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Tracey Roche, Design Engineer

Tracey Roche, Design Engineer

Tracey works as a Design Evaluation Engineer for Analog Devices in Limerick. She holds a Bachelor of Electronic Engineering from UL. She did her co-op 8 month placement during college with Analog and spent her summer after 4th year working for Analog in California.

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What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

Secondary School subject choices: Choosing honours Maths, Physics, Chemistry & Accounting.

Doing so well and enjoying the challenge of these subjects helped cement the notion of aiming for a career in Electronic Engineering for me.

Tour of Analog Devices: I got a tour of Analog Devices from a neighbour of mine when I was in secondary school. While most of what she said went over my head, I was impressed with what I saw and thought "this would be a nice place to work".

Co-op 8-month placement in Analog Devices: The opportunity to complete my 8-month work experience college module in Analog Devices was a big milestone in my career decision path so far. As a result of this, I got to work with Analog Devices again the following Summer as a Summer student and also got the opportunity to work with Analog in California for the following Summer before finally starting a full-time contract with Analog Devices here in Limerick after graduating.

To see such a variety of work and meeting so many people, all enthusiastic about their work, really helped me in getting to where I am today.

In 2006, I spent 6 months travelling around the world and got the notion of "far away hills are greener" out of my head! While I enjoyed travelling and seeing the world, it also helped me realise what a good job I had at home. I was very lucky to get re-employed by Analog Devices after my 6 months of travel.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

The Career Guidance Counsellor at my secondary school and also a classmate of mine, whose father worked with Analog Devices were two of the main people who influenced my career direction. My parents were fully supportive but had no background themselves in engineering.

How did you go about getting your current job?

The 8-month Co-op placement in Analog Devices was key to me getting the job I am currently in. I kept in touch with my supervisor and even got Analog Devices to sponsor my FYP (Final Year Project).

Once I finished my final year and passed all exams and got my honours degree, I got an interview with Analog Devices and because of my history of working with them, I was confident that I could do a good job if given the opportunity to work full time for the company.

I got an unofficial phonecall and an official letter shortly after the interview to say I was successful in my application.

Describe a typical day?

I work as a Design Evaluation Engineer in the DAC Product Line. (DAC = Digital to Analog Converter)

The role of the Design Evaluation Engineer is to evaluate and characterise new Silicon designs - in my case DAC designs.I am currently working on a 40 channel 14-bit voltage ouptut DAC.

Previous projects included an Impedance to Digital Converter, an application  which is in Biomedical sensors to measure the impedance of the skin - useful for monitoring skin diseases.

Another application of this device could be to determine the ideal patch of skin on which to attach a smoking patch or birth control patch. The part could also be used to measure a body fat impedance - predicts hydration levels for athletes - general state of health measurements etc.

Another project I have worked on was for a large customer of Analog Devices - Siemens. It was an industrial output driver, the application for which is in Actuator control.

 As you can see, the products I work on are pretty varied in terms of their end applications, and hence their specifications are varied and also the tests required to evaluate these specifications.

My work involves both hardware and software and involves such tasks as: - PCB board design - LabVIEW software design - Report writing - Attending project meetings & giving feedback - Work on designing new evaluation methods

A typical day usually involves some measurements, either at my lab bench setup or in another lab if the test requires specialized equipment. Most days throw up a variety of issues - be it from the point of view of a part not behaving as expected or perhaps surpassing expectations or maybe equipment/setup debug issues requiring my attention - thus each day is usually slightly different from the last!

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

  • Evaluate new Si designs in terms of meeting specs on datasheet
  • Design per-product Evaluation pcb 
  •  Write software to aid in automating certain measurements *
  • Analyze the results and report to the team (Design, Test, Applications Engineers)
  • Debug any issues that arise *
  • Correlate with results generated on the ATE Testers *
  • Write a report summarizing all Evaluation data *
  • Provide measurement plots to the Application Engineer for use on the product's datasheet
  • Continuously strive to make the Design Evaluation job more efficient in terms of new equipment/measurement techniques

What are the main challenges?

