You may have heard that hardware engineers tend to be discerning and high-functioning analytical thinkers. They like working independently, preferring the traditional “waterfall” process workflow over the somewhat newer “agile” workflow. So it’s no surprise that choosing a hardware engineer can be a challenge for your company.

Discerning your project’s process workflow can help you when choosing hardware engineer for your project and your company.

The waterfall process provides for a regimented workflow. Choosing a hardware engineer who prefers a clearly defined project scope with precise, unchangeable steps toward the final product may not fit well into a company whose project scope will change frequently as the project progresses. It’s the difference between a long-distance runner and a sprinter. They are two different mindsets that bear discernment in the hiring process.

Unpacking The Hardware Engineer Mindset

What Engineers Look For in a Relationship

Before delving into a hardware engineer’s mindset, it’s important to note that agile workflows were created by software business developers. The hardware community hasn’t had to deal with the fact that its requirements can change frequently in the sprint to complete a project at the same pace that software engineers have. So a traditional waterfall or an agile workflow is important to consider when considering the mindset of your potential new employee.

Hardware engineers tend to be specialized hires who simply want hardware that works with their software and compilers that transform one programming code to another with ease. From an engineer’s point of view, you have to know the project’s programming language, its list of project requisites, including what test devices to use.

From a recruiter’s point of view, it’s also important to determine what the project engineer is most comfortable using. If the developer has a background in Android programming, that programmer may not feel that Apple’s programming language, Swift, is a good fit. If the developer is not comfortable using Apple-related hardware, the choices for the project hardware can be a moot point.

So, in an interview with a potential hardware engineer, you can’t simply ask what hardware that programmers like to use. Those choices depend on the prenup that marries the hardware to the task.

Married and a Good Fit

Any programmer’s basic hardware setup, once the project is deemed a good fit, includes its Central Processing Unit or CPU, a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. Depending on the project, the programmer may work on multiple setups. It used to be that programmers had basically two choices: to work in a Windows environment or to work in a Mac environment.

Today, you can program on a Mac, then move the code to a Windows compiler to operate and test the code. One monitor, one virtual machine. It’s virtual eye candy—and for the initiated engineer, oh, so sweet. Like the old adage, “when mama’s happy, everyone’s happy,” a happy hardware engineer makes for a strong marriage with your company.

Consider travel and flexibility when recruiting:

Today’s hardware engineers aren’t stuck in a cubicle for long hours every day (in an ergonomic chair, of course). Today’s programs can be developed anywhere in the world, on multiple devices, 24/7, thanks to the cloud and amazing internal processors like Intel’s Core i7-8700K.

Some programmers prefer laptops or mobile devices so they can travel worldwide for meetings and interface with project and subject matter experts (SMEs) without missing a beat. Others are old school, preferring a desktop computer system with monitors coming in a wide range of sizes and resolutions. Keyboards and mice are either tethered to the monitor or cut free with Bluetooth technology.

Hardware’s not hardwired to the user since it’s married to software. Yet, what figuratively carries the most weight boils down to what kind of CPU is going to see the project through its criteria:

  • Performance
  • Schedule
  • Cost

Whether you hire permanently or as an independent contractor, the hardware choices may not matter as much as the programming budget and time constraint. If your hire is working in-house, the project hardware may simply be what’s available in some extraneous cubicle without a window.

So What Ticks the Boxes?

We’re living in a society on the move. So laptops and mobile devices hit the spot for those not wanting to be bogged down behind a desktop monitor. Programmers tend to work long hours. And most would rather not stare down some legacy system run by proprietary hardware that hasn’t been updated in a decade. Keyboards are a personal choice, depending on finger size, the sound of the clicks as you strike out code, or whether the numbers run along the top or on the side of the keyboard. Some engineers detest trackpads and opt to hook up a keyboard and a mouse to work and some won’t work without a touchscreen.

Choices, project parameters and budgets—it all comes down to the specs and operating systems. Today’s IT recruiting must address mindset and workflow experience and preferences. These criteria are just as important when choosing a hardware engineer as they are the resume. IT recruiting in Chicago challenges companies to find the right fit. It’s competitive out there and companies that don’t hire holistically face the prospect of not getting their return on investment.

It’s not like hiring managers are facing a glut of hardware engineers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Employment of computer hardware engineers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. A limited number of engineers will be needed to meet the demand for new computer hardware because more technological innovation takes place with software than with hardware.

Salaries are high for hardware engineers and choosing the right fit for your project is just good economics.

A Word From The Company Perspective

Benchmarking Your Hardware?

Before starting any project with its necessary hardware, make sure that the existing hardware is up to the task. Benchmarking measures both synthetic and real-world scenarios, making sure that your company’s hardware is literally up to speed. No engineer or programmer is going to touch hardware that puts an engineer behind the eight ball from the get-go. Especially an independent contractor.

Microsoft Windows is arguably the industry standard. There’s hardly any platform that it won’t run on. Unless you’re writing gaming code where Mac’s graphics shine, you will likely see independent contractors and in-house programmers use Microsoft. Web developers program on a medium that is graphics heavy and will drift toward programming with a Mac. Then there are the open-source gurus who won’t program with anything but Linux. What a potential hire will use as best practice is highly dependent on project requisites and the engineer’s programming experience.

The guts of your hardware are critical:

  • CPUs
  • Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • Random Access Memory (RAM)

In-house programmers using old company hardware won’t get an optimum Return on Investment (ROI). That’s called a legacy system.

Benchmarking software will run the numbers and let you know what needs to be updated before beginning a new project with a new hardware engineer. Most won’t touch anything less than 8 gigs of RAM with, at a minimum, an i5 processor. It helps to have at least a couple terabytes of storage, a few hours battery life, and hardware that is lightweight enough to program in the United States one day and China the next.

When Choosing a Hardware Engineer, Remember…

Most hardware engineers/programmers want to develop a project on hardware that:

  • Meets project requisites, parameters, and budgets;
  • That’s not legacy system hardware;
  • Runs on processors that don’t depreciate the hardware once you take it out of the box;
  • Passes benchmarking tests; and
  • Their experience makes them comfortable with.

Programming is less hardware than software. A programmer can prefer a laptop over a desktop. But without the innards, the hardware’s just a box. The specs make it happen. Go ahead and ask 10 hardware engineers what their favorite hardware is to program. You’ll get 10 subjective answers dependent on their experience and what the nuts and bolts of their current project are. We can help you sort out the superlatives.

Here’s a great quote by Emo Philips that sums up:

A computer once beat me at chess. But it was no match for me at kickboxing.

Hiring holistically covers the bases. Get to know your hardware engineer not just as an engineer but also in mindset.

Recruiting in Chicago doesn’t need to full of trial and error. Stack the deck in your favor from the beginning and contact us for a great fit. We can help you find the right combination of knowledge and experience.