Shirley Tsao, Graduate Engineer R&D at Cochlear
A day in the life of…

Graduate Engineer R&D at Cochlear

Shirley Tsao graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) – Electrical Major from University of Queensland in 2016, and is now a Graduate Engineer R&D at Cochlear.

7:00 AM

My alarm rings! Time to start the day! Actually maybe I’ll just lie in bed for a few minutes first… I catch up on the news and dog gifs that have sprung up overnight.

7:15 AM

Finally roll out of bed. Have a breakfast smoothie, water the plants and get ready for work. 

8:00 AM

Drive into work while listening to podcasts. Approaching the carpark, I take in the grandeur of the Cochlear HQ building. 

As a graduate, you will rotate through different parts of the business in your first year, before settling into a permanent role. I’m currently at the Macquarie University office, working in the Implants Electrical team in Research and Development (R&D). I organised this rotation as I wanted to get a glimpse into the roles, responsibilities and culture of this team, which helps inform what team or department I might be interested in settling in next year.

8:30 AM

I’m working with a team of engineers on a new product. Before this product can be introduced to the world, we need to verify that it works the way we expect, to show that its design and manufacture has made it safe and effective. Each team member is assigned the task of verifying different functions.

To do this, I start with writing some scripts. This allows me to send instructions to the electronics and expose it to different situations that it may encounter while being used. An oscilloscope and multimeter can then be hooked up to different test points to measure the response of the circuit. To work out what to do, I look through other people’s scripts, read documentation and ask colleagues for help.

10:00 AM

The team catches up for a quick coffee or tea. If the majority of the team is at their desks, we try to do this at 10am and 3pm daily (though this generally depends on how busy the team is). This is a good time to catch up with team members and/or the manager to talk about work progress, life and hobbies.

10:15 AM

I migrate my equipment to the electrical lab, to test and modify the scripts I have written earlier. I also start to write the design verification protocol, detailing the steps of how the different implant samples will be tested to meet the function that I’ve been assigned. 

12:30 PM

Eat lunch on the Level 5 balcony with other colleagues, mainly grads and former grads. I buy some coffee from downstairs.

1:15 PM

Before we execute the design verification protocols, we need to make sure that the samples on which we run these protocols have been manufactured properly. Test Systems engineers have developed a few test systems to do this. As I’ve already tested a few samples with these test systems, I need to sit down and review these results.

1:30 PM

These test system results also need to be reviewed and approved by a more senior engineer, so we can both sign off on whether these samples are suitable or not to be used for verification testing.

2:00 PM

One-on-one session with my supervisor to talk about my work progress. He answers my questions and provides some advice about who I can talk to and documents that I can look through to help with my work. He teaches me a bit more about different implant electrode stimulation modes.

3:00 PM

Time to get some Birthday Cake! The Implants department has monthly cake to celebrate all the birthdays in that month. There are usually a few options from which you choose one! (Or two!!) (Or three!!!) It’s a good chance to chat to other people in the department.

3:15 PM

I’ve identified that as part of my rotation, I want to learn more about how to design PCBs using Altium Designer. Together with my sponsor, we have identified a project where I’ve been provided a schematic from which I will develop a PCB. Cake has given me an extra boost to develop the schematic library and component footprint library from the schematic.

5:30 PM

Time to finish work and head over to the gym for some Pilates. As a lot of my work involves sitting in the lab or at my computer, I try to prioritise classes such as Pilates or Yoga to prevent my body from falling apart.

8:00 PM

Finally home! Time to make dinner and eat with my cousin (also my housemate).

9:00 PM

Call mum. I moved interstate for the awesome opportunity to work at Cochlear, so it’s important to me that I keep in touch with my family. 

9:30 PM

Watching some Netflix to relax, and fold my clothes which have been strewn across the drying rack and couch for a few days.

11:00 PM

Sleepy time!

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