Declassified Career Survival Guide: Stef Anderson
I spent this past summer far from home in Carlsbad, California, working as a reliability engineering intern with Viasat, Inc. I’ve never really traveled outside of the Midwest, so living so far away was a challenge, but Viasat really helped make Carlsbad feel like home.
Viasat is a global communications company that strives to connect the world. Their biggest commercial market is in providing internet services for residential and in-flight wifi. They also work on government contracts for telecommunications systems. They have locations around the country, and even some internationally, but their headquarters is in Carlsbad.
Their internship program is phenomenal. They paid for my relocation and housing, which was located just a couple miles from the coast. They also hosted numerous events to help interns network and socialize – including hikes, a San Diego Padres game, jet skiing on a nearby lagoon, a beach bonfire, and a cool hackathon with interns from all of their U.S. locations.
The main project I was assigned this summer was unique for a reliability engineer. I primarily worked on understanding the capabilities of an electronic reliability analysis tool called Sherlock, which has a lot of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) within it. I was trying to use Sherlock to replicate results that the test engineers were seeing during thermal cycling on one of their products. I was hired specifically to do this project due to my interest and experience with FEA.
The other major project I was involved in allowed me to work directly with a customer. This project required my boss and I to perform testing and analysis on components to prove to the company we were working with that we could meet their reliability criteria and would not negatively influence the system our product was being installed on. We would take apart components and apply worst-case conditions on the parts to show that if they were to fail, they would fail in a way that would not compromise their system.
Typically, reliability engineers focus mostly on a product’s lifecycle. A big part of reliability engineering is analyzing failure rates and MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure), and you cannot talk about reliability without showing the bathtub curve. Reliability engineers determine which region on the bathtub curve a product’s failure rate falls into. Using this information, reliability engineers make suggestions to improve the design in a way that will decrease the failure rate.
The company culture is amazing, they genuinely care about their interns and our experience at the company. I was able to request meeting time on anyone’s calendar and ask about pretty much anything. I set up a meeting with the Vice President of Corporate Quality, and we talked about career paths, both mine and his. I really enjoyed my experience and highly recommend working at Viasat.