The transition from Uni to work can be a shock. Personally, during this transition, I was ready to take any advice I could get my hands on. Below is a record of my experience and some valuable lessons I have learnt in my first 6 months at cellXica.
Finishing my dissertation, sitting final exams and graduating in 2020 was a turbulent experience. I had completed a degree in Electronic and Communication engineering – with a dissertation in FPGA based hardware acceleration – and I was looking forward to beginning my career at cellXica. I was excited by the prospect of working amongst engineers with a wealth of experience, in an environment where I’d be able to develop my skills in the areas I had interest in. However, at this point I had little understanding of what to expect, or what skills would be useful for me to have.
I hope I can help a recent graduate with this post – as other blogs helped me – to gain a better understanding of what to expect making this transition.
My first project.
When I joined the company there was no time wasted before I began to familiarise myself with the workflow. Within a week I had already begun my first project. I was tasked with designing a test program for several hundred RF PCBs in the final stages of the manufacturing process.
For my project I would need to design and write a C++ software test using cellXica’s internal testing and calibration software. This would go on to be used by the supplier’s technicians during the manufacturing process.
The test software would need to: be able to communicate with a set of test instruments; set up and return the measurements from the instruments; compare the measurements with generated limits; then take the measurements and automatically generate and organise the Latex PDF reports using Bash scripting.
After coordinating with the project managers, my mentor and I could begin work. The project took us the best part of 3 months, but in the end we met the deadline and the suppliers could run all 200 boards through the test with rare failures.
This first project was a great introduction to the company. Being a self-contained technical project spanning: RF instrumentation, software design and hardware. Not only did it allow me to learn new skills and refresh my memory of programming C++ software, but it also gave me a familiarity with every part of a usual project flow.
Key lessons I learnt along the way.
From requirements capture to the final deadline and presentation, I felt this project gave me an invaluable crash course in the normal workflow. It was also a great opportunity to gain an understanding and familiarity with some skills and tools in the field.
Of course, many of the technical skills I learnt are only relevant to this specific circumstance. The most valuable skills I learnt were far more general. Below are what I consider to be the most important key skills I gained during this project:
It is essential to have a good understanding of your project. The broader the project the more important it is to work with the project manager to develop a strong project plan. This will keep you on top of the activities and deadlines. Meaning, when it comes to it you can focus all your energy on the technical aspects of the projects.
Being a strong communicator and collaborator is essential – with the project managers and with the other engineers. It is important to be able to explain your work at the intersection of other’s work. This will allow you to effectively solicit support from more experienced colleagues.
Be open to learning
Although it feels cliché, this is by far the most important piece of advice. You will be responsible for the design and implementation of systems spanning multiple technical areas and I can guarantee the majority of these will be unfamiliar. Being open to learning will accelerate your development and make the process far more interesting. Even if it sometimes means opting to investigate unfamiliar solutions to a problem, every new skill learnt is another added to your arsenal and will make you a more effective engineer.
Since this initial project, I have:
- Begun work on developing embedded software for the testing and calibration of the company’s next generation product.
- Utilised my web development experience to collate, store and display measurement data taken from all the tested devices in a local web server and database.
- Ran a workshop in summary of my initial project on production testing and characterising RF devices.
Being a SME, working at cellXica can be fast paced. There is a broad scope to explore, utilise and develop a range of your skills. I cannot understate the importance of a working environment that both aligns with your personal development goals, and also encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing. I have been lucky to find this at cellXica, and I can only hope you are too.