Apple Acoustic Systems Engineer
University of California San Diego Master's degree, Mechanical Engineering, Concentration in Dynamic Systems and Control
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
So one thing that's really shaped my career was, going to a community college. I came from Russia, and the first thing I did was to go to a community college. And it was a really wonderful place. I've never expected to meet so many great people. A lot of them ended up going to top universities and really great companies. And, most importantly, we kept our friendships with those people. So meeting those fellow students shaped my career. I chose to do engineering. The path in engineering that I chose initially was biomedical. I have to say that I chose biomedical engineering because I felt more comfortable. There were more girls there, and I just felt like I belonged a bit better. And as I graduated, this was 2012. I have to also be honest and say it was a little bit tough. The field was new. I struggled with finding my first job. An internship that I did in control systems and robotics in the medical field made me really interested in robotics. So for my masters, I got my master's in robotics and dynamic systems and controls at UC San Diego, which is a wonderful place. And yeah, since then, I worked in a few different fields that I'm happy to talk about. And, I currently work at Apple in Acoustic Systems.

What are the responsibilities and decisions that you handle at work? Discuss weekly hours you spend in the office, for work travel, and working from home.

Based on experience at: Acoustic Systems Engineer, Apple
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
As I mentioned I do control systems engineering in the audio department at Apple. My day job is typically a mixture of data science and digital signal processing. And lately, it's been a bit of machine learning as well. As far as the days go, it's usually quite a few meetings because, in industry, everything is very intertwined. And all the teams work together really closely to work. Want to make one solid product? So a lot of it is meetings to make decisions that impact several teams. After that, I spend a lot of time writing code, typically python. And for the rest of it is, a little bit of free time to network and figure out what the others around me are doing. And as far as travel goes, typically at Apple, we traveled to Asia as we do a lot of our manufacturing there. So you would go to see suppliers and see other teams. If you're developing a product, sometimes you would be traveling to Europe. And lastly, the very nice thing about Apple and I'm sure other companies do this is, self-development. I went to NeurIPS. And that was for me, a part of my own, self-development that I could do at Apple. So you're free to choose. What you think you know helps you at work and helps you learn and grow as an engineer. So that would be what the travel entails.

What tools (software programs, frameworks, models, algorithms, languages) do you use at work? Do you prefer certain tools more than the others? Why?

Based on experience at: Acoustic Systems Engineer, Apple
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
I really strongly like Python. I think it is very promising for students and for industries. It's very high in demand. It's easy to find a job, and it does what it says. It will do very well. It may not be the most efficient language in terms of the time complexity, of algorithms. But for prototyping and development work, it's very good, very easy. And you get a lot done quickly. If you're working with larger data, as a lot of us are these days, Python has really great packages. Pandas is one of my favorites, and the other part of data science is how do you visualize these big data sets that always come up? And I think while a lot of data, visualization, tools, and frameworks exist, for example, the typical Matt plot Lib and Seaborn libraries and Altair. I feel like the industry these days is headed towards interactive data visualization. And you could see it like last week when I went to NeurIPS. There was one of the startups was called Stream Lick, and they were specifically interested in Python being the back end, and you could create a Web browser for interactive data visualization. And I thought that's really great. And I'm seeing that more and more. And I think interactive data tools are very useful. So, yeah, I believe in python open-source and interactive data visualization.

What things do you like about your job? Were there any pleasant surprises?

Based on experience at: Acoustic Systems Engineer, Apple
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
I really like the people around me. They're very, passionate. And they will never say no to you if you have a request. What I think is the best part at my job and is often a pleasant surprise is that people will do the job that they are not assigned to. So if you could really use the help of your neighbor and they have special expertise and something, but they have their own projects to deal with, they will definitely still help you. You know, even if it's just for prototyping or proof of concept. So people are very open to new ideas and to help you do a job that's not assigned to them.

What are the job titles of people you routinely work with inside and outside of your organization? What approaches do you find to be effective in working with them?

Based on experience at: Acoustic Systems Engineer, Apple
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
So the engineers that I work with on a daily basis are usually camera engineers and product design batteries. All the considerations that you think Apple would have in making a good iPhone product, for example, those are the teams that we all kind of worked very closely together with audio. What I think is an effective way to communicate with the other teams that have different backgrounds and different considerations to myself is always by starting with breaking down the problem. We're breaking down the explaining it in terms that they will understand easily in terms that you could explain it to your mom and she would understand. And the next step is really to have them come up with the solution that you also agree with. So I think the easiest way to compromise and come together to a conclusion is for both groups to come to that conclusion independently. So if you can steer the conversation such that they think of the solution that you want them to think of, that is very effective and brings teams kind of together very quickly. So I think effective communication really is key. 

What major challenges do you face in your job and how do you handle them? Can you discuss a few accomplishments?

Based on experience at: Acoustic Systems Engineer, Apple
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
We have a very open office space. And there's a lot of talks all around you. It can be very hard to focus, although you learn a lot from other people's conversations. So my solution is, very good over the ear headphones. I highly recommend the Bose Seven Hundred. I have no say in this, but, noise suppression all the way. And the other part is can I discuss a few accomplishments? One big accomplishment for me this year was getting a new initiative off the ground in my department. So as I mentioned, I work in audio, and I work in the signal processing domain where everybody comes from very traditional algorithmic backgrounds. And, when you see another discipline like machine learning really excel at something that you do daily, you know, you ask yourself, Well, maybe we should consider it as well. But now, if you're convinced and you have a prototype that does the thing better using machine learning, how do you now convince the vice president, presidents to really invest full-on into this new initiative. So it can be hard, but I think that if you have the data and you've proven the concept, it could be a big challenge, but, everybody will listen to you at least at Apple and getting an initiative like that to start machine learning with an audio off the ground was, my probably biggest accomplishment this year.

