You might have heard the term “SME” (subject matter expert). For instance, when someone says choose our company because we are SMEs at something. Having deep knowledge on a topic is very important. But sometimes it feels that too much emphasis is placed on this vertical knowledge and not enough on total exposure. As an engineer in the field of test and measurement, my job is to deliver systems that verify quality and defend my customer's brand. To do that I need to utilize all possible industry best practices.
How do I keep my skills sharp such that I can deliver as my customer expects? In a word, exposure. Does it have to be exposure with the same products for which I'm building solutions? To some extent, yes it does. However, that should not be the only metric. Our customers are the ultimate SMEs of their own product. To do our job best we need to be knowledgeable enough of their product and industry to understand the technology and be aware of potential issues. Instead of being the SME on the product or technology, we need to be the SME on test.
So how do we become test a measurement SME? One way I would not recommend is to pick a single technology or industry and focus a career on delivering solutions for it. Instead I find much better success and growth as a test and measurement engineer by being part of teams that deliver solutions for numerous categories of products. We stay fresh, we stay engaged, we are continually learning and evolving. Exposure is the key to our success.
Be it on a plane, a trade show, or wherever I run into a fellow engineer, it is always fun to compare professional experiences. It is easy to get jealous when you meet someone that works for some cool company making some cool must have gadget. But 10 years from now they will be working on some derivative of that same gadget. In return they always seem amazed when they hear of all unique projects I work on.
For instance, in the past year alone my team and I have:
- Built Prototypes for emerging 5G standards
- Built Prototypes for future looking cable standards
- Created test stations for consumer gaming products
- Wrote software to help test power supplies for data centers
- Delivered a system to test hydraulic valves for warehouse forklifts
- Helped create an instrument to test equipment for the wireless infrastructure
- Developed test instruments for a space agency
The exposure keeps me sharp and makes sure I'm working with start-of-the-art tools and techniques. Not to mention, a project list as varied and technically challenging as this helps make test and measurement an attractive job for top talent.
In summary, it’s not only how much you know about a certain topic, but how much exposure you've had to many topics that make you a worthy test and measurement engineer.
– Systems Engineer at Averna