From grad to principal engineer in 4 years
A project assignment turning into a master’s thesis eventually also led to a permanent position at Water Linked for Andreas Tesaker. He has recently assumed a role as Principal Engineer, an opportunity that allows him to continue his professional growth in an environment simmering with entrepreneurial energy.

How did you initially cross paths with Water Linked?

When I was studying Electronic Systems Design at NTNU, I joined the student organization Vortex where I participated in constructing an underwater drone (ROV). Water Linked was one of the sponsors, so I reached out and proposed to write a project assignment about acoustics in collaboration with them. 

Working on the assignment, I found the subject to be very intriguing, leading me to continue exploring acoustics with Water Linked as I worked on my master’s thesis. Eventually, my findings turned out to be quite useful to them as it contributed to a major project they were working on at the time. After I graduated, Water Linked received investor funds in order to hire me, and after two months of temporary employment I was permanently hired. 

Around those times, Water Linked was still a start-up with only six employees when I signed my contract. In such an environment where resources are scarce, everyone has to contribute, even outside of their field of expertise. For me that meant trying out new things such as mechanical engineering, which I had little formal training in. This challenged me to grow and learn new skills in an environment of trust and collaboration. 

Today, we have grown into 28 employees, organized in expert groups such as Hardware, Electronics, Embedded, Signal Processing, Cloud, Production and Customer Experience. I find it to be an absolute advantage to have gained some interdisciplinary experience in the early days, and fortunately we are continuously making efforts to preserve the culture of sharing, learning and collaborating across disciplines. 

What does a day in the office look like for you?

My field of expertise is mainly electronics and hardware. As Principal Engineer and a member of the Hardware team I lead the process of preparing documentation that provides the basis for assembly and production. Such documentation consists of instructions for assembly and programming, component lists and test reviews among other things and they help to tie the product together and make sure the electronics fits with the mechanics. I also do a lot of product testing as the software is implemented into the hardware. 

Who I work closest with depends on which phase the current project is in. In the initial phase it is often the product owner and customer, in the development phase I work alongside people from electronics, software, embedded and signal processing teams, and finally in the production phase it is mostly the hardware team but here also everyone is contributing into this final effort before we are ready to commercialize the product. And of course I always spar with my colleagues on the hardware expert team such as Einar. 

Andreas appreciates the opportunity to spar and socialize with his coworkers in our newly renovated office facilities.

What is it about your role that makes you tick?

First and foremost, I found it highly motivating to be able to contribute to the development of the DVL A50 – a truly disruptive product that we launched in 2020. With its exceptional small size, high performance and affordable price, the A50 became a game changer, pushing the limits for what an ROV can do and which environments it can operate – with both stable positioning and precise navigation. The experience of establishing a new market segment and dominating it made us all hungry for new opportunities to innovate, and this hunger is definitely a driving factor – not only to me but also for many of my colleagues. 

Furthermore, I really value the way we work together and compliment each other as a team and our joint accomplishments every single day. I love how we always manage to find solutions and puzzle the pieces together, and that we praise each other when we succeed. I would also like to emphasize the variation as a project goes through different phases and the various teams connect at each phase as something that definitely drives my commitment. 

I also appreciate that we have newly renovated, great office facilities and I am convinced that the physical work environment here affects both our well-being and productivity as employees in a positive way. An open landscape makes it easier to confer and cooperate. We have meeting rooms and even an integrated wet lab where we do product testing and development. There is also a canteen in the building, where we go for lunch together.

That’s well and nice, but surely it can’t all be all calm waters and sunshine?

I might be biased, but to wrap up the pros, when it comes to benefits, the flexibility is something that I highly appreciate, especially as a father of two. My kids are one and four years old, and I am happy to be able to deliver and pick them up at preschool without stressing over strict office hours. I think the work-life balance is good and even if it’s expected that we are digitally available at some level after office hours, there’s definitely no urgency culture here. Everyone respects that you have kids and that family comes first. So this is definitely one of the pros. 

Regarding the cons, if I must point out one thing that can be challenging by workíng here at the moment, it will probably be adapting to our fast growth and new roles that are being filled. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to welcome the new hires aboard and I know this is a stage we need to go through to achieve our strategic goals, but it does require that we break habits and routines and adapt to new chains of command and new ways of doing things. It takes some effort but we simply need to trust the process as a means to grow and further strengthen Water Linked as a company.

What career advice would you give to recent graduates embarking on their professional journey?

Be open to exploring assignments even if they are not directly correlating with your education. It is always a benefit to have knowledge beyond your specialization as long as it is still relevant to the profession you are aiming for. 

Build a portfolio, either through participating in student organizations, relevant part time jobs or volunteer projects. For electronic students I will also recommend participating in code competitions. It is important to have something to show for in order to demonstrate that you are not just any recent graduate with a certain education. All practical experience you can get is valuable in order to stand out from your peers with “just” theoretical skills. I know it’s not easy to get paid for such practical experience as a student, but invest some time as a volunteer. At NTNU you have the Omega workshop, student projects such as Revolve, Vortex and Ascend to mention some that I’m familiar with.

Finally I recommend you to gain insight into how the workday is for any position that you apply for, and ask yourself whether you will be comfortable spending eight hours a day like this for years to come.

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