Am I a possible engineer candidate?

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K8AI
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Joined: Sat May 12, 2018 5:42 pm
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Am I a possible engineer candidate?

Post by K8AI » Sat May 12, 2018 5:49 pm

I work as a radio technician in the public safety, maintaining part of a statewide Project 25 800MHz, digital trunked radio system and have been in radio/radar/electronics for almost 30 years. I originally wanted to work in the broadcast industry but I suppose I just never ran into the right people or opportunities. I am toying with the idea now. I'm guessing I first need to look at getting SBE membership and certification and then I could put my resume out there.

What can I do to make myself a qualified candidate for an engineer or technician job at either in TV or radio? I'm especially interested in the RF side including transmitters, transmission and AM directional arrays.I graduated from ITT in electronics and I spent over a year in US Navy electronics schools. I have experience in IT, grounding and lightning protection, power backup, antenna structures, HVAC, cabling, and specialized RF test equipment as well. I hold an FCC GROL, Amateur Extra class license and EPA 602 refrigerant handling certificate.

I am including my resume just to give a bit more info. Thanks for any guidance.

Curt Benjamin, K8AI
Lowell MI


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Summary of Skills:

Excellent component to system-level troubleshooting and repair skills.

Formerly certified IPC-610A surface-mount soldering and repair.

Holder of FCC GROL and Amateur Extra as well as EPA 602 Refrigerant licenses.

Strong working knowledge of RF/microwave components and systems.

Skilled in installing, operating, repairing and maintaining electronic equipment.

Experienced with IT network transport and servers, power conditioning and backup, grounding and lightning suppression, HVAC, obstruction lighting, high voltage and current power supplies, specialized test equipment as well as mechanical and refrigeration system repairs.

Physically able to lift equipment, climb ladders and work aloft.


Radio Communications Technician
Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget
Rockford, MI 1999 - present

Installation, repair and maintenance of part of a statewide, 250-site 800Mhz digital trunked Project 25 radio system for public safety.

Bench repair of network routers and switches, RF power amplifiers, LNA, digital microwave radio components, power supplies and general electronics.

Repair and installation of mobile and portable radios, in-car video, speed radar, computer docks, data modems and emergency sirens.

RF Technician
BF Goodrich Aerospace Avionics Systems, Grand Rapids, MI 1994 - 1999

Repair and testing of aircraft traffic collision warning systems (TCAS – pulse power radio at 1 GHz).

Use of RF spectrum and pulse power analyzers, vector network analyzers, RF generators, impedance analyzers and environmental test chambers.

Electronics Technician

US Navy, Long Beach, CA 1991-1994

HF, VHF and UHF radio communications, radar repair and maintenance.

Education:

US Navy Electronics Technician 'A' School, 1991-1992
Electronics Engineering Technology, ITT Technical Institute, 1988-1990

TPT
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Re: Am I a possible engineer candidate?

Post by TPT » Sat May 12, 2018 6:02 pm

Keep the state job--do some contract work for small stations. State pension & insurance something you probably can't replace going private sector.

No problem with your qualifications--just the career opportunities available in a declining industry. If you would still like to get some experience on the broadcast side of the business, use you amateur contacts to see if you can find someone doing contract work (or working for a cluster) that would like a part-time assistant. Somebody to cover weekends and holidays always welcome.

ChuckG
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Re: Am I a possible engineer candidate?

Post by ChuckG » Sat May 12, 2018 11:59 pm

I can't add a whole lot to what TPT already said and I agree with all of it.
Unless you are in a large market, the pay is often bad, the benefits do not exist and the hours are awful. We do it for love, not money lol. Perhaps that is fine with you. If so....

SBE membership and certification is nice to have, but I have never been asked for it in 40 years and most GM's have no idea what it even is, nor do they care.
I'd go ahead and apply around without it rather than wait, if time is important to you.
You WILL meet a lot of local engineers and technicians that way, and that will be a big plus. It certainly is helpful when you need to ask questions, get opinions, or maybe another set of hands. None of us knows everything, but together we know a lot more :)

How comfortable are you with older technology and tube-type transmitters? The further north you go the more of them you'll run into. There is a different skill set to troubleshooting tube equipment and some serious safety concerns with the high voltages.

You might give Munn Reese a call over in Coldwater MI. They do a lot of field work, perhaps they need a qualified addition.
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Chuck Gennaro
Central Wisconsin

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kkiddkkidd
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Re: Am I a possible engineer candidate?

Post by kkiddkkidd » Sun May 13, 2018 8:54 am

Curt,

As others have advised, keep your day job and slowly build a clientele and test equipment... Only after securing enough of a client base to replace your current income/perks/benefits consider moving to self-unemployment... You can often make pretty good money at engineering as a side business but it is very hard to get to the point where you can replace a good salary/benefits/perks package provided by a decent non-broadcast employer.

I have said this a hundred times on this forum but... "Broadcast engineering isn't a vocation. It's a life style and you either love it or hate it..." I can't imagine doing anything else but then there are those days (and nights) where I think that I would be better off taking up hatchet fighting for a living.

Also be aware that a lot of broadcast engineering involves "creative" solutions to situations that are never taught in electronics school. Especially when dealing with old, legacy systems.

