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Fresh out of South Carolina’s Clemson University with a brand-new master’s degree, Devang Bagaria thought he was finished with school when he started work with Hughes as a young engineer in 2007. But, as one of the first of more than 100 engineers to participate in the Hughes Engineering Mentoring Program, Bagaria soon found himself involved in a different kind of learning. Designed to enhance the productivity and assimilation of new college graduates, the mentoring program offers continuous learning, encourages career growth, and provides exposure to senior-level engineers.
The program pairs up teams that consist of several new graduates, two mentor leads, and a representative from human resources. The groups meet twice monthly for approximately one year, both for formal classes and for open discussion forums ranging from engineering challenges, to current assignments, to career development.
Classes address topics such as processes for hardware and software development, system engineering processes, and the use of tools and laboratories. The mentees also see firsthand how a Hughes manufacturing facility and a Hughes network operations center work. To ensure that new engineers quickly find their way around, mentors place a special focus on building a network of contacts within the company. The program also includes a professional development component to focus on career goals and growth strategies. Formal participation in the mentoring program concludes with a graduation ceremony.
“The program was invaluable to me as a new college graduate,” said Bagaria. “Hughes mentors are highly experienced engineers who have pretty much seen everything. I not only learned a great deal, but the exposure to senior engineers also taught me how important it is to speak up about my interests. I was fortunate to receive this input from my mentor, which later led to an opportunity to work in device driver development—an area of special interest to me.” It turned out to be a good direction. In 2009, Bagaria won a Hughes engineering award for his work in the field.
But the mentoring program is hardly one-sided. New engineers, accustomed to the networking environment in college, have also provided useful feedback to Hughes senior engineers, including input which has led to updating of research tools and online resources.
Indeed, the program has turned out to be so successful that today Hughes is taking it to a higher level. Initiated in March 2010, the Advanced Mentor Program focuses on comprehensive training in functional areas and day-to-day, hands-on experience.
The new program provides in-depth training on topics such as international and domestic business processes, hardware design and manufacturing, software design, and network and manufacturing operations. The classes are followed by a direct pairing of each junior engineer with an experienced technical mentor who is working on the same project.
Through on-the-jobtraining, mentees are exposed to the entire product development lifecycle. They learn about design processes, reviews, and analysis, and how to use lab equipment to debug and test products. They gain experience in properly handing off products into the manufacturing and production processes, including how to test a product in the factory and what happens once a product goes out into the field with Hughes customers.
This tag team approach helps to quickly grow the breadth of new employees’ experience and knowledge, ensuring that Hughes has a constantly refreshed engineering workforce. Over the next year or two, Hughes expects to send all its entry-level engineers through the program.
According to Bob Kepley, senior vice president of engineering and one of the founders of the program, “The charter of engineering here at Hughes is to develop leading-edge products, platforms, and services to enable us to advance our leadership position in satellite and wireless communications worldwide. This program helps us to bring some of the best young minds into lockstep with our goals.”
Far more than just being feel-good, the Hughes mentoring program is an important part of an ongoing strategy to ensure that the next generation of engineers is well equipped to develop innovative products and services that enable the next generation of broadband.