“We build our products sort of like Lego, where we have different boards specific to each sensor that go on top of the main boards. So, we work on a lot of little projects here and there to complete the bigger picture.”
– Miranda Holder, electrical engineer
RBR’s electronics team is involved in the full scope of all our products – from ideation to design to final production. We caught up with Miranda Holder, one of the team’s electrical engineers, to ask about her role at RBR and what she does day-to-day.
What do you do at RBR?
Miranda Holder: I’m an electrical engineer—I work on the electronics team. We do the research and development for all of the electronics in RBR’s sensors and systems.
How did you hear about RBR?
MH: I actually heard about RBR when I was a student at the University of Ottawa. I was looking for a co-op position and saw the posting through the university’s internal job search. It looked pretty cool, so I looked into what the company does. It seemed pretty interesting, so I applied. I ended up doing two co-op terms with RBR.
What sort of work did you do during your co-op terms?
MH: My first co-op term was actually with the firmware team. I was working on a bootloader for the current generation of sensors. A bootloader is basically the bridge between the hardware and the operating system. It’s a program that runs when you first boot up your device, and it loads the operating system into memory. That was a really fun experience. And then for my second co-op term, I worked more on the electronics side of things, doing some hardware design for internal quality assurance. That was also a lot of fun.
What made you want to join RBR full-time?
MH: I did co-op terms at a few different places, and RBR was by far my favourite. I really liked that even though I was just a student, I was given projects that actually matter. I was treated like I was an actual engineer, which as a student is always a great experience. I really liked the respect I got in the projects I worked on, and I had some great mentorship from the other engineers, who all have a lot of experience. That really made me like working at RBR. And of course, the people I worked with—in research and development, we’re pretty awesome! I figured it would be a great place to start my career.
Can you tell us a bit more about the electronics team? What do you all work on?
MH: All of the internal electronics in everything we sell is done by the electronics team. Right now, there’s five of us: three engineers, including myself, and two technologists. We build our products sort of like Lego, where we have different boards specific to each sensor that go on top of the main boards. So, we work on a lot of little projects here and there to complete the bigger picture. It’s great, we get to see the full scope of every project we do, all the way from the idea stage to pushing it out to production. Of course, we also work really closely with other teams, especially the mechanical engineering team, the systems team, and the firmware team. It’s all about team effort.
What does a typical day look like for you?
MH: I show up and the first thing I do is get my coffee. And then I sit down, I look through my emails and see if there’s anything on fire from yesterday. A typical day will generally be whatever project I’m working on at the time, maybe some design work or verification, or maybe something’s gone wrong and I need to figure out what it is. And then every once in a while, a crazy problem arises from production and we go and try to figure out what’s going on. So, there’s typical days and not-so-typical days for sure. It’s a good mix; it keeps you on your toes.
What do you like the most about working at RBR?
MH: Definitely the variety of the work that I do. I’ve gotten to do so many weird, different projects, which is great as a new grad. You’re always looking to get as much experience as you can on different things, which is definitely the case at RBR. I also love working with the people here—that’s really what drove me to stay at RBR. I have some great mentors on the electrical team, and even on the other teams. We have some really smart engineers here. As a new engineer, that’s a really fantastic environment.
Do you have any memorable projects you’ve worked on? What made them memorable?
MH: I got to work on the RBRcoda³ and RBRsolo³ radiometers, especially in the end stages of the project. That included verification, finding the bugs, fixing the bugs, and figuring out how to make it production-friendly, so the production team can build it easily. Calibrating the sensor is super interesting, so learning the whole process of that was a great experience. It’s a very cool product, so I really enjoyed that. That was probably my most memorable project. I’ve also done some work for production. I built some testing rigs for quickly checking PCBs (printed circuit boards), which is helpful for the workflow. That was a memorable project because I was a co-op student at the time and was basically given free rein to build it. For some people, maybe that kind of responsibility could be overwhelming, but for me it was super rewarding. If that’s what you’re interested in, then it’s such a great thing.
What advice would you give someone just starting out at RBR?
MH: For someone joining the electronics team, I would say ‘just say yes to everything that you’re given,’ even if it sounds really scary. Because everyone on the team is super smart and helpful, so they’ll help you, and you’ll learn so many new amazing things, new amazing skills, right away. For anyone joining RBR in general, I would say, ‘don’t be afraid to ask questions and throw yourself into things.’ It may seem a bit overwhelming at first, because there’s so much happening at RBR, but everyone is very helpful, and the work is super rewarding and interesting.
RBR is steadily growing year over year and we are looking for more great talent… Why should people apply and want to work at RBR?
MH: People should apply because it’s an awesome place to work. The people are awesome. The work is really exciting. And we’re just starting on the next generation of sensors, so there will be tons of really cool design work coming out. The benefits here are great too, and RBR is a very flexible work environment. They’re very accommodating. If you’re someone who likes to stay busy, wants to try a little bit of everything, and likes to test out cool technology, then it’s a great place to work for sure. There are always new challenges and opportunities to try new things. So far I’ve done PCB design, 3D printing, firmware design, writing software—things that are not even necessarily related to electrical engineering specifically. But I gain valuable skills from them, and there are a lot of opportunities to learn. For students too, if they’re looking for a co-op where they actually get to do something that matters and get hands-on experience, then RBR is great for that.
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