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Go west, young man!

All,

how's the embedded job market on the west coast, specifically, California? I'm located on the East Coast and looking to move there. My background is in embedded C/C++, telecom, wireless. My brief job search indicated that most jobs are in government and require security clearance. Is it really so? How's the Silicon Valley doing these days?

I appreciate any insights/pointers! :)

Floridian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Along the same path of the OP's question, how is life in San Diego?  I think I'd like to live there, but I here it is very expensive and it is hard to find engineering jobs there...

Anyone currently living in San Diego? Please respond.

Thank you!

sun
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Yes, San Diego is very expensive (500k average house price), and hard to find high-paying jobs.

sir_flexalot
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

What´s embedded C/C++?
Does it have anything to do with Pro*C?
Sorry to ask...
It´s cause I hear the term all the time.

Ronaldo 9
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The valley is recovering --- SLOWLY.  Like the rest of the economy.  Find something first, then come, otherwise you could be waiting on tables like an out of work actor.

As for security clearance, this is handled in a several ways:
1. You have it and that is real good - consider yourself +5 with employability on secure contracts.
2. The company hires you, keeps you out of secret stuff until you get clearance.  It used to be (pre-9/11) about 90 days.  I can't image what it takes today
3. The company hires you, isolates the work and keeps you out of the secure stuff.  This does happen, but #2 is more likely.  The problem is that someone has to make a judgement call on where to draw the line.  Being wrong can be a federal crime.

As for the obvious question: "Can I get security clearance myself?"  - The simple answer is no.    This is one of those catch-22 situations.  In order to get a clearance you need to need a clearance.   

Below is a good site for looking through what it takes.  Pay attention to the things that could prevent you from getting a clearance.  Also, most of the time, the company is required to pay for the paperwork.  Years ago it ran $2000-4000 US.  I do not know what it is today.

http://www3.ccps.virginia.edu/career_prospects/Trends/securityclearance.html

Anonanonanon
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I've been living in San Diego for about 3 years now.

Some random thoughts:

Housing prices here are insane.  Ridiculous.  If you're looking to buy a house, this probably isn't the place to come do it right now.  Wait until the prices start to actually reflect reality again... Maybe in a few years.

There are a lot of embedded/engineering jobs.  Tons of wireless companies (Qualcomm is a huge employer, and there are lots of little official and unofficial spinoffs of it all over here).  Also, lots of medical/biotech device companies for embedded, and military contractor companies that do embedded systems.  If you're a competant embedded programmer, you'll have no trouble finding a decent paying job here.

The population in this area has been growing faster than the infrastructure.  This is part of the reason housing prices are so insane here.  But there are other negative side effects: the traffic is really bad pretty much everywhere during 7:30 - 10 am, 4 - 6 pm.  Not quite LA-bad, but not far behind either.

Because of all the defense companies and military bases, San Diego is a hotbed of conservative Republicanism.  Of course, that is just a broad stereotype and there are plenty of sane people here too, but keep this in mind...

Mr. Fancypants
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

>>2. The company hires you, keeps you out of secret stuff until you get clearance.  It used to be (pre-9/11) about 90 days.  I can't image what it takes today

About 1-2 years now.  And I work for a national lab.  I've heard of some people waiting longer.

Unless you work for the Department of Homeland Security, or really big DoD projects, don't expect to get it soon.

waiting for a clearance...
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

As Woody Guthrie once put it:

California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot
If you ain't got the do re mi.

Tips for living in San Diego:

If you can, live close to work.  Mapquest is usually pretty accurate with travel times, but a 30 minute commute in socal traffic will drive you nuts pretty quick.  Public transit here is mostly non-existant, except for the city bus lines and the downtown trollies.

If you *really* want to buy a house, look north or east.  But you'll definately want to make sure you aren't prone to road rage, as per tip #1.  You will probably end up with at least an hour commute (each way).  And expect to pay through the nose for gas ($2.25/g+).

More liberal communities: Kensington, Hillcrest, North Park, Mission Hills, Ocean Beach
More conservative: Everywhere else :)  Especially anything outside the city limits

Joe
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Not only are house prices insane in the San Diego area, but property taxes and state income tax are also extremely high.

In spite of all this, I have heard of companies offering lower salaries because the opportunity to live in such a desirable place will compensate for the drop in pay!

Ian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

You can commute into San Diego by train if you live north along the I-5 corridor. The Coaster and Amtrak services are pretty frequent. However, house prices are equally insane all the way up the coast until you get to Oceanside.

Ian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Don't forget car registration too...I payed something like $500-$600 last year to renew registration on an '03 Accord.  And that was after the refund from the insane reg. hike that Schwarzenegger repealed.

Joe
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Oh, as far as salaries go...when I first moved here from the midwest, it was to take a job that payed ~ $8000/year more.  Definately not enough to cover the cost of living increase.

Joe
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Embedded programming:

Loosely, any program that runs in a device. Your microwave oven has embedded programming.

