This month, we are excited to feature Stephen Washkevich, our incredible Application Engineer. Stephen was nominated for an Employee Spotlight from a member of our sales team, who wrote that Steve “is super helpful and great on technical calls with our customers. Plus, a really great guy in general”. The past fourteen years would not have been the same without Steve and we are so grateful for the work he has done for Omega Optical and the greater community. Way to go, Steve!
What does a typical day as an Application Engineer look like?
As an Application Engineer, I'm primarily an interface between Omega Sales and Manufacturing and our customers. A typical day is a bit of everything. It could be reviewing manufacturing plans and revising pricing/quotes on our current products, or playing the role of curious advisor to our customers. Many of them are not experts in photonics and require various amounts of hand-holding to determine what exactly they need. This process, working with all the experts in our departments, can take hours or weeks depending on the project. This means I'm often on the phone or in video meetings learning about new projects and answering questions about what we can do, or bugging someone here about the same. When I'm not doing that, I'm generally helping answer questions around Omega about why we did things the way we did or helping customers understand what went wrong if there are problems. There are also always new projects coming up, which may involve costing our products, working on new processes that might help improve our work, new and interesting glass parts to source, working to help the sales staff effectively communicate what we're offering and why. It's a bit of acting and promotion, teaching, and a lot of constant learning… not to mention number crunching and critical evaluation of our manufacturing. It's pretty great!
What led you to work at Omega Optical?
Previously I managed an independent video store in Brattleboro called First Run Video. It was a great job, but I saw the end of home-video coming a long way off. One day my roommate Dave Gabriel called to ask what I was doing and I told him I was looking for a new job. He said he'd help me get into Omega, which I'd never even heard of. That was 14 years ago this August. As far as the education, I was born and raised in Hinsdale, NH, spent a bit of time at Greenfield Community college, and am ultimately a product of learning here at Omega day by day, and year by year.
Why did you choose to work at Omega Optical over other companies?
I appreciate all the opportunity, education, and flexibility that Omega has provided me over the years. I've had 3 or 4 distinct careers here and they were all interesting and rewarding in their own right.
What is your favorite part about working at Omega Optical?
I feel like I'm actually involved in something worthwhile in the greater world. We do things that impact the entire planet and beyond. Growing up in our little town, it can feel like we're so small, but being here at Omega has helped me feel connected to the greater world.
What have you learned since working at Omega Optical?
How much space do I have!? I have learned everything from how light works and critical thinking about how to make it behave how we need it to, all the way to how to deal with just showing up and doing hard things that I never thought I'd encounter in my life. My time here has informed a lot of other parts of my life.
What has been your favorite project that you've worked on at Omega Optical and why?
Years ago I worked on a project that used the Mercury laser in a defocused mode to prove that we could thermally anneal our coatings in selected regions. This was very exciting to develop and work on and prove out from concept to reality. Markus and Tim Upton were instrumental in executing that project and it was very gratifying to see an idea come from nowhere and the teamwork that made it happen.
What is one fun memory you've made working at Omega Optical?
What sticks out at the moment is all our old Halloween parties. There are probably some embarrassing and hilarious pictures of me in a mullet, among other things, floating around out there.
What is some advice you have for those pursuing a position in your field and/or at Omega Optical?
Be curious, be fearless about asking questions, and share your crazy ideas! You never know when you might be right just because nobody else is thinking about it.
What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
Just a ton of board games!
Any final comments?
Thanks to everyone here for supporting each other through not only the last very difficult year but the previous decade(s). You're all great folks and I'm proud to be here with you!