  • Constantly advancing technology - both in terms of the Si designs we evaluate and in terms of the measurement equipment we use to do those evaluations.
  • Learning more about Fab process issues/Design Layout considerations which are not a direct part of my day-to-day job but certainly impact my debug capabilities and my understanding of how a product is working (or not working as the case may be!)
  • Constant improvement in terms of LabVIEW coding and upgrades to software packages.

What's cool?

What's "cool" about my job in Analog Devices - apart from the daily challenge and constant change, the fact that Analog Devices looks after it's employees and allows them the flexibility to have a good work/life balance is definitely a major plus of working for this company. In fact, it's probably the no.1 "cool" factor! That and the fact that one is constantly faced with "cool" advancements in modern technology - Analog Devices is certainly on the cutting edge in terms of technology.

What's not so cool?

Having to pick up a project that someone else is in the middle of and has had to pass it on (for whatever reason), is sometimes difficult. But when weighed up against all the plus-sides of my job, the "cool" stuff definitely wins against the "not so cool"!!

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

I believe I have good inter-personal and organisational skills. These coupled with good technical knowledge and a solid work ethic, help to make me a good "fit" for the job.

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

My Leaving Cert subjects were as follows: English, Irish, Maths, French (obligatory subjects). My choice subjects were: Accounting, Physics & Chemistry. I did all honours subjects and I think doing honours Maths and English especially really help.

English is not immediately obvious when one thinks of a career in Engineering, but from the point of view of report writing and corresponding with team members and even customers via email etc, it is a very important skill to master.

I was not 100% sure of my career path at the time of choosing the above mentioned "choice-subjects". My way of thinking was, one business subject, one science and another one that I thought I might like or be good at. Physics, Chemistry and Accounting all have a common theme of maths and problem solving, this was my link into Electronic Engineering... In hindsight, had some form of technology or electronics courses been available in my school, I think these might have been helpful. I'm not sure which subject I would have replaced though!

What is your education to date?

I attended Scoil Carmel secondary school in Limerick.

I then went on to do a 4-year Bachelor of Electronic Engineering degree in the University of Limerick. Here, Computer Engineering and Electronic Engineering courses were common for the first 2 years and then we parted ways in terms of specialized subjects. Part of the degree also included an 8-month work experience period, during which I worked in the Design Evaluation Department of Analog Devices. This 8-month period was during the Summer after 2nd year of college and throughout the first semester of the third year of college. This work experience was invaluable.

I spent the Summer after fourth year working for Analog Devices in California and have been working here in Limerick since.

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

Having honours Maths, Physics and even Accounting have helped a lot in both my problem-solving skills (the solution is most definitely not always immediately obvious in Honours maths questions!) and also in my organisation skills.

Taking neat logical notes in all of the above subjects, led to logical thinking and also helped me realise the importance of being organised.

Given the opportunity again, in both school and college, I would have practiced my presentation & public speaking skills more. This is another key aspect of my work - both in terms of "corridor-explanations/conversations" relating to describing a project or issue I am having with my current project and also in terms of official powerpoint presentations to a Group of colleagues.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

Getting a first class honours degree in Electronic Engineering from the University of Limerick was a nice start to my career, that, and getting the silver medal for 2nd best exam results in the whole of the Electronic & Computer Engineering Department in the year I graduated.

Since joining Analog Devices, some rewarding moments have included helping in getting breakthrough products to release within the targetted timeframe and also representing my Group in a corporate-wide conference held in Boston, USA.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

I am most definitely a people-person and think of myself as approachable and easy to talk to.

I am very organised and I think this is an important trait in almost any career-path one decides to follow.

