A woman wearing motorbike gear and holding a helmet against a backdrop of a body of water.
Kirsty Monaghan. Image: Intel

This engineer uses problem solving in more ways than one

3 Apr 2023

Intel engineer Kirsty Monaghan talks about working on test program development and shares her tips for maintaining focus.

Kirsty Monaghan is a senior product development engineer at Intel, having started working at the company six years ago.

In her role, she works on the test program development for platform controller hub products at Intel.

“I currently work on only two areas of the Sort Test Program for testing silicon straight out of the fab. The areas are in testing the silicon health monitoring IP and developing tests to find latent defects in the silicon material,” she told SiliconRepublic.com

“Apart from creating these tests specifically for Intel’s new products, I also work to improve the processes and best known methods for future use.”

Outside of work, Monaghan enjoys painting and bookbinding as well as touring the winding roads of Ireland and Scotland via motorbike.

‘I enjoy the debug, I enjoy the team and overall, I enjoy the challenge’

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

All days start with reading emails and reviewing the calendar to flag anything urgent and if there’s a high priority meeting, I’ll block out the 30 minutes before it to prep.

Then we have the stand-up meeting with the team which sets out the executable work for the day and if any help is needed.

When we were full-time in the office the team would all go for breakfast and this is something we’ve continued to do while working at home. A few boiled eggs later and cups of coffee to clear the head, it’s back to the desk.

After the morning set-up, it’s all about balancing the work that needs to be completed with any extra projects I might be driving on the side.

This really differs day to day, which means prioritising is always the highest priority. But I love how it changes from week to week from development and data analysis to debug or writing specs.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

I wouldn’t be much of an engineer if I didn’t say problem solving but maybe different to how we were taught in college – that problem solving is only useful for getting a technical solution fast.

The reality is that it can be used for ensuring that the data is correct, the goal is clear and aligned between all stakeholders, and that there isn’t just one solution but options that must be weighed up and optimised.

What are the hardest parts of your working day?

With the prolonged working from home, I found it difficult to stay focused. Trying to separate home life from work life is tricky when they’re on top of each other.

Simply calling other teammates for help or working together on a call has improved this and helped in making sure that no one feels siloed. The hybrid working situation has boosted morale and helped in getting to know new team members face to face.

Really being able to shut down the laptop and shut off from work at a healthy time has been key to getting back on track.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the day?

Number one: Take your breaks!

I was never able to separate my day into one-hour tasks – it always caused an undue amount of stress from the inevitable countdown.

Splitting the day in two or even thirds separated by lunch, or a tea break, felt easy to manage and has some in-built leeway.

What skills and tools are you using to communicate daily with your colleagues?

We use Jira to organise the workload into two-week sprints. It helps the team prioritise and highlight if any unknown work interrupts the flow and if anyone needs help. We use Microsoft Teams to message and call each other.

I prefer to use OneNote for daily documentation – every single step and screenshot of debug and development I’ve done over the past six years has been dutifully transcribed and has absolutely saved me on numerous occasions!

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

The role fundamentally hasn’t changed but the goal posts have shifted as the silicon sector is pushing us all to be better and compete at the highest level.

Higher quality, faster execution and the development for new IP has introduced some interesting challenges that we must constantly evolve our specs and tests for.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I have always gravitated to the more technical elements of the test programme development role especially the design aspects. My team and my manager have always enabled me to take the opportunities to do more in this area.

This has allowed me to travel across the world and work with different teams in Malaysia, Israel and South Korea. It has helped me develop as an engineer and make a good start towards being a technical leader. I enjoy the debug, I enjoy the team and overall, I enjoy the challenge.

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