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Spotlight: Abbas Shah on His 3rd Anniversary with NeuronicWorks
Abbas Shah is a firmware developer celebrating his three-year anniversary with NeuronicWorks. Prior to NWI, Abbas worked at IBM and in the startup space. He graduated from Ryerson with a Bachelor of Computer Engineering. He speaks four languages (two of them not very well). His free time is occupied by a mixture of playing video games, spending time with family, and being active outdoors whether that’s hiking or playing basketball.
I came to Canada when I was about 10 years old. My first Halloween I was excited for the holiday, but I don’t think I quite understood the concept of ‘trick-or-treat.’ My siblings and I were walking through a Zellers and when I saw the bins of Halloween candy there for people to buy, I thought they were actually for kids to trick-or-treat from and that was how you got candy on Halloween. So we poured a bunch into our backpacks and left. No one stopped us. It wasn’t until later we realized our mistake!
I love Kawartha Dairy ice cream and anything gummy: gummy bears, gummy worms—things like that. When I was a kid, I would get $5 every Friday and spend it at the dollar store on as much candy as I could get.
Funniest experience working at NeuronicWorks:
I was once collaborating with another engineer on a project: he was working on nodes, and I was working on a gateway that would broadcast to those nodes. Every once in a while, during the testing phase, the gateway would just stop communicating. The nodes were fine, but the gateway would just stop for no reason. There didn’t seem to be any reason for it, and this happened on and off for nearly a month.
Then, one day a colleague who shall remain nameless—and who is known for generating a large static electricity charge at all times—wandered by our workstation and the gateway cut out again. I suddenly realized that the huge antenna that was attached to the gateway was being zapped with static electricity every time this guy would walk by! Suddenly, our mystery was solved.
When I was a kid, I would get $5 every Friday and spend it at the dollar store on as much candy as I could get.
What does your job entail?
I’m a firmware engineer and I work primarily on board bring up. Once the hardware engineers are done with the board, any code or software that needs to be loaded on to the board is my job. So, if there is an OS that needs adding, or if there are applications, I put those on and get the boards up and running.
What is in your opinion the most important skill required to succeed as a firmware engineer?
You need to always be constantly learning. There are so many technologies out there that you always need to be up to speed on the latest thing. And you can and should always be learning from those around you—learning from what they do well, learn from their mistakes as well as your own experience. Your colleagues can be great sources of advice so take advantage of their input to help you develop your skills.
And attention to detail is important. You’ll come across all kind of challenges. Especially with weird bugs, smaller errors can have big consequences, so you need to be able to identify them.
What originally attracted you to NeuronicWorks?
I came out of start ups. My job before this one was with a 3D printer start up. But when I applied to NeuronicWorks I didn’t actually know much about the company going in. All I knew was that they needed firmware engineers.
What really impressed me about the role—and what keeps me here—is the autonomy that we’re given in our roles, as well as the wide range of experiences that we get. We work with a lot of different industries!
And I also really love the culture here—the atmosphere and the people are great. It’s like a small community, not just a workplace.
What are 3 words you would use to describe NeuronicWorks?
Family. You really get to know everyone at the company, as well as their families through different events that we run. There’s a real community feeling, and a feeling of family.
Challenging. There are lots of challenges with each project. It makes you learn, and really lets you get in depth on new technologies and things you’ve never worked with before.
Growth. I’ve really developed and excelled in my career since joining NeuronicWorks. Working here has helped me grow.
What has been your proudest moment at the company?
I worked on a project for the industrial market. That one stands out for me because I feel like I did a really great job on that project.
Everything about that project, from the way it was structured, to all documentation around it was really well organized and done so well that it was a great project to work on.
What is your favourite part about working at NeuronicWorks?
As a firmware engineer, I feel like I have a lot of input on the content and design of a project. I have a say and can make a real contribution. We're all made to feel like our opinions are important to the projects that we work on.
We're all made to feel like our opinions are important to the projects that we work on.
What is the best career lesson you’ve learned so far?
No matter where you are right now, you can always improve. You can always gain more experience. Whether that's by yourself or with help from people around you, never limit yourself.
What advice do you have for prospective NeuronicWorks candidates?
When I was interviewing for the job and was asked where I saw myself in five years, I answered that I wanted to be having a positive impact on the company and in the world. The interviewer pushed back a little, saying that was a cliché. But I answered that while it may be a cliché, it's what I actually wanted. It's a good thing to want.
So my advice would be not to try and mold yourself to fit the company. Be yourself and don't feel pressured to change your goals because you think someone might want you to. It's better to be a genuinely good fit for the job or for the role rather than trying to change yourself to fit into something that might not be right for you.
What do you think makes NeuronicWorks unique?
There's a level of openness here that I think is really unique. That extends right to our interactions with our company founders, and the level of relationship that we can have with them. Everyone here—even the founders—are approachable and open to discussions.
What would you do for a career if you were not doing this?
I've always been an adrenaline junkie, so I think I'd really love to do guided snowboard tours. Maybe work in a farm. I’ve always liked animals, and being around a herd of sheep or cows on a mountain side sounds pleasant.
Tell us something that most of your coworkers wouldn’t know about you.
I'm really good at washing dishes and cleaning the house. I'm one of five children but when we were kids my mom would make me do the chores. I always thought that was really unfair but eventually she told me that she gave me the chores because I was the only one of the kids who would do it the way she did it—the right way. So, washing dishes and cleaning the house is kind of my superpower.