A Day in the Life of a Field Engineer
by Daniel A. Sen

A Field Engineer (FE) or Technical Adviser (TA) is an engineer who usually works at a customer's site.  This uniqueness offers a varied and challenging work environment and requires that the FE be flexible, have excellent communication skills and an abundance of patience.  In GE Energy, field engineers are divided into mechanical FEs, electrical FEs, control systems FEs, and generator specialists.  I’m cross trained as both an electrical FE and a generator specialist.

My typical day starts with a good breakfast; best to have a scrumptious breakfast because you're never completely certain if or when you'll be having lunch!   Then, I'd drive to site.  After a short meeting with the customer, I'd go on to start my work.  Depending on a field engineer's qualifications, the site work might be installation, commissioning, maintenance, troubleshooting, tuning, vibration analysis, or electrical testing of various types of equipment.  Perhaps the most challenging of these is troubleshooting because at the onset, very little is known about the problem.  In fact, quite often all that is known is that there is a problem!

I'd start troubleshooting a problem by first pulling the relevant documents and technical drawings.  After confirming that the equipment and wiring agree with these documents and drawings, I proceed to try to find the cause of the problem.  One of the simplest and easiest methods I like to use at this stage is to segment the problem: break it up into two smaller pieces and test each piece.  After a few iterations, the cause of the problem can usually be found or, at the very least, isolated.  After completing my work day, I'd update the customer on my progress, submit any documentation for the day, then drive back to have dinner.  Tomorrow will bring with it a new set of issues, but one thing’s for certain: it will be different, it will be a challenge, and it will be solved.

Every problem can be solved with either dollars or time, and quite often it is the tug of war between these two that a field engineer needs to balance.   As a field engineer, I solve problems, switch things ON, and all this while living life out of a suitcase!