Work

A Place To Live

After all of four days of searching, we found a place to live! I’ll be living with my good friend Jeff, who will be attending law school at the University of Washington in the fall. It’s in a nice section of Greenlake not far from where the work VanPool would pick me up. In fact, I think it’s the perfect location: walking distance to the VanPool and walking distance to Greenlake.

We put down our holding deposit and will get the official word on Wednesday.

In total, we looked at four places: one condo (as a rental), one house, and two apartments.

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Days of Class Left

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I had an epiphany the other night while falling asleep: I’m graduating. You might think that with only a few days of class left, this fact would be a little bit more pervasive in my thoughts; but it’s not.

I also confirmed my Return to Work (RTW) day with Boeing. I’ll be joining the Real World™ on August 14th at 7am. One of the things I’ve always like about Boeing is that the “work week” (i.e. the start of the pay week) is a Friday.

I feel this week will smack of reality.

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Halloween: Bill Nye, The Science Guy

For Halloween this year, I was Bill Nye, The Science Guy:

DSC_5965
Nikkor @ 25mm || 1/160 || f/25 || ISO200 || flash with snoot || tripod

I was not in possession of bow-tie at the time I took this picture, so the look is a bit incomplete. But I think you can get the jist of the outfit. Total cost of costume: $0.00. Thanks to Charity Braz (for the scientists coat) and Jens Jensen (for the bow-tie, not pictured).

On a side note, I think it was apropos that I went as Bill Nye. We both are engineers, we both work(ed) at Boeing, and we both lived in Seattle. Although, I’m not anywhere near as cool as Bill.

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You’re Gonna Want to Read All of This

Today is the beginning of fall semester; my last fall semester. I’m aware that this is monumental moment, however I can’t quite bring myself to really believe that this is it: the beginning of the end of 17+ years worth of education1.

And yet it is.

This past summer has been amazing in many ways. I had some amazing conversations with some amazing people, both in my personal life and at work. I still don’t have the future planned out, but that’s okay.

At the end of my high school graduation speech, I quoted a famous Churchill line, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” I think I was about four and a half years too soon on that remark.

This, my friends, really is it. I’m getting ready to write the last chapter in a book I like to call Andrew Ferguson: The First 23 Years.

Thus I think it’s fitting that while I work on closing this chapter and book in my life, I am able to announce the title of my next book – Andrew Ferguson: The Boeing Years.

As my third internship with them was coming to an end, Boeing elected to offer me a job for after graduation.

I accepted.

After some time off to catch a breather, I’ll be returning to my group sometime in the late summer of 2009.

So, stick around. This year is going to be crazy-awesome and as Frank Sinatra sang,
The best is yet to come, and, babe, won’t that be fine,
You think you’ve seen the sun, but you ain’t seen it shine

1 I would actually argue that learning is a lifelong adventure. I hope to never stop being educated. So really, this is the end of my formal education – at least for the time being.

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What I Do

Here’s the project I work on. It’s from an article that came out in today’s Defense Daily:

From www.defensedaily.com:

Block 40/45 is a $2.2 billion program, with an average cost of $40 million per aircraft, according to Elavsky.

“It is, for all intents and purposes, a complete overhaul of the mission system,” he explained.

He added that commercial off-the-shelf technology “is providing improved computing to allow for better integration.”

“It’s really revolutionary–we’re finally getting a true open architecture system on board the aircraft,” he said. That open architecture will allow programmers to upgrade hardware and software regularly and establish a network for wide-band communications.

Image Source: Boeing

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Crisis of Plan

I think there’s a misconception floating around that everyone things I know exactly what I want to do in life. This is a myth, kind of: if right now was 1959, I’d be working for the McDonnell Aircraft Company building the capsules for Project Mercury. I’d later work on Project Gemini, Apollo, and SkyLab programs before helping design the Space Transport System. If I was lucky, I’d even get to ride up into space to do a stint on the International Space Station.

For the longest time, I thought programs like those still existed. Over the years, I’ve found that the “glory day of engineering” jobs don’t really exist anymore and working at Boeing has proven a big eye-opener to that fact. I think I also romanticized the idea of being an engineer working on the space program.

These two issues put me in what I’ll call my crisis of plan. You see, I had the future mapped out. Not in step by step detail, but more or less what type of job I wanted to do. To discover that I was a half-century too late was heartbreaking. I happened to come across something that I think captures my feelings pretty accurately, on the topic of Engineer at Uncyclopedia:
From uncyclopedia.org:

Star Trek is famous for its unrealistic, but very exciting, portrayal of engineers. In fact, nearly 83% of engineering students claim that they chose to pursue their specialty with the assumption that after passing their PE exam, they’d be assigned to a starship (NCC class or higher) and would spend their remaining days reporting warp core status to smooth, attractive captains or having sex with a diverse array of alien life forms. These engineers are incredibly disappointed to learn that their “captains” are mediocre managers who were promoted so the company wouldn’t have to clean up their engineering.

So where does that leave me now? Well, the search is on. I think I’m in a better position now then I was – even a year ago – to understand how engineering is done. I still want to work on space programs and that’s what I’m going to pursue because that’s what I love, even if it’s not the romanticized engineering I dream of.

I’m still holding out hope, though, that there I’ll be able to find my Shangri-La. I’m confident it still exists somewhere, it’s just not where I expected it to be.

