Job Title: Senior Mechanical Engineer
Type of Company: My company make laser-based capital equipment for the semiconductor industry.
Education: Vocational training, 4 years
Previous Experience: I worked as an electrical engineer for 10 years and owned my own custom cabinetry, design and fabrication business.
Job Tasks: I work as a mechanical engineer and am a team leader and a mentor to younger less experienced engineers. My typical day is taken up with mechanical design, at the system level, of precision movement stages that have an accuracy and repeatability of 20-50 nanometers. I also track the progress of projects and report their results and status to senior management. In the semiconductor industry timing is critical. A part of my job that is not so obvious is that I sometimes need to travel to the Pacific Rim countries where most of my company's equipment is installed. I am required to meet with senior staff and work with their applications people in order to customize the process necessary to successfully process their product in a speedy and cost-effective way. Because my job requires me to work at the system level I have to be able to design and troubleshoot complex electronic circuitry. Another part of my job is to interface with marketing and operations and propose ideas for ways to use our mature technology in new applications. Operations is the manufacturing arm of my company; they must have a product design that is workable and meets cost targets.
I am required to work very closely with hundreds of suppliers, sometimes choosing single sources or directed sources for very complex parts and assemblies. Another part of my job is creating drawings and work instructions. Operations cannot accept a new product without all of those items in place. One last thing that I am required to do is create specifications that will define how each machine can be expected to run. I am also responsible for designing crates to ship the product, which weighs in excess of 5000 pounds. Although it sounds simple these crates need to protect these million dollar machines during transit, and the crates also have to be certified as bug free.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the design work, I really enjoy the challenge of designing parts and assemblies and then seeing it all come together and work as designed. Like my peers, I take great pride in my work and really enjoy the design and construction of prototype and Alpha machines.
The worse part of the job is the paperwork and people management. I don't feel that good people need to be micro-managed.
Job Tips: First, you should have an interest in the field of mechanical engineering, then make the educational investment, learn the basics, learn how to model, analyze and build parts and assemblies, then find a company with products that you understand or have an interest in. Pay attention to senior level people, this is where you are going to learn how to design in a practical way. Lastly, find a mentor, someone who will show you the ropes and help you to be a contributor.
Additional Thoughts: When most people think about mechanical engineering they think of metal, nuts and bolts, but it's much more than that. Every part needs to be analyzed and tested. There is a lot of math involved, but most of that is done by computers today. A mechanical engineer needs to know how to program the machines that mill metal into usable parts.
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