I like the previous person's answer. I thought I would add some experience of an electrical engineer who does sales engineering as well as research and testing. I have worked in the fields of switchgear systems and electrical equipment, government security, biomedical equipment and iris recognition.
Problems and Solutions:
Sudden changes within the management infrastructure of a business is a big problem. An engineer can feel comfortable with his/her job, and then go to work one morning and find a notice to attend an emergency meeting in which she/he will justify his future existence within the business. Even if the person doesn't get axed, from that point there is always a looming sense of doom that the ax is about to fall again. This in turn causes problems for a sales engineer because the key contact person involved with a purchasing contract may no longer be there, right in the middle of long negotiations, or even after a contract has been approved or won. My solution to this problem has been to be diverse in my education and experience. When there are electrical breakdowns or problems with designs not working, the person with a well-rounded background will be the one they have to call, no matter what budget cuts or management changes.
Communication in these matters has been face to face, phone calls, emails, regular letters, in that order. I never use instant messaging because it is problematic for security, and also it can be annoying if you are dealing with a person who does not have the same dedicated work ethic as your self.
I've found that purchasing agents are a big problem for electrical engineers, whether it be for the people in sales engineering, engineering research or electrical engineering maintenance. I've only met a few purchasing agents who did not drag their feet in getting a contract approved. This is not always the fault of the purchasing agent, since there are matters of budget cuts, legal matters and communication problems with the higher powers that be. My solution to this problem, other than what I've mentioned in the first paragraph, is to try to develop a strong communication with the purchasing agent. I focus on discovering what is causing the delays in getting a contract approved, and I try to be as understanding and helpful as I can with aiding the purchasing agent. When I was told that I most likely had the contract, but it was taking months because of red tape, I often went in after work and helped an agent get his or her paperwork done. I usually discovered that the person was overwhelmed with the entire situation and had an inconsiderate boss. In this case, communication was mostly in person, fax machine, emails and regular letters, in that order.
Another problem faced by electrical engineers is poor quality in big name products, and also in cheaper (because of budget cuts) imports. For example, a huge project that takes months to complete can fail because of shoddy workmanship in electronic equipment, o-rings, retrofit devices. When something like this fails, it often takes a long time to find the problem, and the bosses are extremely angry. When the problem is found, if maintenance or engineering can't fix it, there will be more waiting for a replacement. It is often a real headache getting a replacement from the manufacturer, or going to a new manufacturer. My solution to this type of problem is to maintain good communication with every one involved, try to be a peacemaker and understand each person's perspective. It's important to learn how to do this without becoming a total doormat. Something that has helped me have clout in these matters is what I mentioned in the first paragraph: Develop a diverse educational and experience background so that your skills make you someone they badly need. In turn, the more diverse your talents, the more likely you will be able to find the problem component which has failed. With this type of problem, communication has mainly been phone calls, faxes, and face to face communication, in that order. Emails don't work well with getting this type of problem solved because people will hide from you.
Another problem that creeps up from time to time will be someone making a questionable offer that you cannot refuse. Don't take it, simple as that. The strings involved will be attached to you for the rest of your career. You might be surprised at how often this will happen to an electrical engineer, especially in design, demolition or retrofitting. My solution is to walk away, no matter how tempting.
Regarding solving problems, my main solution is to take pencil and paper and make drawings along with notes. I organize everything on paper, dividing each problem into separate components or sections, and then work to make what's on paper a reality. I use divider spiral notebooks, grid paper, sticky notes and I am fond of index cards. For writing, I mainly use PaperMate mechanical pencils, and any ink pen which flows smoothly and darkly. A big aid is a satchel which has multiple organizer pockets of various sizes. I keep it packed with my needs, and it keeps me organized when I'm working. I can take it with me almost anywhere.
Answered By: iris - 4/6/2009