What are the recent developments in the field? How significant are these improvements over past work? What are their implications for future research & industry applications, if any?

Based on experience at: Acoustic Systems Engineer, Apple
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
I think specifically for audio, we're looking into it for various topics that I cannot discuss in detail. But, the topics would be, for example, noise suppression. Can I sit here and have a perfect background behind me? Let's say I was in a noisy environment. Can I do it better with machine learning and initiatives like that? It really can be done better with nonlinear networks.

What was the hiring process like for your job? What were the roles of people who interviewed you? What kind of questions were asked?

Based on experience at: Acoustic Systems Engineer, Apple
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
I was referred by an old colleague. I had a call with the recruiter, which was followed up by two phone screens. They were both technical. One of those phone screens was to work out the wave equation of your Stokes, which was just insane but I learned that at least for Apple, they make it really hard to get hired. But once they're really sure that you're good, you have good internal mobility and good visibility on all of that. So the interviews can be tough. So after those two phone interviews, I had three on-sites. Um, I had made a robotic project for one of them and that that really helped. I would really recommend it if you are planning to interview. And maybe this is not quite your field. Or if you would like something to help you if you have just a very simple raspberry pi, just implement something on it and show them that hey, I can do something relevant to this job and prototype something quickly for this interview. It shows passion and motivation, and it'll set you apart from the other candidates. So that was my process. And it was quick and painless. 

What qualities does your team look for while hiring? How does your team interview candidates?

Based on experience at: Acoustic Systems Engineer, Apple
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
Oh, you will fit into the role. But I would say one of the strongest factors is also how easy the candidate seems to be to work with. So do I see myself working with them on a daily basis, and those character traits really come into play? I think, in that decision, along with, the technical prowess of things. And sometimes it can be the number one quality because, especially some of the newer candidates or if you're new to the field, even you might not have all of the know-how. But if you're willing to learn and you're passionate and excited, then we'll take you. You know, it's it's worth the risk. Those characteristics that make you a good person and easy to work with are more important.

What are different entry-level jobs and subsequent job pathways that can lead students to a position such as yours?

Based on experience at: Acoustic Systems Engineer, Apple
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
To get into a position such as mine would be via an internship. So we recruit a lot from universities. If you're doing if you're finishing your bachelor's or if you're in the middle of your masters or PhD, we really like to have interns. They get to do really fun projects in a finite amount of time, deliver something and presented to sometimes people that full-time employees like myself do not get to present to. So internships are very exciting. And moreover, they're a great way to come back to the company. Um, whether you've made a good impression on your boss or the immediate team and you're interested in coming back to that team Or if you're interested in coming back to another team at that company, It'll really help you set you apart from other candidates. We we also another good way is we encourage employees, for example, from retail. So we have apple stores all over, and we really encourage internal mobility not only within the corporate environment, but also including our retail. So we'll have a lot of people on rotation. Within apple, other groups, and other teams and also retail that could all kind of get a taste for what audio at Apple does or what other teams do. So there's a lot of mobility.

What were the responsibilities and decisions that you handled at work? Discuss weekly hours you spent in the office, for work travel, and working from home.

Based on experience at: Mechanical Systems Engineer, Space Systems Loral
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
I worked in the Satellite industry, control systems and system-level questions there. For example, picking How many solar panels would a satellite need with a certain load? This was after I graduated from my masters, this was my first job. And, the office hours, I would say I didn't really have office hours at the job. It was also an open space where we could meet and have discussions, high-level discussions about the system.

What was the hiring process like for your job? What were the roles of people who interviewed you? What kind of questions were asked?

Based on experience at: Mechanical Systems Engineer, Space Systems Loral
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
So at space systems Loral, it was a little bit more open because it was a systems engineering girl. And the more general your role, kind of the more different groups get to interview you, so it's a technical process. But it was more or less detailed algorithmic work-related. So it was not whiteboard interviews or coating interviews. It was more like, can you explain the thermal characteristics of this system? How do you adjust thrusters on a satellite, which is trying to get to a particular orbit or a particular slot in space? How would you actuate such a system? And try to assess your overall understanding of all the different parts. For example, the system will heat up, or I need to put shielding on it or I am too heavy and mass is a big restraint, and fuel is important. Those sorts of high-level perspectives were asked during the interview

How did the program prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: Master's degree, Mechanical Engineering, Concentration in Dynamic Systems and Control, University of California San Diego
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Tue Dec 24 2019
UC San Diego, some of the best parts is that it is right on the coast. It has wonderful weather, and it's also a really good school. So you got to make good friends that last your lifetime. And, if I found it to be a little bit less stressful than the schools around us, but still focused, very focused academically on the students. UC San Diego also had really wonderful partnerships with industry. So what, I found really useful was the program which allowed you to apply to one place and your application would go to all of the industries that we're interested in recruiting from that school, and so that made it very easy. And we had a lot of career affairs, which I also highly recommend to students. It can be very intimidating if you go to the career fair and you try to convince the industries or you know, other companies that you are ready and able to do this internship, but it's definitely worth it. And I have to say that the most important thing about a career fair is not the career fair itself. It's what happens after. I think that for myself, I was far from the most intelligent or or best GPA students. But I, being very interested in getting an internship, I stayed in touch with the interviewers or the people I met at the fair. I sent them emails, and I really pursued and showed my interest over time. And I think you know that interest tends to drop off in most candidates. But I think if you're really invested, you will get that internship. And so if your school provides such service is, I would really highly recommend. It's a big part of the experience.