Product Support Engineer
LaRisa Sergent
Employer: National Instruments

Position description:

Engineers in all types of disciplines use National Instruments (NI) software products to write their own programs for test, control, and measurement.

As a Product Support Engineer, I manage projects that impact the supportability and usability of these software products.

I work on issues such as:

  • Making our software intuitive for engineers to use.
  • Identifying common bugs and usability problems with the software and working with developers to correct them.
  • Creating documentation and training materials for NI's technical support department Working one-on-one with large customers to ensure their success using NI's products.
Photo: LaRisa Sergent
How They Got There
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Undergrad degree:  Chemical Engineering

College to career:  I graduated in May 2008. I got offered my current job seven months before graduation. I think most engineering companies want to hire the best and brightest new graduates right out of college. If you work hard to make it through an engineering curriculum and get involved outside of the classroom, you will have many opportunities ahead of you.

Career influences: 

I came to NI primarily because of the culture of the company. It offered a huge variety of technical career paths. I had an Engineering degree, but wasn't exactly sure how to use it - Hardware or software? Research and development, or technical marketing? Project management or people management?

At NI, I got to figure out that I like software, managing projects, and helping people. So I chose the Product Support Engineer path. My job aligns very little with my Engineering classes in school, but it aligns a lot with the activities I enjoyed outside of class, like event planning, mentoring, and being a Teaching Assistant (TA).

The Ups and Downs
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Pros:

  • I'm really glad I was able to use my Engineering degree in a way that's both technical and people-focused. I spend more time creating documentation and managing projects than I spend writing code or designing software.
  • I get to help other engineers be successful with their projects.

Cons:

  • A lot of issues I work on are very time-critical and the customers expect fast and easy resolutions. That can be stressful at times, but on the other hand, it can be exciting and rewarding.
  • Being a go-between for customers and developers, I have to communicate with developers on a very technical and in-depth level sometimes beyond my own schooling, then turn around and relay that information to customers who communicate in terms of their own broader projects and industries, again beyond my schooling. There's a lot to learn - both a pro and con depending on how you look at it.



Recommendations
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