Ideas

#1
I am currently "in between jobs" and to be honest it is getting me down. One idea that I've had on and off for years is selling my knowledge - ie a sort of consultancy.

My background is in Electronic Engineering - particularly Communications, which I am a graduate in. I've had experience with a number of companies, mainly testing and setting up things, and hopefully my technical background shows in my posts on ARRSE and other sites. Additionally I have been involved with the RN for nearly two decades - initially attempting to join as a WE Officer and more recently as a Reservist.

So my thinking goes like this:

Is there a market for advising people (in the media elsewhere) about the basic technical issues of things? For example, I used to shake my head when I saw TV programmes that didn't quite get - things like programmes regarding the Falklands was and discussing the loss of HMS SHEFFIELD and discussing the fact that her SCOT terminal used the same frequency band as "she used to detect Exocet radar" not quite getting it that the Exocet radar used the same frequencies as SCOT, therefore SCOT use blinded her ESM sensors.

Likewise - is there a market for giving advice to businesses on basic technical issues, for example in supporting the selection of new equipment or in making decisions? I can write briefing papers and reports for the non technical, and explain things in plain language. I might also be able to offer quick and nasty demonstrators or prototypes - I am particularly interested in the application to technology to things like maritime force protection...or security.

Any ideas? I wouldn't know where or how to start - so maybe someone has ideas.....
 
#2
Any ideas? I wouldn't know where or how to start - so maybe someone has ideas.....
Any business is about supply meeting a demand, and we find the demand through Market Research.

Approach businesses in the sector that your interested in, and ask them what support they need and would be prepared to pay for. Let their demand shape your business!

x
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
find a reserve unit and get some time in, cheer you up no end.
 

udipur

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
In terms of research, what firms are sourcing the equipment about which you are a SME (subject matter expert)?

How do they go about procuring such gear?

Who's the geezer who signs off the deal?

What's his phone number?
 
#6
You mention .. " maritime force protection...or security " so why not get in contact with those who deal with such matters and see what you can transfer across in an advisory style role .... best of luck .
 
#7
Well I recently had a "what am I good at?" type brain storm and came up with:

Finding information
Learning how things work
Making things work better and making broken things work
Learning new things
Organising information into a logical order and setting it out in writing
Helping people with problems
Expressing ideas in an ordered way
Explaining technical issues in plain English
Using and analysing numerical information - charts/graphs etc
Solving technical problems
Solving other problems with lateral thinking and things like that
Using keyboard/IT skills to produce documents that look good and make sense
Working with others
Putting things together or taking them apart
Persuading people

So my idea sort of runs like this:

Producing briefing papers and reports on technical issues for non technical management typs and non technical companies (or non electronic anyway), possibly media types
Decision making support - qauntitive analysis of alternatives, application of SWOT, PEST, and other methods
Advising on component/system selection and evaluation, particularly in terms of "what if?" and "so what?" - if system x is chosen over system y, what are the implications? Cost? Maintenance? Upgradibility? Compatibility? What support does it need (power supplies, water, etc)
Spreadsheets/Databases

The most complex bit - and one only to be undertaken if everything else is going wll, is building one offs, concept demonstrators, and prototypes. Obviously this would reqiure some investment in equipment.

I think that my ideas do have merit.
 
#8
.... Is there a market for advising people (in the media elsewhere) about the basic technical issues of things? For example, I used to shake my head when I saw TV programmes that didn't quite get - things like programmes regarding the Falklands was and discussing the loss of HMS SHEFFIELD and discussing the fact that her SCOT terminal used the same frequency band as "she used to detect Exocet radar" not quite getting it that the Exocet radar used the same frequencies as SCOT, therefore SCOT use blinded her ESM sensors...
I think that the media often don't like it when someone tries to ruin their arguments with facts. If they want to make a point, they will make it, regardless of the truth of the situation.

