish, there is a lot of information out here for someone wishing to progress in this field even if it is a hobby.

    The 555 timer chip is a very good place to start, its applications are only limited to the amount of your imagination.

    Your equipment is important if your going to troubleshoot or design equipment. There are many places to learn basic electronics. There is one site that has a learning program that is free but I am not going to post that information here, just search an you will find it.

    I would recommend a good digital meter, a oscope. There a few devices you can make to help you along on your quest. If you wish to design then things required will be a good function generator. The scope will not be as important to start, but you will come to realize that you want one. I don't use my scope often when I am troubleshooting, but there are times I need to see a signal. In design its very valuable.

    On the point of having a degree, its helpful but not required. I don't have one and I am one of the top bench techs in my industry, but I also have over 30 years of experience.

    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
  5. BobK


    Jan 5, 2010
    In my opinion, you already have the most important skills -- the desire and ability to learn. Keep at it!

  6. Enigma


    Jul 15, 2012
    Thank You guys, as always very helpful and interesting. Lots to think about there. Its good to hear these as I mostly learn alone and dont get the talk to others much about my study of electronics..
    I would be greatful to hear some more responses, stories etc it all helps.

    Thanks Again People :)
  7. wingnut


    Aug 9, 2012
    Every time a circuit or program works well, I copy it down and file it. Being organized is a necessary skill. Likewise filing datasheets and components. I am not naturally a left-brained person but the alternative is wasting time reinventing the wheel or looking for components - and I would much rather spend that time building circuits.
  8. john monks

    john monks

    Mar 9, 2012
    So for my 2 cents.
    There are only three basic electronic components and what they are and there characteristics must be memorized. They are an inductor, a resistor, and a capacitor.
    Everything made is one or some combination of these three things.
    What AWEMawson said lines up with my experience with recruiting but I would have worded it differently. Most people learn and schools teach electronics backwards. That is they teach by giving the students formulas to memorize before completely teaching the fundamentals because it's easier to teach that way. And then when a problem comes along that doesn't fit a formula the student is lost and can't perform. And when they come to AWEMawson for a job they're in trouble. So when I'm explaining electronics to someone most of the time I do not use formulas because this tends to sidestep understanding. And I wish schools would teach this way. After all learning electronics involves the physics and definitions of resistors capacitors, and inductors. And if you're dead set against going to school that's what you should focus on.
    So I would suggest getting several components and building something you might enjoy like a radio or stereo. And when you have a problem post it and we can all help and learn from what you did. Get some friends who love electronics. That will make it easier for you.
    I have 4 degrees. Three I earned late in life. But I did not need a degree to learn electronics. But to make highly complex circuits my math skills were essential. I work with this electronics everyday and have been doing so since i was a small child.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2012
  9. Enigma


    Jul 15, 2012
    I must say its a privilege hearing some of the stories. Im getting a lot of very useful insights and because I study alone maybe some of you guys dont realise how helpful it is to hear the true nature and understanding of people who have been involved in electronics for a long time. Too be honest, Im a right brained creature who sometimes struggles seeing the logic involved in the field often looking for a right brained account of the physical workings of any particular circuit, formula etc.. This is maybe one of the reasons I started this thread, to get some insight into the thought process of experienced engineers and technicians and see where I fit in and where I might be going wrong/right.

    wingnut: No doubt, its important to be organised! I think I had this going from day one as I felt it nessasery as the component variations were dauntingly intimidating!! Being organised is one of my good points! Im a natural collector and storer! :D

    john monks: Very interesting! Could you by chance expand slightly on what you mean by the three basic components in terms of what examples can we provide for each? Just enough to get me going..
    Also true about learning the formulas! I feel they are counter intuitive when trying to learn the physical workings of circuits at the moment.. I guess they become invaluable when doing more complex work.
    How have your degree's helped you over time? Im assuming Maths/Physics maybe? Are you likely to learn more that way?

    Thanks Guys :)
  10. john monks

    john monks

    Mar 9, 2012
    I will be happy to.
    Resistors resist the flow of electrical current. The unit of resistance is the ohm. One ohm is defined as the amount of resistance required for one ampere of current to produce a back emf or voltage of one volt. So if you increase the resistance you increase the voltage proportionally. This is where we get ohm's law from. That is
    voltage equals current in amperes times resistance in ohms (V=IR). V-volts. I-current in amperes. R-resistance in ohms. And one ampere is defined as the passage of one coulomb (6.3X10^18 electrons) per second. Resistors are used to reduce the current going through a device such as an LED.

    Capacitor. This is a device that has two plates separated by an insulator (a substance that will not pass electrons, typically glass, paper, mica, air, etc). When a current source is applied to the conductive plates electrons pile up on one plate (the negative plate) and an equal number get depleted from the other plate (the positive plate). This is something like a battery. It will charge up and discharge. The voltage on a capacitor is directly proportional to the electron displacement on the plates. The unit of capacitance is the farad. And a one farad capacitor that has one ampere of current going through the leads will develope a one volt change per second. So the change in voltage is inversely proportional to the capacitance and proportional to the current going into and out of a capacitor leads. Capacitors are typically use to store energy in power supplies such as in radios to keep them playing between the AC peaks in the line voltage.

