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If I were to have hard questions regarding circuit design, where would be the best places to go for help?

First things that come to mind are co-workers and stackexchange. Sometimes co-workers don't know the answer. Stackexchange is great and I wouldn't be surprised if it was the best option.

Is it inappropriate for me to consult my past professors now that I am a professional? My questions are related to projects at work, but I am mostly curious for myself as an engineer.

Any other resources I am missing?

Thanks

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    \$\begingroup\$ Off topic for Meta, but it sounds like you're fresh out of school. Given the tasks you'll have for a while, you're a long way from your coworkers not having answers. Asking about work problems on EE.SE is an artform. Don't go back to professors. You'll most likely be ignored, but if you do get a response, most of them suck at real world engineering. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Young
    May 12 '17 at 2:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ EE SE is non commercial and free .Most users do electrical eng for a living .Most users are approachable professionaly if the problem can not be answered in the space available . \$\endgroup\$
    – Autistic
    May 13 '17 at 12:41
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Senior Engineers, friends who have experience, past professors. But really the first person that you should go to and the only one you'll really need is you.

Learn how to learn, there are plenty of resources out there to help you:

1) Research papers, google scholar and ieee amongst others go a long way. You can find out what has been done and it will help extrapolate knowledge if you want to do something new.

2) Books and tutorials. The art of electronics will get you pretty far, there are other great books that are worth mentioning like Henry Otts Electromagnetic Compatibility engineering. Find out what books you need to increase your knowledge for your job. If you have to go to a university or (good) local library and start looking through EE books, especially those that will help you at your job.

3) Learn how to google. I've been amazed by how much I don't know how to google, and I search 50+ times a day. I've thought I did a through search on a subject, and then I change a few words and find even better info (like I found a supplier to help advance our product months after I had done a multiday search.)

4) Get working knowledge, you learn by doing. Find some projects to do at home that parallel your work and will help you fill in knowledge, its always good to prototype a PCB, learn new software or pick up a dev board and play around with it. If you need motivation, tell yourself you'll sell it on kickstarter and then don't. There are plenty of tutorials on the internet to help you get started.

University doesn't really give you a lot of working knowledge unless you took a lot of lab classes or had a research internship or job while going to school.

If you can be successful at learning how to learn you'll get promotions and people will think you are smart. It takes time and effort on your part, and some guts.

You'll notice that there are people on this site that don't know how to tie their own shoes, they don't care about learning how to learn, they want the answer given to them, but they are depriving themselves of valuable learning. Also, learn how to communicate. Learn how to explain concepts you've learn, apply those concepts to real world problems.

Also learn how to design, there is an art to it, a lot of people in industry gloss over it. You should be able to predict what is going to happen, produce it and have it work like you expect most of the time. There are a lot of people that don't care about this process, they will make changes until they think it works and don't take the time to actually find out the underlying problem.

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Once you're out of school and have a real job doing engineering, the first thing to do for answers is a little digging on your own. The trick is not to look for the specific answer to your immediate problem, but to learn more about the concept being applied. Nowadays there are good papers and write-ups on just about every topic out there.

Of course finding them isn't always so easy. Many search terms cough up lots of extraneous hits, and then modern search engines are getting more and more cluttered with ads. Try different ones. Don't just go for Google all the time. For example, I start with Bing more often lately, although that's gotten more ad-infested over just the last few months too.

Posting the specific problem here on EE.SE is reasonable once you've made a attempt to learn about the concepts behind it. First, think about the problem clearly and what exactly the issue is. Then post a clear and concise question. If it takes more than half a page of text to describe, then you haven't thought about the real problem clearly enough. Go back and think again.

After you've done some learning on your own and you still can't figure out what's going on or how to attack a problem, ask a senior engineer you work with. That's not their main job, but is part of it. The job of any senior engineer does or should include mentoring junior engineers. If you have a history of first trying to learn up on the topic, then asking when you get stuck, you'll probably find most of them are eager to help you and guide you to the solution.

If you are a junior engineer that isn't working with at least one senior engineer, get out of there now. Learning from someone senior is a important part of your education and career development. Engineering school was just the start. Mostly you learn theory there, with some practical experience from side projects to help put the theory in context. Almost never is there any formal training in realities of engineering in a production environment where something is made in high volume, cost of field failures have to be considered, etc.

When you do engineering professionally, you also have to keep the cost/benefit of various ways for you to solve the problem in mind. Your employer needs good return on the substantial cost of keeping you around. A few hours here and there learning about concepts relevant to your job is acceptable and even expected. However, wasting two days wondering why your processor keeps randomly resetting when the senior engineer could have spotted the problem in half a minute is not in the company's best interest. Of course constantly interrupting the senior engineer with trivial stuff that saves you 5 minutes each time and costs him 10 minutes in interruption and broken thought process is not in the company's best interest either. It's also a good way to get yourself canned by having the senior engineer tell the boss you're a moron behind your back.

In any case, no, contacting past professors about a technical problem at your new job is not appropriate. It's not their job to teach you anymore. They need to spend their time on the next batch of students they are getting paid to teach. College doesn't come with a lifetime free support contract. Also, professors are usually very good at the theory, but too often amazingly clueless about real world engineering.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Bing? I have little success with bing, I'll search there sometimes just to humor myself some of the results it gives can be arcane, they have much to improve. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike Mod
    May 15 '17 at 16:19

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