Well I recently had a "what am I good at?" type brain storm and came up with:

Finding information
Learning how things work
Making things work better and making broken things work
Learning new things
Organising information into a logical order and setting it out in writing
Helping people with problems
Expressing ideas in an ordered way
Explaining technical issues in plain English
Using and analysing numerical information - charts/graphs etc
Solving technical problems
Solving other problems with lateral thinking and things like that
Using keyboard/IT skills to produce documents that look good and make sense
Working with others
Putting things together or taking them apart
Persuading people
"Learning how things work" is very similar to "Learning new things"

"Making things work better and making broken things work" is synonymous with "Putting things together or taking them apart"

"Helping people with problems" is a very vague statement, and is probably covered by "Solving technical problems" and "Solving other problems with lateral thinking and things like that", both of which are similar to the 'things' statements above.

"Organising information into a logical order and setting it out in writing" is not unlike "Expressing ideas in an ordered way", "Explaining technical issues in plain English", "Using keyboard/IT skills to produce documents that look good and make sense", and "Using and analysing numerical information - charts/graphs etc" (and I would perhaps question this, in view of the way your list was compiled).
 

TheIronDuke

ADC
Book Reviewer
#11
OK, I am trying to help but I have limited time. There is a superb art exhibition opening tonight and I must be there, so you have about 4 minutes?

and discussing the fact that her SCOT terminal used the same frequency band as "she used to detect Exocet radar" not quite getting it that the Exocet radar used the same frequencies as SCOT, therefore SCOT use blinded her ESM sensors.
You have lost me. Sorry, but that shit is so esoteric and specialist, you are never going to find a market.

Clearly, you have honed skills and have put your time in at the sharp end. But that was then, and his is now. Might I suggest you look at your basic skills set? Like you are blinding at mil/security software stuff (just a guess) so take a broad look at the security sector? Biometrics is wide open at the moment and fast algorithms seem to be sexy? Mostly in China and Korea.

Excocet is old news. The tech that made it happen is not.

Be lucky.
 
#12
If this isn't a wind-up, it should be.

Surely your not serious.

If you want to start a business, find out what people need and then supply it. You have some specialist knowledge so research how it can be applied. Get in amongst the users, then look, listen and ask questions.

I'm a self employed analyst. I began after attending a conference where I thought, 'this would be so much better if'. So I asked around, and people said 'yes, we want some of that and yes...we'd pay for it.' I'd only gone along to meet an old friend!
 
#14
TID

Never got to the sharp end, sadly.

The Exocet radar thing was just an example of the fools in the media not quite getting it, other examples include not understanding how electricity is generated and distributed, how mobile phone networks work, etc.

Pride

I'm thinking out loud.

Wordsmith

I've never had any technical writing training - however, one of my previous jobs included writing production documentation....
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#15
I've never had any technical writing training - however, one of my previous jobs included writing production documentation....
Neither did I when I started. I got out of metallurgy (which was dying on its feet) and into technical authoring by applying for any job that cropped up within a 25 mile radius. I ended up working for a major software company.

Its not so difficult if you're prepared to learn to use the software you're describing. Then you can work through a task step by step and describe those steps for users of the application. The skill set you've described is perfectly adequate. You just need to:

- Learn Word properly - templates, styles, etc., so you can produce nice looking Word documents
- Learn a graphics program like GIMP so you can take decent screen shots. All I normally do is take a screen grab, crop it to size, maybe scale it and save it as a jpg file for insertion into my documentation.
- Learn a program that'll produce flowcharts. I use Microsoft Visio, but the Draw package in Open Office (which is free) will get you started. You can also use Draw to annotate screen shots by importing the image into Draw. (After annotating then, just re-screen grab then back into GIMP).

You'll also need to learn a Authoring tool. RoboHelp is something you'll pick up easily - I taught myself to use it. FrameMaker is what the pro's use. It's difficult to learn, but does produce damn nice looking documents. (Stay clear of firms wanting FrameMaker experience when you first apply).

There are some free help authoring tools here:

Free Help-file authoring tools - Freebyte's Guide to

Have a play with HelpnDoc - having had a quick look at the video it looks like a simple version of RoboHelp. It'll give you a rough idea of what it's like to write on-line help files.

