After my first internship at Honeywell in the summer of 2014, working primarily in the procurement division, I wasn’t sure what to expect of my future in “real world engineering.” My previous understanding of how engineering companies operated behind the scenes was shaped at Honeywell, however the work I was performing wasn’t really centered around systems engineering, my field of study, and the tasks I was assigned were very mundane and cyclical.
I learned about BluestoneLogic through a couple of members in my fraternity who had good experiences there. They told me that the environment was very welcoming and laid back, which appealed to me. I also liked that their work was focused around my major. The company was much smaller than Honeywell which led me to believe that I would be involved in more aspects of the day to day operations of the company, allowing me to learn more about engineering and the consulting business as a whole.
On my first day, my roommate Graham dropped me off because I hadn’t quite figured out the bus system yet. When I arrived at the building I rode up to the third floor to the Bluestone suite. My first impression right off the elevator was, “Wow, check out how nice the building is and how nice their offices are!”
As I walked in I met Caroline and she introduced me to the engineers in the office at the time. All of the engineers were very welcoming and I noticed they were younger than most of the engineers that worked at Honeywell during my time there. The vibe in the office was much more modern than I had previously anticipated. All of the furniture and equipment was much more up to date than many of the engineering companies that I had come across thus far. After I had met everyone I sat at my desk and began working on logging in to all of the web-based platforms that the Bluestone team used to accomplish their day to day activities.
As I began exploring the applications, and all of Bluestone’s analysis artifacts, it struck me that this was a company that was much more technologically advanced than many of their competitors. The tools being used were not years out of date, like those I had come across at Honeywell, instead they were innovative and at the forefront of their respective markets.
These platforms had a moderate learning curve so it took me about an hour or two before I felt comfortable with the majority of their features and functions. After I finished, I filled out some procedural tax forms and watched a few training videos on their project management tool, Liquid Planner. After this I didn’t really have much to do so I began asking the other engineers how I should spend the rest of my time. Larry suggested that I read some literature on the system modeling language, SysML, a spinoff of UML. I realized this language would be extremely useful to me both during my time at Bluestone and in school when I returned so I spent the next hour watching an in-depth introduction video to get me started. By the time I had finished all of these tasks the day was coming to a close and I only had around an hour left before I went home. I decided to download the programing language R to my computer and read a bit of the R Introduction manual that Esteban sent me earlier in the day. Some of the engineers mentioned earlier that it would be beneficial for me to learn R as it had become a useful tool in systems analysis. All in all, I thought my first day was fulfilling and looked forward to what else I would be involved with as the summer progressed.
I messaged the company founder, Davey (who happened to be out of the office on travel), on their collaboration platform, Slack. He got right back to me, providing some general instructions on what to do for the day including writing a short paper on my experiences on my first day.
My first week or so at Bluestone involved me sitting in on meetings and asking many questions about their current projects to help me better understand my role and how I could help. As I learned the Bluestone process, my first few tasks required I learn their system modeling application, MagicDraw. We used this app to produce UML and SysML diagrams for their customers. Once I became comfortable with the diagraming tool I began to help some of the engineers with diagrams they had to produce as deliverables for their clients. One of the first diagrams that I helped complete was a dependency matrix for Esteban, one of the engineers, and a fellow Hoo. The matrix involved showing connections and dependencies between two different types of services. Esteban mapped out these dependencies so all I had to do was fill in the matrix. While this work was fairly easy for me, I learned about the advantage that a dependency matrix can give developers when they begin creating the system that Esteban had helped to design.
I also helped Larry, another systems engineer, with system workflows for the same system that the dependency matrix was mapped for. Helping tweak these workflows gave me a much better understanding of the modeling languages UML and SysML. Working with these engineers on their MagicDraw projects helped me to gain a much better appreciation for the design work that must be done before a system can (or should) be developed.
As the summer went on I began branching out into other areas that I was able to assist the engineers around the office with. I learned creating good, publication-ready graphics in OmniGraffle. Engineers around the office would create diagrams on paper or on a whiteboard that they would then want me to produce in OmniGraffle. For me this was the some of the most enjoyable work that I performed throughout the summer because it allowed me to be creative and gave me insight on how the crisp and clean graphics that I had seen in Bluestone’s reports were made. Creating these graphics also gave me insight into many areas of the company that I had not previously been exposed to. Everybody seemed to need me to make graphics for them!
Using the LaTeX mark-up language to code documents was a big part of the summer as well. All of Bluestone’s deliverables were created using LaTeX as it made the documents look extremely sharp and added to the quality and thoroughness of their work. It was very satisfying to see the finished product of the document after writing several pages of code to make it happen. Helping the engineers create these deliverables also opened my eyes to the amount of documentation that is needed when a systems engineering firm designs a system for their client. Learning LaTeX gave a much better idea of all the tasks that must be completed before a design will be accepted by the client. I’m sure this skill will also prove to be very valuable to me when I return to school and have to complete documentation on my own.
Possibly the most important area of work was when I got to be a part of the proposal team for a job that Bluestone was bidding on for the Department of Defense. I was already very familiar with proposals for equipment as that was my main area of work at Honeywell last summer, but I had yet to experience how the process of bidding for design services and the act of writing the the proposal itself took place. My role on the proposal team was to help the other team members with anything that needed to be done including using OmniGraffle to create diagrams, investigating the statements that pertained to contractor compliance in the request for proposal, copyediting, and using Latex to help create the final proposal. Not many interns get to help write a proposal but because Bluestone is a smaller company I was exposed to many of the processes that a proposal team must undergo to build a winning proposal. My most important job as a part of the proposal team was to create a compliance and cross reference matrix. This matrix shows the government that all their demands are met within the proposal that is submitted to them. Creating this matrix took me quite a long time and showed me just how much must be taken into consideration for a job to be won and completed.
My final project required I get an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 up and operational in the office. This was by far the most interesting work that I was assigned while at Bluestone. Virtual reality has never really crossed my mind much but I was very interested to see how the experience with the Oculus would be. My first effort to get the Oculus running was on a Mac and after a few hours I realized that the specs on a windows computer would be much more suitable. When I finally had the Oculus running on a Lenovo computer the virtual reality experience was incredible. It was like looking directly into the future.
I am very thankful for the opportunity I was given this summer at Bluestone, it was a great time. If you get the chance to work there, you should definitely do it!
By John Suits