A Day in the Life of a Silicon Valley Engineer

Photo by Krisztian Tabori on Unsplash.

In Silicon Valley, there are quite a few Product Design Engineers. We are mechanical engineers who design consumer electronics or hardware. Think: the people who make sure your phone doesn’t break after one drop.

For example, at my previous role at Apple, I designed, prototyped, and tested next-gen MacBook hardware.

People wonder what my day looks like so following is a typical schedule:

Typical Schedule

Morning

5:30 AM: Morning activities.

  • Wake up, change, brush teeth, etc.
  • Read some early morning news. Potentially make some pre-market stock trades or set up some trades to occur during the day.
  • Work on the side business.

6:30 AM: Carpool from East Bay to Silicon Valley.

  • I drive a Tesla Model 3 mainly so that I can drive in the carpool and express lanes for free.
  • When I test-drove it on my regular commute, I learned that Autopilot is friggen fantastic. Autopilot cuts down on driver fatigue by a lot. I’m convinced that Teslas are the ultimate commuter vehicles.
  • For more of my thoughts and why I got the car I did, check out:
Author’s approximate commute. Screen capture by the Author from Google Maps.

7:30 AM: Get fueled up.

  • Get into the office and make a quick breakfast comprising hardboiled eggs and bagels or toast.
  • Make some hot tea.
  • Breakfast, snacks, and drinks are provided by the company.

7:45 AM: Orient myself with the day’s to-dos.

  • Sit down at my desk with 5 monitors. Read through and respond to emails or Slack messages that came in the previous night.
The top of my desk. Check out my desk setup in more depth. Photo by Author.

8 AM: Work. Work. Work.

  • Usually means working on Computer Aided Design (CAD) models.
  • But this could also mean looking at large datasets or spreadsheets,
  • working out physics models, or
  • figuring out design or manufacturing challenges.

11 AM: Meetings.

  • Sync-up meeting with colleagues who are working on the same project as me (depending on the day).
  • Brainstorm meeting to figure out the best way to make the product waterproof.
  • Meeting to figure out the ideal user experience (UX) for the product.

Afternoon

12 PM: Fill my belly.

  • Lunch with colleagues either outside on the picnic benches when it’s sunny, or inside at the lunch/kitchen area when it’s cold or rainy.
  • My favorite dishes are the cheesesteak sandwich and the cheesy beef dip sandwich.
Cheesesteak sandwich. Photo by Eat Club.
  • Lunch is provided by my company through the vendor Eat Club.

1 PM: Work. Work. Work.

  • Figure out the tight tolerances that we need to make/assemble the product at the factory without any waste.
  • Try to put together a prototype to be able to test the product before we launch the product to make sure that the product is robust and reliable.

3PM: Snack time.

  • My go-to snacks are the Cheez-Its.
  • I also enjoy mango La Croix. Lime, pamplemouse, and passionfruit are also good. But coconut La Croix is just gross.
Snacks at my office. Photo by Author.
  • Again, snacks and drinks are provided by the company.

5 PM: Conference call.

  • Chat with other engineers and cross-functional teammembers, some based in Asia (5 PM in California is 9 AM in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.). Sync up on the day’s progress and what still need to be done.

5:50 PM: Achieve inbox zero (ideally, but usually not the case).

Evening

6 PM: Carpool out.

  • Grab some snacks and La Croix drinks for the road.

7 PM: Dinner.

7:45 PM: Quick workout session.

8:15 PM: Shower, brush teeth, etc.

8:30 PM: Personal time.

  • Read evening news. Potentially make some after-hours stock trades.
  • Work on the side business.

9 PM: Get in bed and go to sleep.

Though my activities vary day to day, this schedule is a pretty good overview of a “typical” day. And I thoroughly enjoy the work that I do.

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