The New Job

It's been a while since I updated this, but things are starting to settle back down into normalcy.

The last time I updated the ol' blog, I said I had accepted a new job at Garmin. Well, I loaded up the truck and I moved to KC. I've been at Garmin for two weeks now, and it's been an awesome experience.

I'll try fill you in on my place in this exciting world of engineering.

I work for the aviation division. Garmin is best known for their portable and automotive devices. They also have industry-leading fitness and marine devices. Garmin recently released an Android-based smart phone, and it's strength is the powerful GPS and navigational assistance (rather than relegating those functions to an add-on "app").

Fewer people know about Garmin's avionics products. Essentially, these products provide an entire avionics solution to aircraft manufacturers (and some retrofit installers).

Within any avionics system, there are four major sub-systems: sensors (input), controls (output), central processing, and pilot interfaces. The sensors pull information into the system from the environment, radio signals (of many varieties), and the aircraft itself. The sensor inputs are processed, and (based on the wishes of the pilot) various components of the aircraft can be automatically controlled during different stages of flight. The classic example is the autopilot feature (that can maintain an aircraft's heading and altitude) common to most modern aircraft. More importantly, the avionics system gives the pilot critical feedback on the status of the aircraft that is necessary for typical modes of flight (i.e. he doesn't crash into the ground because he didn't realize the aircraft was pointed straight down).

For my first project, I work with the sensors group of engineers within the aviation division of the company. I am currently developing embedded (low-level) software for a microprocessor in one of those sensors. A lot of my friends and family just assume I work on GPS units since that's what Garmin is most known for. In fact, I don't work on anything that involves GPS. It's a very exciting project for a newbie engineer.

At a higher level, Garmin is an amazing company.

Ever since I was involved in the ISP business, I felt that most companies just existed to scrape up every last penny from consumers and their competition. In telecommunication, a critical component of business strategy is the acquisition of competitors' customers through several means (buy-outs/mergers being the norm). In the media business, there's the concept of "ad dollars" which represents a given business' advertising budget. A media company's primary goal is to "capture" more of those dollars than their competition from an individual business.

Certainly, a business exists to make money. But, when money is the primary driver of that business, I've never seen an overall positive result on the employees, the community, or the industry it serves. Just look at the miserable state of traditional media companies, and the recording/production companies that used to do so well. It's hard to make genuine progress when you're tied up trying to cut down your competition--and your customers.

Garmin is a member of an elite breed of companies that makes financial gain a secondary goal. We believe innovation is not only the key to success, but also its primary metric. Just in my short time here, I'm amazed at what this company can do with that kind of fuel.

Garmin doesn't outsource components of its operation that most modern business find inconvenient. In reality, there's no such thing as a "turn-key" solution, and you won't find anyone here using that word in a serious context. We do it all, and we do it better than any of our competitors.

Already, this feels like home, professionally speaking. I've always tried to lead through service to others, and that's exactly the attitude that's (successfully) fostered here at Garmin. We're not in this game for individual, selfish success. We're here to use our talents to make some tiny fraction of the world better. As an engineer, that's all I need.

[The picture is a promotional photo from Cessna. The graphical displays are the interactive part of a G1000 "glass cockpit" installed in a Cessna 182. There is a lot more behind-the-scenes in a G1000, but this is the most graphical part.]