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It Just Works

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic by The Police - my feelings when it just works

I’ve tried to do a lot of really difficult things in my life. Almost all of them are technical, and most of them happened during undergrad. Just because they were difficult doesn’t mean they were smart, they were just deliberately harder than they needed to be. Some great examples include:

  • Party Rock Illinois
  • ECE385 Etch A Sketch
  • GE410 Word Clock

I’m not going to reiterate their respective stories and failures here1, that’s not the real point. The point is instead that they’d have the same story over and over. Act I, everyone gets assigned something to do. I think all the suggestions are boring, so I ask if I can do my own thing. Act II, I do some initial investigation, and find something that seems like it is only slightly harder but way cooler. Hint: it’s way harder. Act III, I try and fail, often pretty miserably. This was such a common occurence in undergrad that my friend’s jokingly called these things “Brady projects”. I distinctly remember that being used the first time, and wow did it hurt.

You get points for trying right? For going above and beyond what was asked, but hopefully landing somewhere impressive right? Well, it really didn’t seem so. Instead it just ended up being a bunch of excuses that piled up with not much to show for it. I have a whole lot of cute PCBs lying around - some small wins and some big losses. In retrospect, they’re all kind of fun memories, but I’d really prefer having my first big technical win under my belt instead.

This only compounded once I started my job. I had convinced shown2 my boss that I could do this kind of hard work, and be trusted to make it happen. It had been a rough spring, trying to make some complex piece of hardware work. No matter what I did, I simply could not get it to work. We kept throwing more help at it (both internally and externally) and nothing would click. This was a critical piece of hardware that was required for a customer demo, so the pressure was really on at this point.

There’s no real rhyme or reason what happened - it just all started working one day. All our work paid off, and I finally learned what happened when you have a team of smart, hard-working, talented engineers all their collective effort together. You get something really badass really quickly! I can’t give away any work details on the blog unfortunately, but man is this dope. We had to make it look less “R&D-y” and more professional, so we threw it all in a shiny metal box. Getting “The Box” (as it was soon known) working, signed off, and ready to demo at a second’s notice has been such a highlight and plesaure for me. Just more proof that engineering is the best goddamned thing in the world. I love technology

  1. Party Rock does deserve one though ↩︎

  2. begone impostor syndrome ↩︎