Continuing our series looking at the people who make Control Techniques tick, here we speak to Luke, an embedded software engineer within our R&D team.
Senior embedded software engineer
Controllers division within R&D
Technology Centre, Newtown, UK
I studied for a Bachelor’s degree in software and electrical engineering at Birmingham University. While studying there I had asked Control Techniques for work experience and was taken in to work in tech support for two summers.
While I’ve been here I have also done a part-time MSc, also at Birmingham University.
Describe your current role and that of the department in which you work.
My current role encompasses all things industrial Ethernet, in particular at the high performance end. I’ve been working from day one on Control Techniques’ industrial Ethernet solutions, including time synchronisation and networking. From research and development through to implementation. I oversee the rollout into the products that customers see today, along with sister products. I also do a lot of work with remote I/O. We’re looking at the balance between cost and performance, so there are collaborations with external companies to ensure we are able to deliver the best we can.
Your key responsibilities?
Software and technical development primarily, along with research to make sure we know where we’re going and – importantly – why we’re going there.
Task you do the most in your role?
Working as part of a team, I will evaluate test performance from our automated nightly tests. We’re essentially monitoring for new defects or changes in the pass rates. It might be the test subject did what we thought it might do, or it might do something completely different.
There’ll always be a daily goal connected to this too. Here we ask what we learned and what problems have come up, and subsequently explore how we solve any such issues. Overall though, problem solving is the skill/task I use the most in my role.
Task you enjoy the most in your role?
Again, problem solving. The most enjoyable phase of problem solving is having fresh requirements from a customer, and going through the techniques of turning those requirements into the perfect product which will meet the customer’s needs. It’s often a negotiation too, working with the customer to make sure they’re getting exactly what they require.
How are you measured?
I measure myself on robustness and quality. In solutions I provide, I want to put out the most robust and potentially bug-free product and that doesn’t just happen by magic. It happens by being systematic, and through thorough testing. As a department, what we’re really measured on is being thorough and systematic. It shouldn’t be down to one person being a point of blame because we have processes to make sure that isn’t an issue.
What personal/technical characteristics or skills are crucial to your role?
Being measured and not being reactive is critical. You’ve got to know how to communicate with people across the business. You’ll need an ability to prioritise your workload and to focus on the highest priority thing. This is always a difficult thing to do, but if you can get that right then your workload becomes simpler because you’re not changing tasks all the time. Being thorough too; if you are working on something, explore it thoroughly and follow it through to completion.
What opportunities are there for progression?
When you enter the company you start out with a fairly generic title. I joined as a development engineer; quite broad brush. You’ll start out with shorter projects, maybe a couple of months. After a while you’ll get transferred to longer projects, perhaps up to a year in length. That’s where you cut your teeth. The pinnacle then is being given a project from the start, maybe a new product. They don’t come around often, but when they do it’s a real chance to make a name for yourself.
A junior engineer will always look to become a senior engineer, and the company is good in that they recognise the need for personal development. Wherever there is a need to learn something, and get up to speed quickly, they will always find a relevant training course. They are prepared to invest in people too which is of great benefit to both the company and the individual.
Advice for anyone considering a future in engineering?
Most times an engineer will know from a young age that that’s what they want to do. You need to show you can manage your own learning and priorities though. Go to university, through your own steam or otherwise, as the skills you’ll learn there are crucial to work as an engineer of any kind. Being technically brilliant is not enough. To succeed in this career you need to be fully rounded; technically brilliant but also able to manage your own priorities and continuously push yourself forward.