- Course: Mechanical Engineering (Industrial) MEng
- Nationality: Belgian
- Job title: QA Engineer
- Company: Mentor Graphics
What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?
I am working for Mentor Graphics, Mechanical Analysis Division (MAD). This subsidiary of Mentor Graphics, Inc. specialises in supplying analysis software for Electronic and Mechanical Engineers to use in product development industries. These include electronics, automotive and aerospace and defence industries. MAD fits into Mentor Graphics’ portfolio of products and services which cater to the electronic design automation (EDA) industry.
FloTHERM is a suite of 3D CFD software that predicts airflow and heat transfer, in and around electronic equipment.It can be used to design and analyse products ranging from components and boards to large complex systems, such as data centres and whole buildings. I have mainly been working on these products.
What is your role within the company?
As a QA Engineer, my task is to assure the quality of the products. This means testing the software, checking for bugs, ensuring new features function as expected, and generally making sure that the user receives a high quality product. Good knowledge of thermodynamics, fluid dynamics and electronics has been essential.
Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?
My day starts with loading up the latest build of the software to get all the latest updates and fixes. From here on, my day depends on the stage of development that we’re at. At the start of the cycle I mainly test new features, describing what is and isn’t working to the developers and raising bugs. There are always bugs to be found and fixes to be tested. Later in the cycle the testing becomes more general, focusing on the user experience and making sure the user interface and the thermal analysis results are consistent with previous iterations of the software.
Every day the whole team gets together for a short meeting to discuss what they have been working on and any problems they've encountered. This is a great opportunity to hear other people’s opinions, and to get advice from the people who have extensive knowledge of the software and the engineering fundamentals behind it.
At the end of the sprint, a review is held where I and the other QA engineers demo the new parts of the software that we have each been testing to the rest of the team. At these meetings the project manager decides which work and new features will go into the next sprint. Then the cycle continues.
What are you enjoying the most and are you involved in any interesting projects?
There are many projects that I have been involved in over the course of working on FloTHERM. One of the main ones is the FloMCAD redesign project. FloMCAD is an interface which allows the user to import almost any file format of CAD geometry to FloTHERM so that it can be used for thermal analysis. The interface had a complete overhaul so that it could be used in a much larger number of situations. I ended up learning a huge amount about the background and theory behind a lot of the commonly used CAD types.
Another project I have been working on is the introduction of Joule Heating to FloTHERM. This was a very important addition to the software. It allows the user to set up the material and electrical properties in an IC chip, for example, and have the program automatically calculate the current flow path, and then the thermal output due to electrical resistance in the conductive material. This cuts out the need to have an intermediary tool which calculates these things. Now all of the modelling and analysis can take place within the same program.
As a more general project, I also worked on developing the testing automation software. Different levels of the software are tested, from the GUI to the solver, every week to ensure consistency and help find problems. The testing is broad, and covers all parts of the software. You can really appreciate the size and potential uses of a program like FloTHERM after working on a project like this.
I really enjoy the responsibility that is given to me. I feel that my work is trusted, and that I can ask for help and advice for any problems. My colleagues have helped me learn a great deal about software, development of software and engineering tools.
Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?
My main motivations to take a year in industry were to learn and to become a better candidate for graduate jobs.
Firstly, working on cutting-edge engineering tools gives you a real understanding of the industry, and gives you a much better idea about which direction you could start your career. It gives you the chance to work with some very knowledgeable people; people you can learn a lot from.
Secondly, future employersappreciate seeing students with some real-world engineering experience. It shows that you already have a level of understanding of what is expected, and have experiences that others may have missed out on.
Finally, it also gives you a good experience of life outside of full-time education. By letting you take a step back for a year, a placement lets you come back with new skills and experiences so you can really focus on your final year(s).
What are you hoping to get out of this experience?
I am hoping to learn as much as I can about the field and really develop my skills. Coming back from my placement, I’m aiming to have a much broader pool of experiences to refer back to when I encounter opportunities and problems in the future.
Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?
Just go for it; you’d be surprised what you learn and how useful it will be. As long as you have the correct attitude to your work and your colleagues then you can get a lot out of it. The right attitude is simple really. It’s important to be on time, take notes, show competency and work hard. As long as you show you’re engaged and willing to work hard then there’s a lot to be gained from the process. Finally, when you are on the job, everyone at the company understands the level that the intern is at, and will be willing to help them out. So ask questions, learn a lot and enjoy it – it’s a unique opportunity.