Ed Wikdall was hired on recently as the new strategic market development manager at NKK Switches, but he didn't realize that his new job would require him to play gumshoe detective. Like many companies in the electronics industry, NKK strives to get samples into the hands of qualified customers in the hopes of scoring design wins. "We sample our switch products very liberally," says Wikdall, who estimates that the company fills several dozen requests a day for samples, free-of-charge. Recently, though, NKK's online ordering system was inundated by a flood of sample requests coming from Canada. Suspicious about the surge in activity from a single geographic area, Wikdall decided to engage in a little investigative work. It didn't take long for him to find out that none of the email addresses contained company names. A quick few phone calls and he had his answer: Someone had posted the URL and instructions on how to get free samples from NKK on what Wikdall describes as a "PC geek enthusiast chat room." Hopeful Canadians may have been thwarted in their efforts to obtain something for free. Wikdall, however, is quick to point out that free switch samples are still available from NKK, but only (and stress the only) to engineers who qualify.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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