Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tuesday Toot - Winning Over Manufacturing

With my instrument!
Me at a trade show. In real life, I'm a software engineer/manager for the instrument I'm proudly standing next to.  And very few of those people from that world know that I'm actually just another mommy blogger.

In every company that I have worked at, there has always been a hardware component that must be manufactured as well as a software component.  During job interviews, I had no trouble convincing managers and potential colleagues that I am technically competent (except maybe in the case of Google), but stepping out onto the manufacturing floor is a whole different world.  Some assembly and test technicians have a chip on their shoulders and believe that they know more than any engineer does, especially a younger woman engineer.  They try to explain to me how serial communications work, or why an instrument is not passing spec.  I always treat them politely and respectfully, and in time, usually win their respect.  But respect is not something that is guaranteed with the job title.

In my current company, interactions with manufacturing are usually handled by my report.  When he was away on business, an issue arose on the floor where the firmware couldn't be downloaded.  The technician asked the production manager for help, who in turn suggested that he ask me. "Angela?" he asked, "She won't know what's wrong."  The production manager, who I've worked with before at my last company ten years ago said, "Oh no, Angela knows everything.  She'll fix you right up." 

So I came down to survey the situation.  There were many possible causes for the problems, which I won't bore you with.  After ten minutes of diagnosing, I saw that it was getting close to break time for the floor so I suggested to the technician that he have his break while I looked into it further.  While he was on break, I found the problem and corrected it (cables got switched).  I was down on my hands and knees in my fancy khakis changing the cables around.  By the time he got back, I showed him that it was now working and what I had changed.  He was amazed.  He said it would've taken my report five hours to figure it out and another two hours to explain it.  So thankfully I lived up to my title of Technology Team Leader and earned some respect from manufacturing.

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