Skyhook has been innovating with location since 2003, and we continually work on collecting the locations of billions of Wi-Fi access points worldwide to build the infrastructure and software to deliver this information. Our organization is fueled by our engineering team and their passion for building disruptive technology. Skyhook has an eclectic mix of mathematicians, code gurus and inventors who are driven to make a huge dent in the universe. In reflecting on this last year, we are excited to be growing so rapidly and looking to what the future will bring with our new suite of context products.
We sat down with our Director of Engineering, Joel Morrin, and our Chief Innovative Officer, Farshid Alizadeh-Shabdiz, who work to develop the next-generation of disruptive technologies at Skyhook. We asked them to comment on their past experience so up and coming engineers can learn from their career paths - and help advise them when looking for their dream engineering position.
1. If you could give some advice to someone looking to land their dream engineering gig, or engineering students just out of college, what would it be?
Farshid: Work with talented, knowledgeable engineers to learn from: and think long term, not short term. Select a direction for your future, then pick a job that will act as a building block for the rest of that future. Also consider working in big enterprises at some point, as you gain a lot by working with many smart people.
2. What was the hardest lesson you learned in your career (so far) in engineering?
Joel: Your idea is only as good as your ability to communicate it to others. This is true regardless of experience or position. You could be sitting on the best idea in the world, but if you can't explain how it works and why it is good, you'll spend a lot of time complaining about how people don't "get it".
Farshid: Don't underestimate any problem, until you are done or you learned about all the details. Under estimating complexity of a problem is a general tendency of all of us.
3. What was the best moment you’ve had so far in your engineering career?
Farshid: My time at Skyhook. I spoke to a research lab in my beginning years at Skyhook, and they came back and said “This technology and solution is not going to work - don’t waste your time.” The best feeling is when I was able to go back and say, yes, actually - it does work. When other people in the technical world don’t believe in what you build, the best moment for me is proving them wrong.
4. How do you know if your position is a right fit for you?
Joel: This might be the hardest question we'll all have to deal with throughout our careers. Everybody has their own requirements for a position. I would say a "right fit" meets your requirements (whatever they may be) at least 80% of the time. Depending on where you are in your career, you might want to consider what it offers for a career path over the next several years. Perhaps most importantly, it should be a job that allows you to meet your extra-curricular goals as well as your career goals.
5. When considering a company to work for, how do you determine the value of their market?
Farshid: If you are joining a company, you can get a rough idea of how to determine market value by looking at what position they are in the market, what visions they have for future, and how big the market is that they are tackling.6. What are some ways you can stand out as an engineer in the interviewing process?
Joel: Know the company that you are talking to. I don't just mean their name. Really know what they do and have specific, relevant questions about it. If you can, learn about a recent innovation or what they consider their key differentiators and ask meaningful questions.
For some positions, it's better to be inquisitive, for others I might put a premium on somebody who is detail-oriented. It really depends on the needs of the team.
Invariably, I want somebody who has enthusiasm, whether it is directed toward general problem solving, learning new technologies, or just joining a new team.
8. What was useful way for you to expand your knowledge of your field?
Farshid: A while back, we launched a local conference and invited people we were interested in to speak based on the work that they were doing. Inviting all those big players and asking them how they do what they do was a great way to open up the conversation while also explaining what we do to see if there were ways we could work together.
9. What specific skill set do you recommend for an ideal engineering candidate to master?
Joel: Aside from any specific technology, the real key to being a successful engineer is the ability to understand complex systems. If you know how to take an idea, break it up into individual elements, and know how those elements will affect other parts of a bigger picture, you have what it takes to succeed.About Farshid Alizadeh-Shabdiz
As Chief Innovation Officer, Farshid is the mastermind behind the research and development of Skyhook’s positioning technology. He is a proud member of the design and implementation team of the first three satellite-based mobile networks at Hughes Network Systems: ICO, and has almost 20 years of industrial experience in the design and implementation of satellite and wireless networks. Farshid is on the faculty of Boston University and received his PhD from George Washington University and MS from Tehran University.
About Joel Morrin
As the Director of Engineering at Skyhook, Joel is responsible for all operations within our engineering team as well as managing relations with the Product, Ops, and Customer Support teams. He has almost 15 years of experience in the software industry in various quality and management roles. Prior to Skyhook, Joel was the QA Architect at Bit9 where he studied decompression bombs and attack vectors for executable code while serving as the technical lead for the QA team. Joel holds a BSE in Computer Engineering from Case Western Reserve University.