I am a fast-learner and always try to remind myself to think positive. This spills over from my love of athletics/marathon running which also requires, motivation, dedication, organisation and maintaining a positive "can-do" attitude.

What is your dream job?

My dream job - I am in it! Analog Devices is a great company to work for. Employees are #1!

But, if I was pushed to choose another job, I would probably go for a personal coaching one. I love running and sports in general and already lead a Fit4Life Meet-n-Train Group on a weekly basis. I get a great sense of satisfaction from seeing people enjoying and improving at "my" sport.

If we could just sort out the Irish climate, such an outdoor coaching job would definitely be the job for me!

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Working with Analog Devices does allow me to maintain a healthy work-life balance. My boss is very understanding and once the work gets done, he is very flexible and helps me out in any way he can.

Analog Devices, as a company is also very supportive of its employees and recognises the talent in it's workforce and makes a point of trying to hold onto and nurture this talent. It is a great company to work for and makes plenty of provision for family/health/sports commitments/issues etc. that people may have.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

3 main things:

1. Be organised.

2. Try to keep a positive attitude.

3. Persevere. Working in a Design Evaluation role or indeed any electronic engineering role, requires problem-solving skills and half the battle with this is having a positive attitude. If you have a negative/pessimistic attitude, the battle to find a solution is lost before you even start. In debugging an issue, start with the basics and work from there. Like peeling an onion, gradually peel off the outter layers to reveal the inner core of the onion...as you work, you get more clues and develop a better understanding of the product/issue you are working on.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

Knowledge, Team-approach/Approachable Personality & Determination

What is your favourite music?

Whatever happens to be on the radio! Although I do like the Saw Doctors - they put on a great live show!

What is your pet hate at work?

People speaking extra loud on the phone in the nearby cubicles in the open-plan office!! That, or whistling/singing under their breath!

What is your star sign?

Pisces, but nearly Aries!!! Birthday is March 20th. Aries = strong will power and great obstinacy of purpose; usually born to be fighters in every sense of the world; have also the greatest ability as organizers on a large scale. The majority of Pisces people are kind and gullible. The young Pisces are adventurous, ambitious, impulsive, enthusiastic and full of energy. The Pisces are pioneers both in thought and action, very open to new ideas and a lover of freedom. These people possess a curiously natural understanding, which they do not obtain from books or study. They easily acquire, or rather absorb, knowledge, especially of the history of countries, travel, research, and like subject. I guess I am a mixture of all of the above - I would definitely consider myself an organised person, not so sure about the gullible part, although, maybe a little! I am certainly ambitious and enthusiastic and love sports so, I guess that counts as full of energy!! I have done marathons in Melbourne, Boston and here at home in Dublin, so that covers the travel & energy aspect at once! I also did well in school exams so maybe the "natural understanding" had a part to play there!

Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

I do not have any immediate plans to do any sort of formal courses in terms of a part-time Masters or anything. A lot of my job upskilling happens on a daily basis or if not daily, periodically through in-house company training courses, on new equipment/measurement procedures or new styles/upgrades in programming software we use.

Training is a big part of what Analog Devices stands for and as a company, it definitely encourages it's employees to continue to strive to upskill and take part in further training and education.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Anything involving problem-solving - not even necessarily Electronic Engineering related (as a start at least).

The skills of problem-solving and debugging issues, can sometimes be learned outside of the specific Electronic Engineering environment.

Obviously shadowing an Electronic Engineer for a day would be a great benefit to someone - both from the point of view of learning a bit about the job and also to see if you think you might like the job.

Engineering is a broad area and it would be advisable to explore a few different areas of it before deciding to take a job. For example, some electronic engineering jobs are done 90% alone with little interaction with others, other electronic engineering jobs might require interaction with people >80% of the time. Some jobs are mainly involved with hardware e.g. printed circuit boards and discrete devices whereas others are 99% software based e.g. LabVIEW, Visual Basic, C programming etc. Some jobs have a mixture of both.

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