    Inductor. This is a device that tends to resist a change of current going through it. The unit of inductance is the henry. And a one henry inductor is such that if you place one volt across the two leads current will develope starting from zero amps and increase by one ampere per second. The rate of change of current is inversely
    proportional to the inductance and proportional to the voltage across it. And ideal inductor has no DC resistance (resistance measured with a typical ohmmeter). An inductor is typically a coil of wire. Coils are used to develope the high voltage necessary in flash cameras.

    I got three of my degrees late in life, my last one just eight months ago. I definitely believe this helped my understanding of electronics and the rest of the world. I may be the oldest person ever to earn a degree in physics. LaPlace transforms are essential for calculating the exact value of step functions involving inductors, resistors, and capacitors. You learn this in differential equations. But short of that you can do almost anything using numerical analysis. You just won't get the exact answer but most of the time it doesn't matter. But if you were to go back to school I would strongly suggest that you complete mathematics through differential equations
    without stopping. If you do stop it is very hard to pick back up. Generally the world does not care to hire older people in the sciences and I don't know why. So if you are going to make a move you better do it now.
  11. wingnut


    Aug 9, 2012
    John, I don't know too many people with 4 degrees (any??).
    My experience was that the older I got the easier it was to study, and the higher my symbols became (and the earlier I started to study for each exam). So the world should want to hire older folks.

    I was in a good job paying good money and one day the young boss decided that the company would implement a crazy policy to help return a favour to someone who had helped the boss. I told the boss that what he wanted done, could not be done and that I was not going to kill myself trying - so he fired me. In the meantime he tried the thing that "could not be done", and could not do it. After a month of a whole lot of staff wasting a whole lot of time - they gave up the attempt.

    In retrospect, I should have taken two months unpaid leave, in which time the problem would have resolved itself.

    Older people see and recognize things which younger people do not - hence the need for parents. Older people (or maybe I speak for myself) are just not prepared to implement stupidity any more (and they often have a few months salary saved - and so are not as dependent on the next salary cheque). I.e. they are (or at least I am) less disposed to brown-nose.
  12. CocaCola


    Apr 7, 2012
    In the US (for professional skilled level jobs) employers want someone that they can potentially get cheap and get many years of service out of before they invest in hiring... That is not to say that they don't and won't hire older people but the trend to hire the 'kid' that will work for less, isn't set in his ways, and won't tap into a pension or retirement after 10 years of service is certainly happening...

    There is also a real liability in many US States when you hire 'older' people... My girlfriend works in Risk Management for an International company and deals with this problem quite often, particulars vary by State... But the short of it is that it goes like this, the older person gets 'injured' on job and goes on disability, being 'older' they don't heal and can milk a small 'injury' for years if not decades... "The good ol' my back still hurts!" The big problem happens when they are at the retirement age, why retire when you are already sitting at home and collecting a hefty work comp check and still have employee medical coverage? Obviously the older they get the less chance they will ever 'recover' and go back to work, but the employer has to keep them on the books as employees and pay work comp, and medical coverage until they return, or in many cases until they die... This 'milking' of the system by 'elders' has become a huge problem for large companies... Unlike 'younger' people who usually can't or won't 'fake' the injury for decades as they want to be active and do stuff, stuff usually gets them popped by a private investigator, older people just move to Arizona or Florida and go on a permanent vacation... I'm not saying it's all fake instances but fake or not when a company hires a 55 year old and he injures himself after 4 year and then proceeds to collect 35 years of work comp and benefits that is a **** poor losing employee investment for the company who could have hired that 25 year old that worked for 10 years and parted ways...
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2012
  13. wingnut


    Aug 9, 2012
    CocaCola - I am sure that what you describe must be true for the US since I have seen what you describe on Judge Judy/Mathis/Joe Brown etc.

    In my 3 decade working career I have not taken 2 dozen days off for sick leave. Yet I have watched youngsters take many days off (coincidently often on a Friday or Monday) and have had to take up some of their slack.

    Either way, I don't think the issue is with the older worker's skill set. Warren Buffet still has his marbles. It's with peripheral/cultural issues, such as the laws encouraging folks to fake disability. Going back to Judges Judy/Mathis/Joe Brown (not exactly the database to gain the correct impression of the USA in general) half the youngsters appearing before these eminences seem to be on food stamps, and I forget what all state subsidies for sitting around and doing little but smoke pot. I don't get the impression that only the elderly are milking the system - but I do get the fact that maybe supporting an elderly employee could be expensive to the employer.

    I don't think we have similar laws in our country - or at least it has never crossed my mind to fake a work-related injury.
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