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Ray Ridley
11-05-2013 02:26 AM

What is Your Favorite Consulting Experience?

Maybe it is time for the older engineers out there to share some experiences of how they have proven their worth on projects in the past. We are often far too humble about what we achieve and then are concerned that we are not appreciated.
11-05-2013 04:39 AM
Top #2
Mau Pham
11-05-2013 04:39 AM

In my consulting contracts, I've often found that assumptions made by narrow-visioned company employees are often just old wives' tales. Broad-visioned consultants who have honed their knowledge through many different companies can often recognized these erroneous assumptions right away.

For example, in 2007 I took a 6 months' contract to implement a 3-phase Voltage Regulator for Intel microprocessors for IDT in Atlanta.

The block-diagram had called for 1 current sensor for each phase. Because the voltage produced across the sense resistor in each phase is only on the order of tens of milli-volts, the project manager had insisted auto-zeroing the input offset voltage of the op-amp serving each current sensor.

However, despite my best efforts, the remaining input offset voltage of each op-amp turns out comparable to its un-corrected offset voltage, due to a multitude of second-order effects, and subjected to practical constraints (such as the sizes on monolithic capacitors)

Another vendor had produced a similar IC, but using a single op-amp to switch to each of the 3 phases in turns, thereby eliminating the mismatches due to the different input offset voltages if a multitude of op-amps had been used. But when I recommend that solution to the project manager, he said that the vendor had applied a patent on it.

When I recommend that IDT should license that patent, he retorted:

"Shall we deduct the royalty from your pay checks?"

Another consultant offered to bypass that patent by perfecting the 3-op-amp approach, and got the assignment.

But years after I had finished my consultant contract, it turned out that not only the IC did not appear in the marketplace, but IDT also abandoned the entire product line.
11-05-2013 07:00 AM
Top #3
Darrell Hambley P.E.
11-05-2013 07:00 AM
My favorite contract work was a LIDAR power supply design for Lockheed several years ago; 60A pk at 3V to 6V, 180W average, area: 2x4 inches, and height 0.375 inch. That was a really tight 60W per cu in.
Why my favorite? First of all, the technical challenge was fun but 2nd, and more important, I worked out a reasonable schedule with the program manager and pretty much stuck to that schedule. When management respects engineering judgement, the work is enjoyable and the market gets a new product which works.
11-05-2013 09:41 AM
Top #4
Joerg Schulze-Clewing
11-05-2013 09:41 AM
Two come to mind. One can be summed up with one sentence during a telephone call after I fixed a major field failure issue for a company. An executive said "Since Thursday I can sleep through the night again. I seriously thought we were going to go under".

The other episode was during a visit to another client. One of the engineers looked almost depressed. Luckily I already had some education as a lay caregiver back then and was able to talk with him after hours, half the night. He had major personal problems and badly needed a listening ear and someone to trust. This almost mattered more to me than all the technological breakthroughs over the years.

As for the most fun projects it's like the president of another clients summed up: "The best projects are those where, after committing to the task and to what you promised to achieve, they give you the assignment and you immediately feel a serious knot in your stomach".
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