Growing into a professional in the field of technology means striving with studies and engaging oneself in the industry. For many students, this means working as a part-time summer trainee at a company. Among all the positive experiences, the responsibilities can sometimes prove to be quite an ordeal during work and studies. This is where the support of the employer plays an important role.
My name is Eero Halonen and I am an optical engineer at OptoFidelity. I began my studies at the Tampere University of Technology in 2014 in the program of Science and Engineering. Photonics and optics have excited me for quite a while, so I knew early what I would major in. In spring 2018, I chose to apply to OptoFidelity’s Metrology team.
I found out quickly that OptoFidelity provides practical and financial support for writing your thesis. This means regular communication with the manager and supervisor, resources to proceed, and time to write the thesis during the office hours. Within my first year at OptoFidelity, I began working on my master’s thesis regarding the calibration of the HMD Eye, HMD IQ’s human eye mimicking imaging system.
Before working on the thesis, I discussed the potential thesis topic with my manager. When the topic became more topical, we had a kickoff meeting and agreed on who would be my supervisor from the company. Then, my next steps were contacting the university and finding another supervisor. A meeting with both of my supervisors took place soon after. The rest was mostly dependent on my planning.
The project and my thesis process taught me much about optical metrology systems. I have become familiar with lens aberrations and utilization of simulation data in actual performance tests and calibrations.
I developed new measurement arrangements and models, which became perhaps the most satisfactory part of the job. This differs from university laboratory courses, which tend not to allow the student to plan measurement arrangements by themselves (instead step-by-step guides are used).
Generally, the most convincing basis for measurement or laboratory work is standards that define various methodologies and algorithms that are accepted by global authorities and experts. Standards should be implemented in the overall practice if they are deemed as the most suitable option. For me, this meant reading through a lot of material to adopt industry procedures.
However, sometimes the standards may become too shallow or impractical for a specific task due to its novelty. This means that a new methodology needs to be developed from scratch, including algorithm, software and hardware development. Like I mentioned before, I consider this part as one of the most satisfying aspects of the job because you get a chance to think outside the box. The essential part of creating a new methodology also involves documentation and a lot of communication, both with in-house staff and with customers and collaborators.
A personal project like a thesis is an excellent opportunity to improve communication skills, especially the ability to provide the right information towards the relevant people. Learning communication skills is a popular topic for discussion on sites like LinkedIn, but like many other skills, there are both theoretical and practical aspects of it. Managing responsibilities is an essential exercise to improve communication skills.
At the end of 2019, I finished my thesis. It has been one of the most rewarding chapters of my life, even though the last years of my studies were indeed stressful. However, I do not regret any of the choices that I made concerning education and work. Getting things done is the mentality of a professional. This requires an emphasis on recovery, naturally.
Communication about the evaluation and grading of the thesis was also handled well. I received well thought verbal feedback about how well the thesis process was as a complete journey. All my efforts, even elaborate ones, were rewarded (or at least I feel that way, which is most important). I am thankful to my supervisors for that.
I would not have been able to manage everything without the support (which should not be taken for granted in the industry) of my employer. During the summer, I was able to continue working on my thesis at the company’s premises. All the work that I did for the project itself was applicable in the thesis process, including writing.
Well-being support services usually consider full-time personnel. Many great, well-intentioned practices might not affect the students the same way they do with full-time workers. Hence having supplemental policies, like support for thesis writing, designed for part-time working students is a very adaptable approach to the case in point.
Sometimes I reflect on what it would have been like if I did not have an employer that would contribute to my thesis. Having to use all my free time to figure out and write the thesis would probably have killed my creativity and productivity. I believe this is very normal for many stressed-out students.
I am very grateful for all the support from my employer. Taking my very first steps of expertise in the industry has been exciting.