Day in the Life of a Controls Engineer

Bilal Durrani

Bilal Durrani
Photo Courtesy of Bilal Durrani

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Bilal Durrani, and I am a Controls Engineer at Abbess Instruments and Systems, Inc. I recently graduated from Wentworth Institute of Technology roughly a year ago with a degree in Electrical Engineering, class of 2017. Some hobbies I play basketball, I enjoy skiing and love to travel. This past summer I had taken a trip to Bali, Indonesia with some friends. I ate all new types of foods, hiked a mountain, saw a monkey forest, deep sea diving, and surfed for the first time. I enjoy learning new technologies, self-development and improving one’s self.

Where did you attend school and what did you study?

I recently graduated from Wentworth Institute of Technology roughly a year ago with a degree in Electrical Engineering, class of 2017.

Tell us a bit about your position at Abbess Instruments?

Abbess is a small custom shop that creates Vacuum Chambers and Chiller systems. Our products are usually custom made to the customer needs. Moreover, my position as a Controls Engineer curtails of creating schematics, software development of our HMI/SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition programs) programs for Abbess Products; to testing the final system checkup once the project is complete; to supporting customers in the maintenance of Abbess Products; to writing the user manual for the product; and to managing a R&D team and assist in communicating with patentable entities of Abbess.

I love how I am part of the process from A to Z when we are creating a new system. I enjoy being able to see the big picture of the project to work out the little details in the final check. The position I have requires a broad range of skills and extremely detail oriented processes. This is the beauty of working for a small shop is that you get to be really hands-on throughout the process and every day is really a new day. I won’t catch myself having a repetitive schedule. I enjoy seeing the baby steps of the project to final shipment rather working on one task continuously. Also, having a job where I am part of the hardware design to the software really makes my job fulfilling at the end of the day. Thus giving me a broad range of skills as an engineer. I also believe that is the future path for electrical engineers is taking on more of the software rather than just solely hardware.

What advice would you give to students interested in becoming a Controls Engineer?

The advice I would give to students interested in Controls Engineer or working for a small shop is the ability to pick on skills quickly and independently. As a controls engineer, you won’t use anything you learned from your controls systems class. As a controls engineer, you will touch upon both hardware and software and will have to think of the position of the operator when creating your HMI designs. Also, work on your software skills and find skills that are broad and translate to any job. As for a small shop biggest thing is knowing that your role is not your title. You will be working in everyone’s position if there need be. If you need to learn how to create models in CAD on the go then you will have to do that. You will be wearing many hats and you must learn quickly on skills you are not familiar with.

Day in The Life

What time do you wake up in the morning?

I wake up 6:30 or 7:00 depending on any meetings.

Any morning routines?

I ask Alexa what my flash briefing is while I’m getting ready for work and listen to any news and tips from HBS.

How is your morning commute?

I have a 45-mile drive for my commute which usually takes 55 minutes to an hour. There is minimal traffic except when entering the town of Holliston where Abbess is in.

Do you listen to podcasts or music in the morning, if so what do you listen to?

I start off my drive with New York Daily Podcast or NPR for 30 minutes then I listen to PTI (Pardon the Interruption) on ESPN for my morning drive. However, in the event I am feeling sleepy then I must blast some music to wake myself up. On my way back from work I listen to How I built this with Guy Raz with is an interview with top CEOs and how they built their company or Skip and Shannon Undisputed which just talks about sports.

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“You won’t use anything from your control systems class”.. this statement is not true and no two control systems engineering jobs are the same in different industries or companies. Why is this on the front page this guy only graduated in 2017 what kind of worldly and valuable experience does he even have.