Big Shoes to Fill

My name is Jeremy Hochschwender, and I work in the Mobile Industry Processor Interface (MIPI) consortium at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL). I'm a freshman at UNH, pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering. My experience with the UNH-IOL started before I came to UNH. As a senior in high school, I looked at a lot of schools; the key thing I looked for was real world experience. I originally had no intention of going to UNH, as I didn't think that they had any programs that could compete with the co-ops that many other engineering schools offer today. One can imagine my surprise when I discovered the UNH-IOL. It was the perfect setup for me, as it would allow me to gain work experience within the industry just down the street from campus.

I started working at the UNH-IOL the summer before my freshman year at UNH. The newbie training program had me terminating Ethernet cables, participating in a class on networking, checking items off my task list and starting to learn about my role in the MIPI consortium. At first, most of the information was over my head and hard to grasp until I could be more hands-on. After some time, I found out that my job description would include soldering, and I was introduced to the master himself, Michael DeGaetano “Digi”, UNH-IOL alumni. I had some experience in high school learning how to do basic soldering, but this was the next level. I remember observing Digi and being amazed by his speed and precision. For my first project he gave me some small boards, a heat bath and a soldering iron. A few hours later, I was finished with my boards and faced my first reality check. The boards were not only messy, but rife with cold solder joints and bridges. I realized at this point that soldering was not a walk in the park, and that I needed to put time into gaining this new skill. I redid those boards so many times that I still resent them today.

Digi also showed me the basics of Altium Designer, and helped me with all the questions I had about drawing traces and multi-layer PCB (Printed Circuit Board). Altium Designer is a program used for designing PCBs. It presents an interface through which you are able to both design the schematic of the board, as well as place the traces and component footprints. We are then able to order the board from a manufacturer using the files generated in Altium. A few days later, I saw an email announcing Digi’s farewell lunch, a common occurrence when a person leaves the lab. With Digi moving forward in his career and leaving the UNH-IOL, the work he did for the MIPI consortium was now my responsibility. I didn't think much this new responsibility at first, because I hadn't considered the amount of time and commitment that soldering called for.

Taking on Digi’s position quickly became a reality. I had to hit the ground running, and I hit it hard. I encountered some struggles at first, and in doing so became very friendly with the desoldering pump. While I was not yet proficient at soldering, I was meticulous about the quality of my MIPI boards. Through trial and error, I started to learn the little tricks in soldering. Perhaps the most challenging part of this was that I had to learn soldering on the side. My primary responsibilities were still conducting MIPI testing, which also has a fairly steep learning curve. I find the testing I do to be very interesting, but I’ve come to truly love soldering. It is more of an art than anything else, and I find it very rewarding to know that I am producing a real product that is being used for testing a variety of devices for companies around the world. Digi certainly left me with some big shoes to fill ? I understand that it will take me some time to come into my own and be an example to future employees. I know that I have a lot more to learn not only about soldering, but about PCB design and electronics as a whole. While I still have a long road ahead of me, I am not worried about my future here at the UNH-IOL. Based on how much I've learned in the short time I've been here at the UNH-IOL, I can only imagine what I will learn in years to come.

Jeremy Hochschwender, MIPI Technician