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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Holy Toledo

It's not really a phrase that I would say myself, but after my recent trip to Toledo Ohio everybody seems to find a lot of humor in saying "Holy Toledo!" The trip was relatively uneventful, and when I have more time I will post some information about it.

No sooner did I get in to work this morning then the boss was talking about shipping me back out the door. This time, he wants me to head out to Pueblo CO to find and diagnose a malfunctioning unit, and swap it out with a new working one. What makes the matter all the more upsetting is that there is a team of no fewer then 3 field technicians at the very place they are going to send me to, all of which are more then qualified to diagnose any of the problems we would have in the field.

The units we are making are satellite tracker units. As a gross oversimplification, they are like GPS relays, taking GPS position information that they get from the GPS satellites and transmitting it to us over a different satellite. The list of possible things that can go wrong with the unit are separated into two basic types: Internal failures and external failures. The internal failures are things that have gone wrong on our end, either during design or manufacture: Things like faulty hardware or software design, faulty construction, bad configuration, etc. External problems are things which we would typically have no control over such as physical trauma or satellite blockage.

Any field technition can take a look at the unit and determine if there is such an external problem. In fact, if I could get a reliable set of photographs of the unit, I could make the determination from the comfort of my own desk. Internal problems are much harder and typically would require some amount of disassembly and analysis that can only be done in the lab. In other words, there is no real reason to send me to Pueblo, because there isn't anything that can be learned from doing so.

Another problem with the plan is that they want to send me to Pueblo with a new unit, that I can use to replace the old one with. However, because of the volatility of the batteries, they are sending me out with a unit that has none. My job will be to take the batteries out of the old device and put them into the new one. This is a fine plan, unless of course the batteries themselves are the problem. In which case I end up with two non-working units and a pair of batteries that don't work and cannot be transported anyplace meaningful.

On top of all this, I worry that I'm being shoehorned into some kind of "Field Service Tech" job, something that I do not want, and that I feel is doing a great disservice to my intended career path as a whole.

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