To kick off our Meet The Team series, we’re starting with Patrick Fenner – our Co-Founder and Head of Engineering! Patrick started DefProc with our Managing Director Jen back in 2010. Since then, Patrick has led many of our key projects, helped to manage our team and delivered a variety of talks and workshops. As an experienced engineer and a keen problem-solver, Patrick enjoys all things IoT, VR and automotive engineering.
Let’s learn about Patrick’s journey and what he enjoys most about being our Head Of Engineering.
What does your role involve? What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
As Head of Engineering, my role is very broad. I oversee everything that goes on at DefProc from meeting clients and working on projects to managing our team and making sure they have what they need. I work on a wide variety of projects that involve things like designing circuits, building electronics, 3D modelling, programming microcontrollers and developing software. I tend to have to be able to do a bit of everything!
I love to work on interesting problems with clients. When I meet with them, I talk through their project with them to get an understanding of how we might help them, then I translate that into a set of outputs. I find it fun to specify the process of a project, finding out what new and innovative ways DefProc can help them to solve a problem.
How did you know you wanted to be an engineer?
I think I’ve always known that I wanted to be an engineer. I’ve been building things since I was little. My dad was an engineer and my mum was a computer programmer, and my job is now a bit of both of those!
I used to play with Lego and was always taking things apart and drawing diagrams of systems I might make as a kid. I was always imagining the things that I could create. I once made a zipline in our garden with a pulley I found, testing in thoroughly to ensure it could take my weight, only to have it fail as soon as I jumped from the tree supporting it! Even though I failed, I learnt a great (painful) lesson about the difference between static and dynamic loading! Throughout my childhood, I learnt by trying out ideas, which then feeds into how I approach problems now.
How did you start your career in engineering?
I studied Maths and Physics at college which then let me do an Automotive Engineering degree at uni. I went down a stress, strain and structural analysis route with my education and went on to do a postgraduate masters on aircraft wing skin stiffeners. Jen and I started DefProc pretty much straight out of uni, as I couldn’t find an engineering job that had the kind of breadth that I was looking for.
What do you enjoy most about engineering?
Solving problems is my favourite thing to do! As an engineer, I get to solve problems over and over again, every single day. It can be difficult but I really enjoy puzzles and figuring things out.
What has been your favourite project to work on so far?
The current project that I’m working on is my favourite because our clients bring us such interesting problems to solve! But one of my favourites was Made Invaders, which was a project we worked on with makers from DoES Liverpool. A lot of people were involved in the project and I enjoyed the collaboration that went into it. From producing custom music to creating characters using LED lights, everyone put a lot of effort into Made Invaders to make it as exciting and interesting as possible for the players.
What would be your ideal project to work on?
After attending The Things Conference in January, I’m really excited about the prospect of Satellite IoT. There’s a bit of a rush to space at the minute, and I think seeing how Satellite IoT unfolds will be really interesting. Getting a very low power device to be able to send data to space will be a challenge and I’m keen to see what problems and solutions arise, but the prospect of being able to have connected devices anywhere in the world that you can see the sky is revolutionary. I’d love to do something with Satellite IoT in the future.
What has been your proudest achievement working with DefProc?
How far we’ve come. It’s amazing that we’ve managed to turn the idea we had for a business into a functioning reality. It’s great to have stability, consistently having work, being able to employ people and help them build their skill base over time is very rewarding. We are outputting around a project a month and things are going really well at the moment.
What are your future goals, both for yourself and for the company?
I’d like to see DefProc continue with its steady, consistent growth. I’ve been playing with some VR devices recently, and I’m fascinated by the idea of physical interface devices that match with VR counterparts.
Who is your favourite modern inventor and why?
Probably Limor Fried, the CEO of Adafruit Industries. I really admire what she’s done with her company. Adafruit Industries is manufacturing in New York City, and designing, testing and distributing things all from the same place, which is unheard of! The speed at which they can create a new product is really impressive and their commitment to providing open-source designs, detailed documentation and providing support in public forums is doing great things in the industry.