Archive for the ‘Career News’ Category

New Directions

Summer of 2014 found us back in the Bitterroot Valley of SW Montana where an opportunity presented itself which was unexpected, but perhaps not surprising in the overall scheme of things. I had thought about teaching some computer courses in the local community and happened to mention it in a meeting with our resort owners one day. Turns out they knew the Director of the local college and promptly connected me. Over the course of a few email dialogs it became apparent that the college had no real IT program in place and yes, they would be interested in having me develop something. BC_Logo_RoundThe Bitterroot College is the newest two-year college within the University of Montana system. Being only six years old it is, as you might imagine, a growth opportunity. While far from done, we have made some preliminary steps in making both a one year Computer Support Certificate program and a two year Information Systems Associate program a reality over the next few years. To that end, I am currently teaching the first Intro to Computer Science class and have 14 students enrolled. In the Fall, we will add a few more classes and slowly grow the program. It is a gratifying experience and fills a serious deficiency in available training here in the Valley. The real zinger came in February when I was asked to head up a new program in Advanced Manufacturing. The previous year-end had seen a local donor contribute a large sum to the college to start up a Fabrication Lab (FabLab). A FabLab is a small-scale workshop offering digital fabrication using an array of flexible computer controlled tools with the aim to make "almost anything". The general idea is to promote innovation and invention thus providing stimulus for local entrepreneurship. Users learn by designing and creating objects of personal interest or import. Empowered by the experience of making something themselves, they both learn and mentor each other, gaining deeper knowledge about the machines, the materials, the design process, and the engineering that goes into invention and innovation. Putting this program together is exactly the type of project I can sink my teeth into. To get things started we have the funding to provision the FabLab with 3D printing equipment and the associated computer-aided design/modeling resources. As the FabLab matures I plan to add a laser cutter that makes 2D and 3D structures, a sign cutter that plots in copper to make antennas and flex circuits, a high-resolution CNC milling machine that makes circuit boards and precision parts, a large wood router for building furniture and housing, and a suite of electronic components and programming tools for low-cost, high-speed micro controllers for on-site rapid circuit prototyping. A grand vision no doubt, but one must start somewhere right? I just got back from attending the US National FabLab Symposium which included a workshop on FabLab Start-up & Sustainability along with many other useful sessions. I connected with a host of other FabLab managers and heard lots of stories and received lots of advice. It was a very timely and useful event. The first 3D printers have been ordered and should arrive any day now. This is going to be a fun summer!

Try Try Again

The Good news is: I am going to try once again to start keeping the website up to date. The Bad news is: I am NOT going to try and write articles on all the major events that have transpired since the last article. Instead, here is a very concise update... June 2010 - We took off on a nice camping trip to the Moab, Utah area. Had our usual series of adventures and misadventures. I actually did write an article about this trip but can't find what I did with it. If I find it I will publish it. August 2010 - We became Grandparents! Josh and Selenda brought a new baby boy into the world. The poor little guy had a rough go of it for the first few months but is doing great now. We are all very happy and proud. Will work on getting some pictures posted. September 2010 - Mad dash trip back to Iowa for a visit. Good to see everyone and darn near got killed on the way home. Good defensive driving by Rhonda in the middle of the night in the middle of Kansas saved the day (night?) as we came upon an accident in the middle of the Interstate. October 2010 - Things start looking shaky at work. News from corporate HQ sounds suspicious. November 2010 - Daniel comes home safely from Afghanistan. Bad news confirmed at ITT. They will be closing our facility. I accept a severance package rather than stick around. December 2010 - Interview for a new job with Raytheon but take a short-term consulting position doing computer security work out at Vandenberg AFB, CA. Spend Christmas with the Brown family in Omaha. January 2011 - Fly out to California and start work. Rhonda drives out to join me and we have fun poking around the California Central Coast. Got to watch a big rocket launch at Vandenberg. February 2011 - Raytheon calls me and offers me the job. I accept. This requires relocating to Aurora, CO. Drive back to Colorado and start working to put the house on the market. March 2011 - Sell house for full price the first weekend its listed but have to be out by end of April. Get sick of commuting from Colorado Springs to Aurora ( 1:20 minutes each way). April 2011 - Jen Stellema comes to visit. Find house to rent in Aurora and move May 2011 - Unpack (well, mostly) and get settled in. Beginning to feel like home again. Nice little 10 minute commute to work. So there you have it. It's been a whirlwind but things should settle down now.

