VoltSafe Blog Team – July 15, 2022
Fariha Shaikh came a long way from her home in Dubai to contribute to VoltSafe’s impact on marine safety. We have to admit, we’re pretty lucky she did so. So how did this soft-spoken, Embedded Systems Co-Op, with a singing voice that rivals Mariah (Carey), become part of a team that will change marine safety for the better?
Her journey into the world of embedded systems did not begin with engineering. In fact, engineering wasn’t Fariha’s first choice when pursuing post-secondary education at UBC. She initially struggled with the decision to further her studies in either neuroscience or commerce. Landing in the engineering program came about as a fluke. Her passion for physics, math and problem solving led to her enrolling in the engineering program at UBC. Engineering was a broad enough field that would allow the opportunity to expand on her interests.
Fariha’s first year in the program gave her a taste of every discipline in engineering. She soon discovered that she really enjoyed coding. Coding drew her to embedded systems and working with microcontrollers. Fariha shares that she prefers working with physical hardware as opposed to software because it allows her to see the tangible outcome of her work.
She joined UBC Sailbot, a student-led engineering design team at the University of British Columbia that designs autonomous sailboats. Joining the design team meant she could put her training on microcontrollers to the test. That is where she met Bruno Rodriguez, a fellow student who is also a software engineer at VoltSafe.
The co-op program at VoltSafe presented Fariha with the opportunity to work on a marine project with Bruno, her fellow teammate from UBC Sailbot. But it was her curiosity about the company’s expansion into marine space, which drew her to VoltSafe.
While working on the VoltSafe Marine plug, Fariha found her biggest challenge to be unit testing because there was no documentation or prior research to help guide her. This pushed her to do her own research and “throw spaghetti at the code” (a phrase coined by Bruno), because that’s what testing is all about. As a result, she could see her code at work. She found the skills that she picked up while being a part of UBC Sailbot valuable because it taught her to be adaptable due to all the research and debugging involved. This made unit testing the most memorable experience at VoltSafe for Fariha. For the first time, she recognized the value of the skills and knowledge she brought to the company.
In return, the skill she would take away from her experience at VoltSafe is the ability to communicate and articulate her ideas to be understood by all, regardless of their background and knowledge. She became more comfortable communicating her ideas when she realized how supportive her colleagues, including the executive team, were to listening and considering her ideas.
A supportive environment was the key reason she chose VoltSafe for her co-op experience. Her advice to co-op students looking for their first experience is not to focus on whether the company is world renowned, rather look into how much opportunity you would have to collaborate on projects. After your first experience, focus on finding a company culture that aligns with your values. For Fariha, it was an inclusive, supportive and encouraging environment at VoltSafe. Oh, and of course coming into work and being greeted by “Chief Barketing Officer”, Derby Breker, a yellow lab and fellow “Mobile Application Developaw” Ola Jafari, a Bernese Mountain Dog.