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By Jack Ganssle

The State of the Art

Published 3/27/2003

April 1, 2003: Special Report.

The embedded industry is in tatters.

Reviewing the polls taken on this site, I can only come to the conclusion that we are unhappy, dysfunctional, overworked developers producing largely crappy products. Or so the numbers would suggest.

74% of us took zero or just one lousy sick day last year (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2685). Are we especially healthy? That's hard to believe given our pizza/Jolt diet. And the fact that we're fat: 58% of us are overweight (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2420).

Maybe the reason we're at work so much is the schedule: 80% of us put in uncompensated overtime (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2173). I bet the total amount of free OT we work is staggering.

But we don't compensate with vacation time.76% take two weeks or much less per year (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2593). No doubt this number is skewed even more by those lucky Europeans, so many of whom get 4-6 weeks as a matter of course. Remove those from the poll and the plight of American engineers will look even worse. Vacation is a partial cure for burnout; clearly there are a lot of run-down developers. Tired folks make mistakes.

And it seems we do screw up. A lot. 44% of poll respondents have had an important firmware recall (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2413).
42% are cavalier about testing and bugs (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2575). It's interesting how closely these two numbers correlate. 8% of us ship with no testing at all.

But why test if we're building silly gadgets? 66% feel half or more of the features in their products are frivolous, a waste of time and effort (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2688). Demoralizing? You bet. At least we can go home (after all of that unpaid OT) and dump on our spouse.

Or maybe not. Like spies with top secret clearances we're unable to talk about our work at home. 83% of our spouses (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2593) have either no idea or just a glimmer about what it is we do. If we bother to say anything, we're speaking gibberish.

If the spouse doesn't have a clue, we can talk to our peers. Exchange ideas, learn new things, get recharged and ready to tackle the next project with enthusiasm and additional skills. Except we don't. 86% of us are too busy or too broke to go to an embedded conference this year (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2446).

The numbers are indeed discouraging. Yet 45% of us expect to have more fun on the job this year (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2377). 62% feel the economy is looking up (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2650). 87% feel their skills have improved either a little or a lot (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2559).

I guess we gripe a lot, but in spite of all odds, we're an optimistic lot after all.

 

72% hate their jobs (http://www.embedded.com/pollArchive/?surveyno=2638)