Monday, November 28, 2005

Busy times...

In between visiting companies and working on my thesis, I've had to do some thinking about the future. I'm at an exciting point in my life where I need to choose what direction I want to take, and the choice I make will (likely) have a long-term impact on my life.

I've gotten a very nice job offer from a defense contractor, and it was a good $5k/year higher than what I was shooting for. I'd have to get secret or top secret security clearances, and the job seems to offer long term stability--most employees have been there a good 20 to 25+ years, and the full range of benefits are offered.

I've interviewed with another defense contractor--no offer yet, but it'd likely be lower. I'll be interviewing with a Big 3 automaker later this week, and they'll probably have a pretty good offer.

Since I have a background in power electronics and motor drives, with a particular interest in hybrid electric vehicles, the work I'd be doing would be no surprise at any of those companies...the first wants me to do power electronics specifically, the second wants me to do either power electronics or military hybrid vehicles, and the third would want me to work on hybrid vehicles.

Maybe I should blame Paul Graham, but I don't know that I want to take any of those opportunities. What I want to do is work for a startup and work on cool technologies with minimal overhead. (Just for reference, government defense contractors and big 3 automakers have significant overhead/red tape/politics/etc.) Normally, my electrical engineering background would make this difficult--motor drives don't come cheap. Making a good motor from scratch is much more expensive than writing code from scratch. Plus, because it's a physical object, scaling means more than buying more/bigger servers.

For what it's worth, I could combine both my interest in CS and EE by programming my latest idea: LiSpice. Basically a combination of Lisp and Spice (for electrical circuit modeling). Spice uses text input, and it can get tedious to write, so I'm thinking maybe I can save keystrokes by using Lisp to write the Spice text files. But I digress.

Another avenue has been made available to me, and I think I'm going to take it. My professor (who wants me to stay on for my PhD) is in the process of setting a up a startup company. The startup will be focused on one of my primary EE interests, and I would have some share in the ownership of the company (although it's too early to know how much at this point). At first the pay won't be as good as my other offer(s), but that can certainly change with time. Also, I can really only see six months out...the startup may or may not happen, so there's certainly a lot of risk to be had.

(High paying job + stability) vs. (potentially rewarding startup + lower initial pay + less job security)

Which wins? I'd don't know 100% for sure yet, but I'm leaning toward the startup.

I think one of the biggest draws it has is that it's in line with my passions in life. I recently wrote down what it is that I want to do with my life:

"Develop sustainable energy solutions for the world, and make more efficient use of the energy we have available."

Long term, I'm pretty sure I want to work technology like biofuels or something else that essentially uses energy that's consistently replenished by the sun (solar, hydro, etc.) I think the "oil habit" the world has is starting to cramp our style, and supply and demand will make it easier for disruptive technologies to take over--and if I have anything to say about it, those disruptive technologies will be sustainable. (Note: I'd be ok with earth-based nuclear energy as short-term solution, but even that is technically a non-renewable resource).

I want to bring about a long-term solution to our current pesky energy problem (even if it's not a big problem yet; if we wait to long, it'll be too big of a problem).

Regarding the startup, I hope I don't shoot myself in the foot on this one. It feels wrong to pass up a higher job salary + stability for a low salary + instability, but I think I can really make a difference by going with the startup. If the startup doesn't work, I may have a difficult time finding a job--who knows if these other companies will still want me? Fortunately, even if they don't, I have some pretty strong leads at other companies. I'm sure everything will work out, one way or another.


Anonymous Richard Hoelscher said...

Lisp + Spice = Lice.

12/04/2005 9:39 PM  Edit

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