In my previous life as a project engineer at Wright Industries (a Doerfer company), I worked on some projects that I couldn’t talk much about, being either government-related or potentially breaching confidentiality agreements.
The project discussed in this post was one of these, and it was actually my last project at Wright. Some of my posts (like this one) before I left at the end of 2011 discussed what I was doing indirectly, but I couldn’t mention who the customer was or any specifics about my job.
Now that the system has been installed and is in operation, part of it has been made public. Modern Material Handling has published an article (click the blue text for the link) on the application, so I guess that it is OK to mention it. Yes, it is a system that moves missiles and missile components around a factory as they are assembled. It was a pretty cool project, and one I wouldn’t have minded seeing through to completion, but I had decided to re-start my business early in 2011 and there was no turning back.
I was the controls project engineer and also served as mechanical liaison early in the project, before a mechanical project engineer was assigned. Being a DOD-related project and with a large defense contractor like Raytheon, there were LOTS of meetings and discussions with various stakeholders. Since Raytheon is in Tucson, I also had the opportunity to hang out where I grew up. Much of this was in August, which is not the best time of the year in southern Arizona. I did most of the preliminary controls design work for this system before handing it off to another project engineer in late 2011.
After I left Wright, I heard about some fun adventures that were involved in the building and startup of this system, but again due to potential breaches of confidentiality I think I’ll keep those to myself. For some reason my last two projects at Wright were government and defense-related, and information on my other project (munitions disassembly) has also been made public. I will put a link to that system on this blog later also.
Confidentiality is an important aspect of engineering. A lot of it is common sense and follows the golden rule: “do unto others…”. When working for an employer it is very important to protect proprietary information as if it was your own. You could not only damage the company you work for, but also the customer they are serving. When you add the United States Government into the mix, you could also face serious legal repercussions. Lately there have been several stories of people who leaked information and their names have become well known. I am speaking of course about Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. Then of course there is Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. Their choices have put them all in unenviable positions.
As an employee of a company and a citizen of a country, we all make choices about where we choose to live and what we choose to do. If you don’t like what you are doing or where you are, you always have the option of changing it, especially here in the US. I didn’t choose the projects that I worked on at Wright, and I probably could have turned them down without repercussions if I was seriously opposed to them. I am certainly not a proponent of blowing people up or war of any kind, but I have to hope that those who are in charge are making good decisions for me.
I am currently in the process of developing several commercial software products that I believe have great potential. As I have contacted several possible co-developers and business partners I have realized just how important confidentiality is in my own case. There are a lot of people and companies out there with very few scruples, and the stories of people who have lost opportunities because they weren’t careful about who they shared information with are everywhere.
Bottom line, I love what I do and the opportunities I have had to play with all the cool toys and work with a lot of awesome people. I hope you are having as much fun as I am!