“Hardware eventually breaks. Software eventually works.”
Many analogies can be drawn from the above quote, but I would like to describe what it means to me. I have spent seven out of the last thirteen years trying to improve my software before the hardware broke. A blue-collar worker sells his physical body a little at a time, while a white-collar engineer sells his knowledge. Having knowledge and experience in both fields now, I have a new respect for engineers and a new drive for my future. I have learned that engineering is much more about how you think than anything learned in the classroom.
As of the beginning of this internship at Garmin, it was my objective to understand the certification process, and the internal processes and programs used at Garmin AT. While the process to certify a product for aviation use is rather simple, the act of gaining the data to support certification claims is a complex process that necessitates a department of 40+ engineers to gain and maintain certification. This is an internal process up to the point of FAA demonstration that requires many tools to remain organized. To track the revision of documents, I had to learn and utilize StarTeam, then do the same with Requiem, as Garmin changed programs during my stay. Issues found during testing were logged in Aviation JIRA, a network-based program that allows for categorization, assignment, and tracking of workflow. In an effort to share the tribal knowledge among its employees, Garmin uses a wiki page, Confluence. Meetings occur on a regular basis to discuss, categorize, and assign tasks, at both high and low levels.
The culture and community is unlike any company I’ve worked for. It is very apparent that Garmin values its employees for much more than just their productivity. Office life is very lax, but also considerate and respectful. There is little daily oversight or feedback, but rather a quiet expectation to accomplish tasks efficiently and in harmony with those you work with for a given project. Although I was an hourly employee, my schedule was up to me. I was not expected to work any number of hours, as long as my work was completed on time. I did have bi-weekly meetings with my mentor to monitor progress and ensure that I was getting the most of my internship.
Beyond the technical knowledge and skills I gained at Garmin, I also learned many things about myself and my place in the engineering workplace. As an aircraft mechanic, I was not very involved in avionics and I never became a pilot. I felt so very out of place working at an avionics giant. Although we all love airplanes, we speak in different terms. From this I’ve learned that specialization is key. We also speak at much different volumes. I am loud, in more ways than one and I know this. From this I’ve learned that if you’re going to be loud, try to do so outside of the visual and audible spectrum, or at least make it of pleasant tone and color. It was a very valuable experience for me and I have a direction for my future.