Hot Jobs: RFID Systems Engineer

RFID adoption is spurring demand for these hires

Job description: An RFID (radio frequency identification) engineer handles developing and implementing a company's system to track goods and information via wireless chips. Industries where RFID engineers are needed range from retail to health care to pharmaceuticals, according to Andy Zaleta, partner and coleader of the technology practice in the Americas for executive search firm Battalia Winston International. Demand for these hires will grow as more businesses adopt RFID. A 2007 survey by CompTIA found that more than two-thirds of organizations surveyed believe there is an insufficient pool of RFID talent from which to hire. RFID is "coming into vogue in the future, without doubt," says Zaleta.

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Why you need one: Applications for tracking technology are limitless, and more uses for RFID will be developed as chip prices decrease and standards are introduced, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. However, the technology's newness means that a company's level of RFID use will determine the depth of the role and the type of hire needed. Firms with a more established program will need employees who can help maintain the system. Companies with limited or no RFID experience may require someone to build all aspects of a system.

Desired skills: An electrical engineering degree from a major technical institution (think MIT; Carnegie Mellon; University of California, Berkeley; or Georgia Tech). Industry experience using RFID is a definite plus. In a retail environment, ERP, CRM, distribution and supply chain management experience strengthen candidates. An understanding of security doesn't hurt either, since RFID tags may hold sensitive data.

How to find one: RFID engineers are usually buried in an organization, which makes finding one difficult, said Zaleta. Try looking for leads in industry journals and at conferences, which offer the opportunity to network for possible candidates as well as the ability to research potential hires.

What to look for: Candidates need to have an outlook beyond a strict engineering mind-set, said Zaleta. Companies need conceptual, strategic thinkers who can see future uses for RFID and leverage the technology. Strong communication skills and the ability to work with others are key. "Teamwork is important. They need to interface with people across different parts of an organization," said Ellen Valentine, chief marketing officer for CIO Partners, a recruitment firm.

Salary range: $110,000-$120,000, based on experience

Elimination round: Zaleta emphasized that a candidate needs to see larger applications for RFID. "You want someone who can say, 'Yeah we're doing this now, but here is what we can do down the road.'" Hiring a third party to test candidates' IT skills will also help determine whether they have the proper technology background.

Growing your own: The qualifications for an internal candidate aren't much different from hiring an outsider, says Zaleta. He recommends starting with engineers in an IT department. You need a person who understands IT but who also has an operations mind-set.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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