Engineering Challenges working at a Start-Up

Working at a startup from an Engineering perspective.

Everyone knows working in a startup has a lot of advantages and challenges. No matter if you are a young graduate, or even when you already have a couple of years or extensive experience under your belt, working at a start-up brings a lot of value to someone’s career.
Our Mechanical and Electrical Engineers will tell you about their personal experience working at our Silicon Valley startup, OmniVis.

Here is an overview of how they experience working at OmniVis:

(From front to back: Juan Ayala — Electrical Engineer, Garry Valadez — Mechanical Engineer & Jordan Florian — Global Health Engineer @ OmniVis)

1. You will get a lot of responsibility:
Working at a startup will give you the opportunity to work in a small team with highly talented and motivated people. The chance that there is someone at the company with the same exact skillset as you or who thinks the same way as you do is quite small. When you or someone else runs into a challenge or problem, it’s up to you to figure it out and use the different skills from your other colleagues to come up with an innovative approach to your problem.

JUAN: When it came to determining the display for our device, there were three factors I considered: installation, electrical interface, and software drivers. Although my background was in electrical engineering, I was not aware of all the electrical interfaces and had little experience with hardware installation methods and software drivers. I had to approach my engineering peers who had a mechanical and software background as well as the usability studies to grasp the best screen to use. However, even with their support, it was not enough to fully determine a display. I had to independently research display interfaces, software drivers, and circuit designs to understand the feasibility with our resources and skills. Depending on which display was chosen, it would impact the housing design of our device, PCB layout space, and development time for programming. This was only one example of an important design choice I was responsible for. I had similar experiences with determining the power requirements, laser modules, camera specifications, and processor.

2. Variation, variation, variation:
Unlike a corporate environment, you won’t be put in a box with the label: “specialist”. When you are a Mechanical Engineer at a start-up, you will be designing new products, optimizing previous designs, communicating with our manufacturing partners, performing tests, thinking about the usability of the user, learning about the different materials, developing assembly documents, and more. No one day is the same as the previous and generally, throughout the days or weeks, plans will change (and your short-term goals with them).

GARRY: Product development is increasingly more diverse at a start-up. You are responsible for so many different areas of development and while addressing each area, new variables are considered that can further complicate and change the design. For example: after the initial design of our Test Kit was completed, early conversations with manufacturers brought to light some difficulties that may occur on the manufacturing line when looking to achieve our defined production totals. This brings the engineering team back to the drawing board to address these concerns that were not considered previously. But being so involved with every aspect of the Test Kit development results in a more thorough understanding of the product, which allows for changes to occur at a quicker pace. The quicker we can solve problems, the quicker we can continue to the next area of development.

3. You will learn from true innovators:
People who start their own businesses have a different mental and professional mindset than those who have never gone off to create something of their own. They are visionaries and know exactly how they want the company to move forward. Entrepreneurs, and in our case social entrepreneurs, see problems as opportunities and have an innovative mindset to approach them. They have a wealth of knowledge that not everyone achieves. OmniVis’ CEO, Katherine Clayton, approaches problems differently; she is constantly finding solutions and is driven to work in the most efficient way possible.

JORDAN: During my Master's at the University of Notre Dame, we were handed a massive packet of all the possible projects for our thesis work. I looked over the packet for about a week with nothing sticking out to me much, but then my advisor called me in to watch a YouTube video sent in by a company wanting to work with students. The company was OmniVis and I was instantly drawn in by the focus of the company: the combination of global health and engineering to create a product to impact the world. I worked with OmniVis for about a year while at Notre Dame before I officially joined as an employee. During that time, I studied Epidemiology and learned why it was so vital to have a surveillance system for diseases. Many diseases that target low and middle-income countries do not have these systems and thus outbreaks can appear without warning. After this understanding and firsthand experience in Dhaka, I saw a deeper explanation behind why Katherine chose to shape the company in the way she did. It has been great working with her from the early stages and throughout the growth process. Even through a global pandemic, the focus did not shift from diagnostics and working to improve health equity on a global scale.

4. Your work will be recognized:
In a small startup, everyone depends on on another. To move your product forward and make the company a success, you need everyone at their best, at all times. And this will get recognized since it’s nearly impossible to not notice a job well done or to give credit where credit is due. At OmniVis we have weekly team meetings that allow the employees to talk about their wins, challenges, and asks for that week. This way everyone receives an update from each other and understands each other’s struggles and strong points. This allows for cross-functional collaboration and for the team to understand each individual’s impact on the company. Our bi-annual feedback meetings, quarterly meetings, and one-on-one’s with the CEO provide plenty of opportunities to give and receive feedback.

5. You will work in an awesome atmosphere:
At OmniVis, we are a young team, all highly passionate and motivated. Working in a startup means working in an environment where cultural values are at the core of the company and are respected at all times. It also means working in an environment where there is room for a joke, and you rarely get confronted with a slow day.
There are always fun events, like virtual game nights, drinks after work on Friday’s, quarterly team events, and much more.

JUAN: Each of our contributions and expertise is valuable and impactful to the growth of OmniVis. In each meeting, everyone participates in solving a problem or in guiding the direction of OmniVis. Every person has an opportunity to speak and be heard without prejudice. Being part of a small team, we learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In doing so, we bond closer as a team and strengthen the trust in our capabilities and intentions. My favorite activity together is game night. After a hard day of work, we get to play fun games and get to see our competitive sides. It is a great way to get to know each other and relax after a day’s work.

6. You will be given more opportunities:
As most of us know, start-up jobs might not pay the exact same as a job at a big corporate company. Luckily, working at a startup offers a different type of reward: an incentive-based system that isn’t based on dollars, but rather on skills and experience attained and opportunities seized. The experience will outweigh the pay. You will have opportunities to try out many things that would be rare at larger companies. Additionally, your experience and skill set will have a direct impact on the company. Your personal growth contributes to the growth of the company, and will therefore always be encouraged. As the company expands, you will get the opportunity to take on more responsibility and potentially take on tasks you would never have dreamed of performing so early in your career.

Evidently, there are many great reasons to join a startup for those who value the fast-paced environment with incredible opportunities for growth. On the other hand, the startup culture is not for everyone, and many prefer the perks of working for a large corporation. If you align with the OmniVis mission and are excited about our reasons why joining a start-up is so valuable, check out our website: www.omnivistech.com/careers or email Human Resources: lotte@omnivistech.com

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