Typically what you do is produce a on-line HTML help file (they often have extension .chm), which the developers hook into the software for you. (This is what comes up when you click the Help button). You also convert the on-line help into a PDF file, which ships with the software and can be printed out.

Have a look at some existing help files - you'll soon get an idea of how its done. At the same time, invest a bit of your time into learning the software I've mentioned above. You should be able to produce a very simple help file for yourself. Write one or two small ones that mimic the ones that come with any software you might have installed on your PC and you can give yourself some basic experience as to what's required.

Then just 'big up' any document writing you've done in the past in your CV and start firing off applications.

Wordsmith
 
#16
Well, this idea has faded away, for I fear it would not have been a good one. I am starting a new full time job tommorow, in an area that is not Electronic Engineering, but is (slightly at least) related.

One of my problems with respect to jobhunting has been sketchy work history - so how much of a difference would a period of employment for one employer make in the future, even if it isn't strictly speaking in the same field?

Similarly, will building/testing/etc things at home (at getting both the practical skills and taking pictures for evidence) help to make up for my limited practical experience?
 
#17
Yokel, I think you might be reaching the end of the friendly and well meaning suggestions you've been given to date. Arrse is full of folk who (no pun really intended) will bend over backwards to help - but not to run your life. As an aside, how big a factor is money? Do you have dependents? If not, why not go overseas, even consider VSO? These are options that would break you out of a rut.
 
#18
New job tommorow - however, I am trying to look at things from an employers point of view....how much difference would a solid period of employment for any future applications?
 
#20
... I am trying to look at things from an employers point of view....how much difference would a solid period of employment for any future applications?
Put yourself in their position for the whole of the job-seeking process, and you will answer your own question.

The first thing any employer should do when trying to filll a post is to specify the job, and then specify the person who can fulfill that role. Once they have identified the primary and secondary task that the job involves, they should have a list of the minimum essential skills/attributes that the successful applicant will have, as well as a list of desirable skills/attributes. When they receive completed job application forms/CVs they (typically a fairly junior person) will sort out the applicants into two piles, those who meet the minimum requirements, and those who don't. Depending on the size of the pile of those who meet those minimum requirements, they may interview all the applicants in that pile, or sort it further, using the desirable skills/attributes to bring the number of potential interviewees down to a manageable number. If they have several people who meet all the essential and desirable requirements, then they will either interview all those candidates, or use some other means of whittling the numbers down. This must be done fairly, as to not do so could lay them open to claims of racism/ageism/sexism or any other form of unlawful discrimination. They would probably shy away from discounting candidates with a break in their employment history, as that could be deemed to be sexist.

From this, two things are fairly clear. Firstly, if the person sorting the applications does not see that you meet the minimum requirements, you are not going to get an interview. Secondly, the more of the desirables you can show that you have, the better the chance you have of making the final cut. What is not so clear is that, even if you have all the essential and desirable skills and attributes needed, you might still not get an interview. You have to make it past the sifting process, which, as I mentioned, is typically carried out by quite a junior person, in the HR department if the organisation is large enough to have one. They will be using a checklist (generally, this will be identical to the list of essentials and desirables given in the application pack) to sort the wheat from the chaff. Make it easy for them to tick every box by addressing every one of the essentials, in order, and as many of the desirables as you meet, again, in order. Do not assume that the person doing this task understands your job, make it easy for them to tick the boxes by being unabiguous about each point., for example, if the job asks for someone with a thorough knowledge of electronics, do not simply say "I have experience of working on PECs", a better comment would be "I have experience of diagnosing faults at component level and replacing individual components on Printed Electronic Circuitboards".

Once you've got to the interview, it's generally a level playing field. Outshine all the others in the interview, and you should get the job even if other candidates have all the desirables (on paper, at least) and you do not. If it comes down to a photo-finish, then the person with all the desirables may have the edge over the person without, but other factors come into play here, so it's not necessarily a given. This is the point at which an erratic employment history can jeopardise your chances, but you will have had a chance in the interview to explain your employment history and allay any fears that they may have that you would be a risk.
 
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