So does a jet fighter (just more LOL).

So it covers an extraordinarily wide range of tasks, kind of like from "Hello, World" to Bank Of America's database/teller/ATM systems.

just a dot
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Lived in SD for 10 years now.  I came of age, professionally here.  Now, we're on the fence about leaving.  Most of the above is true.

- Housing costs are insane.  It sucks.  Bad.  Discouraging, upsetting, a real dream-crusher.  this is the #1 reason we are considering abandoning ship.

- Jobs pay poorly, given the costs of living. There is a nice high-tech cluster here.  Since you are really on the engineering side of things I would say that your job prospects are above average.

- There is a lot of churn and turnover.  Use it to your advantage, but this is another reason why rates are low.

- Traffic is a lot easier if you can leave before 8AM and go home after 6PM.  I commute 12 miles and it's about 45 minutes on average. You will need a good, reliable car, with good tires. 

- Most of the 'natives' are not particularly ambitious and tend to flake out on meetings and stuff like that.  You will find it relatively easy to get *a* job, but getting good jobs is hard.

- Security clearance will open up a lot of options for you.


San Diego is a beautiful place and it is California, so that's that.  That said, do you *really* like the beach?  Are you really into outdoor activities?  Are you a California dreamer?  Recognize that thousands of people move here for those reasons alone, and as a result, take low-paying jobs and live in tiny rental shacks.  This creates a downward pressure on wages that seems almost cultural - you work to surf.

Sassy
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

More SD JOS folks than I thought.  Maybe a meetup's in order?

I can't really disagree with the other posters.  The housing really is that expensive, but I don't see signs of terribly bad unemployment.  There's a lot of military work, of course, as well as wireless and biotech.  Don't know how much embedded work there is in biotech, but certainly in the other two there is.

On the other hand, it's not a definite cinch to get a job, either.  I'd say if you're willing to put up with the cost of living and you're provably good, go for it.

Rich
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I should also add that SD is pretty laid back with regards to work / life balance.

Nothing funnier than watching a transplant from Silicon Valley work 18 hour days.

Sassy
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I agree with Sassy whole-heartedly...I can't count the number of people who respond to "So, why did you move here?" with "Oh, for the weather.  I figured I'd just find a job when I got here."  And these aren't just drifters either, but people across many middle-to-upper class white-collar job fields.

Honestly, what kind of person gives up their *entire* life (friends, extended family, career, home), and that of their immediate family members if married w/ kids, just for some sunshine and sand?

I would say the *real* natives are a little more of sound mind though.  Real natives meaning people who actually grew up here and remember when San Diego was a sleepy little border town removed from the chaos of LA.  Those people seem to be few and far between, but the ones I happen to know don't have schedules revolving around tidal patterns :)

Joe
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Don't forget the punitive state income tax in all of California.  The top marginal rate is 9.3 percent.

http://www.ftb.ca.gov/forms/03_forms/03_rate.pdf

Jeremy
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Joe re car registration:

I have an '03 Accord and my DMV registration and license fees this year were $194. I don't understand how you could end up paying $500-$600?

Ian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I paid $600 BEFORE Arnold repealed the tax - and got $400 refunded.

Sassy
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I see, but in your first post you said the $500-$600 was AFTER the tax hike.

Ian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

That was Joe.  I Sassy.

Sassy
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Sorry, meant to write "AFTER the tax hike was refunded."

Ian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Sorry Sassy--I confused.

Ian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

You only paid $194???  Well, it depends on what the sale price of your car was too, I think.  I got mine in early 11/02, and decked it out pretty good, so it came with a pretty nasty price tag.

Perhaps my agitation at it being so expensive has caused me to inflate the numbers in my recollection, but I know I payed way more than that.  Maybe it was $400-$500 instead of $500-$600.  I do know my refund check was $300 though.

Joe
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

might have been 294, I cant even remember, dude.

Sale price on the car was 22k range IIRC

Sassy
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Ahh, yeah, mine was quite a bit more than that :(  over 30k.

Joe
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

> This creates a downward pressure on wages that seems almost cultural - you work to surf.

Sounds about the same as Tahoe's you work to Ride (snowboards of course). 

California is nuts.  In the worst case life is filled with endless miles of shopping plazas and traffic.  NY might be expensive, but at least you can take the subway to see a show.  In California your house might have been in a cow pasture six months before at you can't find it because it looks like 1000 other houses in your "community."  Excitement is a new Starbucks in the hood.  You'll go to the beach, but if you have a day job, you'll be going there with everybody else on Saturday.  There will be a traffic jam getting there and another on the way home.  I don't see how life is that much better in California if all you do is spend it in traffic. 

With that said, there is a lot to love as well. You will probably just have to readjust your expectations.  It is difficult to explain to my parents why a 1300' house in California cost as much as a mansion where they are from.

christopher (baus.net)
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A BIG mansion. I actually saw a 1 bed/1 ba cottage in Carlsbad listed at $1.3m! (Admittedly, there was potential to redevelop the site, but...)

