Past Pupil Profiles

Denver Humphrey June 1990

Denver Humphrey, a Chief MMIC Designer and Radio Frequency Engineer with Arralis in Limerick, tells us about his career path so far.

  • Job Title: Radio Frequency Engineer
  • Company: Arralis
  • Industry: Electronics
  • Experience: 15 years
  • Education: Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Queens University Belfast
  • Favourite subjects in school: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Applied Mathematics
  • The best thing about my job: When a satellite is launched into space that contains a component that you have designed you feel proud!

My main tasks

I design radio frequency components used in all types of equipment from mobile phones to WiFi transmitters. However, the components I design are more complex and advanced and found in equipment used in space for telecommunications, debris detection (and avoidance) and remote docking/landing AND at frequencies over 40 times higher than those used in your WiFi router.

What I like

As someone who has designed parts for satellites in space, because you know that if it wasn’t for your contribution, all they would have launched was a large pile of space junk!

Challenges

Fault finding – that is, when your design doesn’t work and you have to find out why. This is the most embarrassing and frustrating thing that I face.

Work / life balance

Although at times (and particularly as deadlines approach) you may be required to work more hours than normal, in general you are able to maintain a good work-life balance.

I am a huge sports fan and in particular a big Ulster Rugby fan and spend a lot of my free time supporting (and worrying about) Irish rugby. One of the best things about being an RF engineer however is that it has enabled me to work all over the world – including the US and Japan.

Who influenced me

The most helpful guidance I was given was that I was told to choose a career using subjects that I enjoyed doing. I always enjoyed maths and physics at school, so I was interested in choosing a career that needed me to use both.

It took a bit of research and effort, but I settled on Electrical and Electronic Engineering and haven’t looked back since.

Most useful aspects of my education

Whilst at university, I had the opportunity of working within the engineering team on a shortwave radio station during work placement. As a result I specialized in Radio Frequency (RF) engineering when I returned to college.

I also found my understanding of mathematics helpful.

When your studies seem endless, don’t give up. Keep going. You’ll get there in the end.

Useful Work Experience

There are a surprising number of companies in Ireland involved in the space technology sector. This means that it is possible to experience a number of different opportunities – it is better to visit a number of different companies and experience different technologies rather than to just experience one.

Work experience in university engineering departments would also enable you to do this and many universities now run courses for school pupils to learn more about the subject.

A typical day for me

My day starts typically at 8:30am, and (after the obligatory cup of coffee) begins by checking to see what design requests or questions have been e-mailed to me over night. This is a good experience as you get to find out exactly what customers want your components to do and to question why they can’t get it to work.

The exciting part of the day however is spent designing and simulating how a component will perform, on a computer. When this goes well it’s great, when things go bad, it’s unpleasant!

Some days however I get to work in the lab using equipment that only a few hundred people in the world will ever use. It’s amazing to think that I’m one of them.

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