Traveling Show

This fall has been filled with an awful lot of travel. I just got back from my second trip to Atlanta and Rhonda has been to San Antonio, TX and Suffolk, VA. Fortunately, it has been rather uneventful with planes more or less departing and arriving on time. My trips were business related and to the same place. One of our vendors completed two sets of antennas and part of the process is going down to their facility and witnessing some performance tests. This is what we call a Production Acceptance Test. The only downside to the whole thing is the testing is quite boring. Satellite antennas have to be pretty sensitive since the transmitter is way out in space. The way they test them is by measuring the amount of noise from a dead space (cold sky) and a major source of noise like the sun or the moon. Our vendor prefers the moon. So, they move the antenna back and forth taking measurements for hours on end and after a thorough application of math come up with these performance figure based on a ration of noise to temperature. The sky has to be clear and sometimes you end up working at night. The good thing is they are a nice bunch of people and take good care of us while we are there. The next bunch won't be done until sometime in February so I'll get a bit of a break on the travel for awhile.

Job Change at ITT

raidrs.jpgI am working a new program these days. The program I was assigned to has finished up. It happened a little earlier than we expected but it is good to finally have it finished. The company has been real good about finding positions for everyone. Most of the people joined an expanding program over at one of our other buildings where they are getting ready to work on modernizing some of our ballistic missile early warning systems. Most of those systems were built back in the 70's and are in serious need of updating. I was looking at joining them but was offered a position with the RAIDRS program in the same building I am currently working in. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to the Lab

A large part of my time at work is spent supporting one particular program; IMPCS. Mostly, this has revolved around preparing the necessary documents supporting the security certification and accreditation of the system. I've recently had a shift in my duties at work. One of the key engineers moved on to another opportunity in Virginia leaving a void in the systems and network administration of the lab. I was asked to take over that responsibility. This is a good thing as it allows me to get back into "hands-on" mode working with and configuring equipment. I still have my other "documentation" responsibilities but I am fortunate to have a junior engineer that is coming rapidly up to speed and taking a large share of that workload from me. I had an opportunity to provide some immediate assistance by developing a solution for the software developers to write and test their code using "virtual computers" so they are able to do most of their work right at their desks instead of having to go back and forth to the lab. This will help productivity quite a bit as we have recently taken back the software development piece of the project from Northrup Grumman and hired a bunch of programmers; more that can work comfortably in the lab.

ITT Employment

I reached the end of my six-month "temp-to-hire" contract with ITT this week. As it happens my co-worker resigned last week to pursue another opportunity so there was little question about whether ITT would hire me or not. Overall, it has worked in my favor. This makes me the senior engineer and it will allow me to influence the environment more than I could earlier. ITT has a nice benefit package and I ended up with a nice salary. Plus, I managed to wrangle an extra week of vacation out of them. I officially start on Monday. I will be plenty busy for awhile as I take on responsibility for more of the projects we have in the plant. Our primary product is the design and manufacturing of systems that manage, control, and otherwise support the Defense Satellite Communication System. Here is a spiffy brochure if you want to see more.

New Things to Learn

I have survived my first week back in the professional world. It feels good to be back. Officially, my job title is Information Security Engineer, which sounds more impressive than the actual work. There are three of us in the Information Assurance section and our job is to ensure that the systems being built for the military (by our company) meet all the security requirements levied by the Department of Defense. Needless to say this is a fairly involved process. Since the bulk of our projects revolve around military commuications satellites and the control systems that support them, the security implementations tend to be pretty rigorous. We have to meet a variety of standards ranging from cryptographic certifications by the National Security Agency (NSA) to more routine Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) requirements. The bottom line is that it constitutes a rather large volume of paperwork. We prepare the certification packages for the systems which are ultimately certified by the government. As I mentioned the bulk of the work centers around the Defense Communications Satellite Systems (DSCS), pronounced "discus". You might be surprised to learn that the Army manages a large part of DSCS. The DSCS system consists of five primary and six residual satellites in geosynchronous orbit, ground control stations, and user terminals. The DSCS satellite constellation was designed to support long-haul communications between major military commands. DSCS was used extensively throughout Operation Desert Shield/Storm and serves as the primary communications link for U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Access to the DSCS satellites is tightly controlled. DSCS provides communications services for the following networks: • Global Command and Control System • Global Combat Support System • Defense Switched Network • Jam Resistant Secure Communications Networks • Tactical Warning/Attack Assessment Networks • Mobile Subscriber Equipment • White House Communications Agency • Navy Flagship Command and Control Networks • Ground Mobile Forces and Afloat communications The two major projects we are working right now are KaSTARS systems for the Army and TMCS for the Navy. This is all new stuff to me (the satellite part) so I have lots to learn.
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