I've never seen the movie The Bucket List. Nor have I seen either the MTV show or the CBS special that played on the same idea. The idea of making a list of things to do has certainly been around for a while. In fact, a good friend of mine crossed off a major item on his list a few years ago when he bought a Ferrari. "I could almost die happy now," he said.
When he first took me for a spin in his sweet ride, I started thinking about my own list. But now I'm putting a different spin on it: a test engineer bucket list. Before I retire, hopefully a long time from now, what would I like to do as an engineer?
I'm not talking about accomplishments. It would be quite easy to make a list that included items like, "make a ton of money, receive multiple patents, publish numerous papers." That's more of a self-serving list than a self-fulfilling list. Instead, I aimed for things that I would personally want to do as a test engineer, things that I would find professionally satisfying, and things that are just fun. Often we don't think of work as "fun," but sometimes it can be a real hoot.
So I came up with a list of five items. They're in no particular order, but I think they all fit my above boundary conditions. Perhaps it will inspire someone to create their own list.
Mentor a young engineer
I don't think I'm quite old enough to seriously consider being the "elder voice of experience" for younger test engineers. But I can think of several people who tutored me when I was younger. Those lessons were not really about technical details. They had to do more with how to deal with difficult coworkers, presenting your case in a meeting, and other things you don't get in college classes. I'd like to pass on the favor at some point down the line.
Work as a true manufacturing test engineer
Most of my career has been on the R&D side, bringing up a pilot production system, or small production quantities. I think it would be interesting to see how the other side lives: analyzing massive amounts of data for a thousand devices tested a week, troubleshooting an entire floor of test systems. Maybe I'd do it for a few months, maybe a few years.
Be a consultant
This is similar to the "manufacturing test engineer" item above. I worked in sales for a couple years, and that scratched a particular itch. Trying out my hand as an engineering consultant would be another one of those itches. I've worked with several consultants, and sometimes I've thought it would be fun to try that career change out for a while.
Develop a test system that measures a fundamental aspect of the universe
I used to do this, a long time ago. Over the past decade I've worked at startup companies trying to commercialize bleeding edge technology, and that has it's moments. But nothing beats the thrill of measuring something that stretches the bounds of science itself. It'd be great to experience that once more.
Write a story about a test engineer
This would definitely be on the "fun" list. I don't think I've ever read a novel about an intrepid test engineer braving impossible odds to save the day. I do think it would be a blast to try and write one.