Image caption: An engineer at the Instrumentation Laboratory inspects a mockup of the guidance and navigation system that will be used aboard NASA’s Project APOLLO spacecraft. The spacecraft will carry three U.S. astronauts to the moon and back. Instrumentation Laboratory, together with several participating contractors, is designing and developing the guidance and navigation system.
Image credit: MIT Office of Public Relations, undated MIT Photo

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Alumni Profile: Andrew Ferguson ’04

Over winter break, I had a chance to talk with Michael Fiorito, a faculty member at Seattle Academy (where I went to high school). He asked me to write a “synopsis of [my] scholastic and internship experiences for the alum newsletter.” The profile I wrote was just published in the Summer 2008 edition of After SAAS. The following is the original article I sent to Michael and is slightly different then the version published in After SAAS.

I graduated in June of 2004 and spent the summer having fun (as opposed to working). I started at the Colorado School of Mines in the Fall of 2004 and I’ll be graduating in May of 2009 with a Bachelors of Science in Engineering with a Specialty in Electrical Systems and an Area of Special Interest in Mechanical Systems.

I interned in the IT department at Nordstrom in Downtown Seattle the summer after my freshman year. It was a great experience and a great primer for working in the “real world.” Contrary to popular belief I was not a secretary and did not have to fetch coffee and make copies for the higher ups. My time at Nordstrom was spent helping with the 4th release of the Point-of-Sale system and included everything from helping run tests after the builds were updated (called smoke testing) to creating a database to help coordinate the nationwide training process to creating materials for the training processes.

I went back to school and studied some more. I was also the Chief Engineer for Mines Internet Radio, a new club on campus that was formed to broadcast music and sports games to students, parents, faculty, alumni, et al. We received funding from the school and I spent a large majority of my free time setting up computers, a server, remote broadcast system, website, and all the other things that fell under the per view of the Chief Engineering (which, as it turned out, was a lot). I also applied to, and interviewed with, the CIA; although I did not get in (they rarely accept students who are not juniors or seniors). However, an internship at Boeing ended up finding me. So the summer after my sophomore year, I worked at Boeing at Kent Space Center in Kent, Washington for the Integrated Defense Systems division (side note: the Lunar Rover was built in the building next to where I worked). I was tasked with writing code for a pending upgrade to the United States Air Force AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) fleet. In a word, the experience was: phenomenal. I had a fantastic mentor, an excellent boss, working at a fantastic job, doing something exciting.

I went back to school again, studied even harder and decided to come back to work for Boeing again (at the end of the previous summer, they had invited to me to come back again and placed me on Educational Leave of Absence). So I came back to the same group (USAF AWACS upgrade). But software programming wasn’t my thing. I had made this known at the end of last summer and on my last day, I asked what my other options were. I sat in on a meeting with the Mission Computing Hardware group and so I made my home there for this summer. My job this was a lot more interactive. I designed, updated, marked up Interface Control Documents (large drawings and documents that show where cables connect to, what type cable it is and what type of connector is needed). I also was tasked with selecting some of the hardware for the AWACS. Again, I had a great time and learned even more.

I’m now a non-graduating senior (4th year) with the end in sight. I left Mines Internet Radio at the end of last year to pursue other endeavors and I’m currently involved with a team on campus that is working on building a rover for a NASA contest to scoop up 150kg of lunar regolith (moon dirt) in under 30 minutes. I’ll be taking a three week field session this summer (a requirement to graduate from Mines) and then heading back to Boeing where I’ll work with the same group, but a different project which is to be determined.

Other things of note:

  • The summer after my freshman year, I spent a weekend (and then some) participating in a 72 hour film competition. I started out as an assistant and ended up editing the film when the other editor left. We won the Audience Award for our entry “No Witnesses”.
  • I’ve entered several photos over several semesters in our schools art shows.
  • I maintain a blog, https://www.andrewferguson.net, where I write several times a week.
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Book Clubs

Most book clubs read things like Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and perhaps even Lord of the Rings.

At Boeing†, our book club will be reading The Elements of Aircraft Preliminary Design. Unfortunately, it doesn’t start until later in the year, so I won’t be able to join‡.

True story.

† It’s actually through the Ed Wells Partnership which is a SPEEA§/Boeing joint-venture
‡ No, I probably wouldn’t have actually joined. But it’s a fun to think about.
§ Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace

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Something Meaningfull to Convey

Things have been quiet here (my website, that is) for a while. I can’t say that nothing exciting is going on, because lots of exciting things are going on. I just haven’t felt compelled to write really. I do have a couple of posts I’m working on regarding my drive from Colorado to Seattle, but those will have to wait for me to finish getting by pictures uploaded.

My brother left for a 9 week trip to Greece. I think he’ll have a great time and experience lots of growth while he’s there.

Work started last Friday. It’s fun and I love the people I work with. I do not, however, enjoying getting up at 5:30am. Unfortunately, this is not something that is likely to change now or in the future.

I also hate $4.29/gal gas; apparently not as bad as in San Francisco, but still ridiculous none-the-less. To that end, I have decided to VanPool to work. It costs $50 a month to be in the VanPool, which is $150/month savings on gas (and doesn’t include whatever fuel it takes to drive the five minutes to the Greenlake Park and Ride).

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