Q: What did you study and where?
I graduated from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh with a Master of Engineering in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. This was way back in 1988-1993 when the department was still based in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh with all the distractions of the historic pubs.
Q: How long have you worked at Calnex and how has your role developed?
I have been at Calnex as a full-time employee for 7 years. Prior to that I worked on a consultancy basis dating back to the first prototype Calnex developed in 2007. I joined in 2015 as a Senior Embedded Engineer and have progressed to Principal Engineer in the last couple of years. I have also been operating as a Technical Lead on several projects in the Neo product program.
Q: What motivates or energizes you about your role and working life at Calnex?
Problem solving is the most interesting aspect of my role, and being an Embedded Engineer gives you a unique position in the technology architecture to interact with engineers in other disciplines such as hardware, VHDL and Application software. Teamwork is always key to getting things done and it is that interaction which generates the energy and knowhow.
Q: Talk us through a typical day at Calnex.
No two days are the same in my role which strongly appeals to me. There is structure to the day with daily Agile stand-ups which I run, but a typical day would involve some of the following to various degrees – defect investigation and/or fixing, contributing to project planning, feature development, supporting Application Engineer with customer issues, supporting Manufacturing Engineers with production issues, mentoring, architectural discussions, and coordinating access to project instruments for development and test.
Q: Most challenging aspect for your job?
Interacting with so many people is interesting but can be challenging to ensure nothing is missed or forgotten. It is not unheard of for a queue to form at my desk and it is important that I efficiently manage my time and contribution to so many stakeholders. We have good IT systems in place that help up to do this.
Q: What skills do you need to succeed in the role?
As an embedded engineer at Calnex you need good software engineering knowledge in C/C++ and experience of multi-thread architectures. Teamwork is essential along with the ability to multitask. Calnex as a company value their engineers and empower them with the responsibility to make decisions on technical implementation. Engineers need to be proactive but must also be willing to ask questions when they are not sure of direction.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an Embedded Software Engineer?
It is important that you have an interest in how the underlying hardware works, although detailed knowledge of the hardware is not essential. A useful starting point would be dabbling with one of the low-cost hobby development boards such as Raspberry Pi with a Linux distribution. This would be a good introduction to embedded programming and uses the same building blocks that even a complex multi-board, multi-processor products are built on. If this interests, you then Embedded Software Engineering could be for you.
Q: What do you do for downtime?
I am a member of Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society so regularly play golf both socially and competitively. I also frequently walk our dog locally and wider afield in country parks.