I had won a scholarship from Intel in 1997 which subsidised my remaining university years, so after finishing in there in 1999 it was a pretty quick migration to the corporation here.
As I recall, I finished my last university exam on a Thursday and started work here on the following Monday. There were interviews naturally and the standard process was adhered to, I just scheduled them neatly. After passing the entrance interviews etc. the next step was to find a particular role which best suited my skills, which led to a system administrator role: managing an array of computers which controlled a respective set of tools in the factory. The position in my current job is the result of a number of smaller transitions/promotions from there.
Describe a typical day?
Arrive in and check my inbox for any major issues which demand instant attention. Usually there are no surprises but the plant runs 24 hours a day so sometimes issues can crop up at 3am and they would be queued there for me in the morning.
The priorities are set at a number of levels (weekly, and quarterly for example) so I have a reasonably good idea of what to expect for the upcoming day however if issues arise they may become the highest priority and take over for that day. My calendar for the day will contain my day's scheduled meetings so I can see where I am committed to being at certain times (handily synchronised with my mobile phone so I don't miss any of them).
A sample project that I might be working on in a given day may be a programming project for a middleware application. As part of a larger group my efforts will be in concert with the other programmers so there may be a meeting with these peers. Currently I am working in union with a group of programmers in Israel (where we have another campus) and they are 2 hours ahead of GMT so am more likely to have a voice conference at my desk early in the day with them to discuss the issues of the day (such as requirements definitions or the specifics of a program. Then it might be a period of programming or testing from my cubicle before lunch. Lunch would be at the partially subsidised canteen where there is a broad selection available.
After lunch I may be involved with the installation or configuration of a computer attached to a factory tool so that may require visiting the factory floor for a while. (I work in an area which is not in the bunny-suit arena, so I wouldn't normally don those layers of clothes). At the tool we may install or test out a new suite of software and possible debug issues arising from that. In the evening I may be involved in a meeting with the US teams (who are 8 hours behind GMT) so that would only really start at 4pm. Such a meeting may be to synchronise with that team to confirm that we are running the factory in exactly the same way or discuss future changes) For the programming tasks, the timescales are longer (of the order of 6 months), but the day-to-day sustaining of the Ireland factory is on much shorter timescales and as such priorities can change quicker.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
As I span two roles currently I have one selection of roles which pertain to the sustaining aspect of the Sort Department here. These would entail maintaining software on the automated machinery and dealing with technical issues. The aim is always to automate tasks to the highest level and maintain integrity in the processes at all times so I would be responsible for maintaining lock-step with my counterparts around the sites worldwide.
This may entail installing or configuring software. My second role is to contribute to a programming team which is working to build a middleware suite of software which will efficiently act to control the automated hardware in the factory. in this role I would be involved in the full software development lifecycle, seeing the software from initial requirements gathering to final release and installation of the software in the factory.
What are the main challenges?
Keeping abreast of all the changes is a major challenge. There are so many bright people all working away on their topics and changing the game so often that it is essential to keep abreast of your peers work. Go on holidays for two weeks and it could take another week just to catch up with everything. The technical challenges I experience here are often involved with the intricacies of minor details in operating systems, networking protocols or programming. Staying on top of the game involves continually keeping track of what are the trends and technologies outside the corporation too. e.g. subscribing to blogs to stay informed of trends in the processor industry.
I spend much of my time building and controlling some seriously powerful computers, way beyond what PCs are capable of. I get to work with hardware sometimes worth upwards of a million euro. I get to work as part of a team that are producing stuff worth literally billions of euro.
I get to hang out with some of the world's most techy geeks; eg. having lunch with an astrophysicist, a plasma physicist and an ex-systems administrator for the world's most powerful supercomputer (not all at the same time though :-). I sometimes go on expensive business trips to the US or middle-East; and naturally get to spend some holiday time there too.
What's not so cool?
Meetings, although necessary to get the job done, can sometimes be boring.
The Internet bubble: means the stock price doesn't rocket up like it used to.
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
A definite interest in all things geek, preferably uber-geek. Even if I wasn't employed here I think I would do much of this stuff, just for fun.
I revel in more intractable technical problems and love to find a really succinct solution to a difficult issue.
From my official education I brought a range of technical abilities, such as engineering principles, electronics (digital and analog), mathematic basis and programming; but I also brought some real world experience from having dabbled in PC building/programming as a hobby.