I Spy With My Little Eye, My Supervisor?

Mridu Walia - Mechanical
Posted on: February 20, 2019

Welcome, readers of the Iron Warrior, to this week’s issue. As you may recall, we started a new rotating column in the last issue called “From the desk of a coop”, where Gabrielle talked about some things she did during her past work terms to kill time when she had no work to do. So, in this week’s issue, I will be taking over the column to talk to you guys about some of my past coop experiences and things that I did to kill time. To re-iterate what Gabrielle said in the last issue, obviously this does not mean to waste company time and resources, however, sometimes you find yourself sitting idle with absolutely no work to do. Here are a few things that were a part of my coop experience, few things I did to enjoy my work more and occasionally kill time. Keep calm and read on!

I was working as a Product Verification Specialist for one term in Burlington. Now, I am an international student and I have never lived in another city except Waterloo. So, I obviously have to move to this city for my coop and believe me, I was terrified. First of all, I did not find a place till the day before my work term started. So, I moved a day before and this left me with absolutely no time to explore the city, check out the bus routes and commute time to my new workplace. Secondly, I am a Capricorn and therefore, I will lay the blame for my paranoia on my zodiac sign. You see, I need to FEEL prepared before a big day, I am not good at the let’s-wing-it thing. My landlady was super nice, she welcomed me and made me feel at home. A bonus for me was when I found out she has a cat because I absolutely love cats. So, I go to bed at a reasonable hour, but because I was feeling so unprepared, I legit woke up every other hour that night and dreamt on loop that I have missed my bus! Ridiculous? I know! Naturally, I was not well rested for orientation, regardless, I was so excited for my first day because this was my first work term. It went well and after orientation, my supervisor took me and my co-worker out for lunch. When we returned, he introduced us to our Product Verification team. This may not sound as cool to you as it does to me, but I was the only female on the team. So, overall: I felt really happy and excited after my first day.

Okay, let me tell you about some of my job responsibilities, so you can better understand what I will be talking about next. My company had designed a new product and I was supposed to perform functional and regression testing on the product, you know, the typical Quality Assurance (QA) stuff. In simple terms: I had to find ways to break the software and then collaborate with the developers to push out new firmware. To sum up: test, break, report, repeat! Capisce? I was assigned a separate lab to set-up all the hardware and equipment that was supposed to be tested. It took me one whole day, but I configured 3 PC’s, 2 HD cameras, 6 pieces of AV hardware, routers etc. and connect countless LED screens and keyboards. At one point during my work term, I was testing so many pieces of equipment that I had to set up extra keyboards and screens. It was as if it was raining keyboards and screens in there. This is what my workstation looked like, once I was done setting up:

Okay, so now a tiny problem presents itself to me: I worked alone in the lab and it was really noisy inside – with all the equipment and fans and PC’s running. So, I could never hear people come in and since my back was to the door, I never saw them coming either and so I would get startled very easily. So, I decided to set up the one of the cameras facing the door and route it onto one of the screens (as part of the tests I was supposed to be doing). Thereon, if anything was approaching the door, I could easily see it on the screen in front of me and not get startled.

Halfway through my work term, we had a huge exhibition coming up and my supervisor asked me to do performance tests while simulating a power outage scenario to see how long was the system recovery time and some technical stuff which I will not get into. This required me to power down all hardware in the lab for certain time intervals, ranging from 5 minutes to a max of 72 hours. For the smaller time interval cases, the frequency of the test cases was high to get a better estimation due to the larger sample size. It would get monotonous and boring at times because I was working alone in a lab. So, I decided to make things more interesting. I would play my favourite music on YouTube and route the audio and video onto the screens, which as you can see were surrounding the room. This was a part of the tests as well, so if there were any issues with the audio or video, I would be able to see it on the screens or listen for it, usually in the form of distortion. Occasionally, I would leave a movie running on one of the screens, when I was required to test for glitches in the video.

So, here is the takeaway: my job was pretty foreign to me because I had never worked with hardware or software; the thought of working on an upcoming project independently was exciting and terrifying at the same time; my workstation was suffocating and noisy; the cafeteria had two vending machines, so I thrived on 5 cups of coffee. Yes, it was terrible at times, but what got me through it was thinking about how this was an opportunity to be creative and how I came up with ways to entertain myself while making my work more fun and challenging; how cool it was to be the only female on the PV team and to be working on a project independently. Overall, it was an enriching learning work experience!

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