An Embedded Engineer Looks Back At Her First Year Working In The Field
If you’re reading this at work, you’ve been there.
The first day at a new job can be an anxious experience, no matter what level your expertise. There are new colleagues to meet, new processes and requirements to adapt to, and a new chair to break in. It may be well over a week before you even get to setting your desktop background image.
But it can also be exciting.
When Anna Little joined the DornerWorks team in 2018, she was ready to jumpstart her engineering career. She requested to start working as an intern before her final semester at school finished up.
“I wanted to ‘get ahead,'” Little says. “I felt like it was a good way for the company to get through some of the ‘ramp up’ at a lower cost, and it allowed me to stare at things I didn’t understand for 20 hours a week, instead of 40 hours.
“Basically, I was hoping it would increase my efficiency as an employee when I started full time. I was excited to start and dig into new material and meet my coworkers.”
Little has now spent over a year of her professional career at DornerWorks, and here’s her take on how it’s gone so far.
I started working at DornerWorks right after I graduated from college with a BSE in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Calvin College (now Calvin University). So far, it has been the perfect place for me to begin my professional career. DornerWorks invests in its employees by expanding technical expertise and providing opportunity for professional development. Management all the way up to the CEO is accessible to every employee, and they are committed to making your time at DornerWorks successful.
There are 5 engineering groups within DornerWorks, each specializing in a specific technical area:
- Separation Technology (we call it “SepTech”)
- IoT Solutions
- Medical Solutions
- Core Services (this basically covers every aspect of technology development the other four areas do not)
I was on the SepTech team for the majority of my first year, so I learned about and used the Xen Project hypervisor, a type of open source software that enables multiple operating systems to run on a single processor in their own isolated virtual machines. I worked on 13 projects during the year which included, among other things, designing and implementing hypervisor structures, creating an exception handler, and aiding in writing a proposal for a SBIR, a government-originated contract that small businesses and larger ones partner on to fulfill. I also did training exercises to learn about the seL4 microkernel, a secure and mathematically-proven foundation for Linux-based applications, and Xen in order to ramp up on the relevant topics for possible projects to come.
Near the end of the year I expressed interest in moving from the SepTech group to the Core Services group. I felt my schooling had better equipped me for that work and it was more interesting to me, and I was able to switch. I have found that managers and coworkers alike have fostered a culture of honesty around the work done at DornerWorks. If an employee is unhappy or unsatisfied, management wants to know and help find a solution!
During my last project of my first year, I was on-site at the customer’s office for the majority of the time. DornerWorks does everything in its power to avoid this, but sometimes projects do require it. I enjoyed working with the people on-site and felt I was able to take complete ownership of the work I was doing for the project. Over this first year I feel I’ve gotten the hang of the workings of a DornerWorks project.
All of these projects require communication with coworkers, as well as customers. For example, communicating the status of a task or project often means speaking directly to the technical lead, and other times involves interfacing directly with the customer. I expressed interest in having more opportunities to run meetings and interface with customers, so my manager put me in a position to handle customer update meetings for the project I was on. I also sat in on meetings led by people I thought were good speakers to take notes on good practices with customer communication and running meetings. This opportunity for growth is a valuable commodity in the current work force, and should not be dismissed. Through conversations with my manager and experience at the company, I am able to figure out what my goals are and how to achieve them.
I am optimistic about my ability to grow and be challenged at DornerWorks in the future, as I think any employee would be.