Then again, some days, my most challenging problem is finding the proper sized box to send a stack of non-field-repairable equipment to the manufacture for repair.

Good luck,
--
Kevin C. Kidd CSRE/AMD
WD4RAT
AM Ground Systems Company
http://www.amgroundsystems.com
KK Broadcast Engineering
http://www.kkbc.com

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RGORJANCE
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Re: We do it for love, not money lol.

Post by RGORJANCE » Sun May 13, 2018 10:14 am

Nearing 80 years old, still doing contract engineering. What others have posted, i agree with. For the present, keep the day job and those great benefits......try doing the bcst stuff on weekends. The downside of this life is the "on call 24/7/365" stuff that can make life miserable at times....especially when it's 20 below zero, no heat in the xmttr bldg, and the long road to the building hasn't been plowed since the last blizzard.

Try to get in contact with other bcst engineers and maybe they can help train you in the technical stuff we deal with. You could also offer to help out if they need an extra set of hands to hold the coffee cup and multimeter. with pay, of course.

I got into broadcasting in 1956 and my kicks these days are watching things blow up with a flash of light, a big noise, followed by a strange peaceful silence accompanied by total darkness as the cratering takes out the main breaker........and then the symptoms of adrenaline withdrawal begin. (especially if you were the one wielding the chicken stick to make sure no voltages are lurking inside the xmttr)

The SBE certification is something that might be helpful in some areas. Certification/membership can be a costly issue, and as others have mentioned, may not be all that important.

Many owners prefer to put their profits in things other than replacing old outmoded equipment, or payinig engineers our ridiculous high fees.

Fossil

w9wi
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Re: Am I a possible engineer candidate?

Post by w9wi » Sun May 13, 2018 6:35 pm

Curt, so far you've heard from radio people. The situation in television is better, although I'm not going to say it's a bed of roses.

- The money is better in TV. Not great, but better. I do suspect you're doing better in your current job. I will say, most folks I've run into trying to make the move you're talking about have been unhappily surprised once the actual dollar figures have come out. We're not getting rich...

- As others have said, the hours aren't great... At many stations, Engineering is expected to cover newscasts from 4am to 11:30pm, including weekends. As the new guy you're not going to get the 9-5:30 Monday-Friday shift:( Holidays are frequently NOT days off, at least not for the new engineers.

And again, that's the *normal* hours. As with radio, critical equipment tends to fail at the most inconvenient possible time -- and you can't be taking the station off the air to replace the master control switcher at 9:00 in the morning. In TV, toss in major news events, predictable and otherwise. (election coverage, tornado touchdowns, hockey team going to the Stanley Cup, or not:( )

- Budgets aren't what they used to be. You'll have the resources to comply with FCC regulations and safety rules (or you should be looking elsewhere) but you won't have the tools and spare parts stock you would have had twenty years ago.


If we had an opening (we don't) your resume would get my attention. RF experience is uncommon, and you've done a wide enough variety of work that I expect you could pick up anything you don't already know.
--
Doug Smith W9WI
Pleasant View, TN EM66

K8AI
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Joined: Sat May 12, 2018 5:42 pm
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: Am I a possible engineer candidate?

Post by K8AI » Tue May 15, 2018 9:56 am

Thanks for all the advice. I think I will just keep looking at the job listings in my area and try to find someone who could use some help. I wouldn't make the change for the money but I do have a responsibility to support a wife and three bread snappers in their teens.

I need to find some local BE who needs an assistant just so I can get some experience, plus I know I would love the work. I'd even volunteer some time.

I'm like many of you... I do what I do for the love of radio. In my present field of work, there aren't many who actually enjoy working on this stuff - they're in it for the money (which is not much, but it's a living). I very much appreciate the camaraderie that there is among the broadcast community - you guys have associations, conventions, fellowships, forums and many are hams as well. I would love to work with folks who are passionate about the art as I am.

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Dale H. Cook
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Re: Am I a possible engineer candidate?

Post by Dale H. Cook » Wed May 16, 2018 5:25 am

I'll second Fossil about getting in touch with other broadcast engineers, especially because you mentioned AM directional arrays. Of all of the areas in broadcast engineering that you might work in DAs will likely be most foreign to your experience in electronics unless you are one of the small number of amateur operators who have used phased verticals in the ham bands. DA engineers have become a smaller part of the broadcast engineering workforce in part because DAs have been vanishing in many markets. When I came to the Roanoke-Lynchburg VA market over 30 years ago there were 3 DA sites in each of those two cities. There are now none in Lynchburg. Two of those sites were torn down (I decommissioned one of them) so the land could be sold for development as the land was worth far more than the rest of those stations. The third was converted to non-D by moving to the frequency of the torn-down station that I had not worked for, and I was CE when that was done. There are still three DA sites in Roanoke but two are co-owned and one of those signals is in the process of being diplexed at the other site which will drop the number of DA sites in Roanoke to two.

You should, if you can, get your hands of a copy of the NAB Engineering Handbook and study the section on directional antennas. I don't know about the earlier or later editions, but in the fourth (1949) through seventh (1985) editions that section was written by Carl E. Smith, who, along with Walter Brown, is considered one of the greatest figures in DA engineering.
Dale H. Cook, Contract Engineer, Roanoke/Lynchburg, VA
http://plymouthcolony.net/starcityeng/index.html

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