Ian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

oh, can we not talk about home prices in SD, it makes me so sad.

Sassy
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Well, perhaps we have persuaded the O.P. to stay in Florida, where the sea is warm, the beaches are sandy, the weather is sunny and the living is easy. Why move?

Ian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

well, this place is crawling with hot women.  Too bad I'm married!

Sassy
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

But are you *happily* married, Sassy?

*That* is the 64-billion dollar question, my friend.

:-P

Wisea**
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Hmm, I was hoping to get a more optimistic picture from you, guys! :) Why move? The significant other's immediate family is there, so she wants to be closer to them. Plus, I want to change the surroundings. I'm not a huge fan of the beach, though so this is clearly not a deciding factor.

Many folks gave their opinions about SD. How about the places up north? LA, the Valley?

Floridian
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

How about Nevada?  IGT and such are usually looking for embedded engineers.  I would recommend N. Nevada which is actually where I live.  I live on the border of CA and NV.  Truthfully the N. Nevada technology market is still in a nascent phase, and hasn't really taken off. 

christopher baus.net
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Phoenix.

Stay out of California if you are NOT happy with San Diego.  IMHO, it's the BEST place in the entire state of California in terms of jobs/lifestyle/costs/et cetera.

Phoenix is within driving distance of San Diego for a weekend trip.  Well, maybe a fast driving... but then folks there are fast. :)

T.J.
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I echo Christopher's sentiment ... Nevada is probably a good close alternative, and the gaming folks are always looking for talent.  I am specifically refering to the folks who actually build the games, like aforementioned IGT (they also recently acquired another major player, Acres Gaming), Bally, Aristocrat, etc.

On another note, many (many) years ago I was stationed out at NAS North Island on Coronado.  I lived in someones garage that had been "converted" to an apartment (sort of).  The rent was outrageous, but the ability to ride a bike to the beach, or the pub or down the strand made writing the check easy.  Weather was fabulous and overall I recall those times fondly, and would consider living out there again.

<sigh/>
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

>>"Yes, San Diego is very expensive (500k average house price), and hard to find high-paying jobs."

If there are no high-paying jobs, then who is buying the $500k houses??

You Don't Want to Know
Thursday, July 08, 2004

There are a lot of wealthy people that move there, but mostly people don't buy the houses.  Instead, they mortgage their life and live in the house empty.  Or, you could have bought the house 30 years ago for cheap. That's about it.

sir_flexalot
Thursday, July 08, 2004

"Nevada is probably a good close alternative, and the gaming folks are always looking for talent"

"Honey, we're moving to Las Vegas, but you're gonna have to learn to pole dance"

Philo

Philo
Thursday, July 08, 2004

If you've got the embedded background, the Detroit area is a good source of jobs. While the tech industry in Michigan in general is pretty bad, the automakers are always looking for embedded programmers, and they're having trouble finding the talent that they're after.

You can also forget about the stereotyped image of Detroit. Not because it's false (I assure you that 8 Mile is as bad in real life as in the movie), but because the automakers' engineering facilities aren't in Detroit, but surrounding suburbs. GM puts their people in Milford, which is rural and very nice with a thriving downtown, Daimler/Chrysler in Auburn Hills, where you'll be close to concerts, sporting events, and the very terrain used to shoot those scenic rural car commercials.  Ford makes their people go to Dearborn, which is part of the Detroit sprawl, but the town itself is very nice.  Wages will seem low compared to Silicon Valley/New York, but they do pretty well when compared to the cost of living.

Clay Dowling
Thursday, July 08, 2004

How much for an apartment in Compton? :-P

Wisea**
Thursday, July 08, 2004

Who's buying those houses?

- second-time buyers
- LA / OC / SFO neo-riche
- speculators (they buy in new construction, sit on it, then sell)
- first timers on 100% financing and the worst loan terms of all time


Sassy
Thursday, July 08, 2004

"Honey, we're moving to Las Vegas, but you're gonna have to learn to pole dance"

Huh?  Why would anyone marry a woman who didn't already know how to pole dance?

Billy Joel on Software
Thursday, July 08, 2004

Philo,
if my wife knew what you're suggesting, I'd have to ask Almighty to have mercy for your soul :)

All, thanks for the interesting exchange of views.

Floridian
Thursday, July 08, 2004

Clay -- that's all good and well if you *want* to live in the burbs, but ... ;-)

As to who is buying the $500K homes...well, Sassy's exactly right.  Although I would add that sometimes it takes people 3 or 4 hops to make enough in the real estate market to get the kind of home they want, in a neighborhood they'd actually want to live in.  Oh, and $500K is probably more likely to get you a condo (albeit a nice one) than an actual house if you're staying in the city limits.

But on the brighter side, this market absolutely cannot last forever.  The average income in San Diego county is only about $35K.  Either the town will be overrun by rich people, or something will have to give.

Joe
Thursday, July 08, 2004

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