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Computer Engineering Overview - Overview Podcast

Marshall Capps

Software Systems Engineer 
Texas Instruments
DLP® Products
Dallas, TX


BS Computer Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
Marshall is a system and embedded software engineer working on interactive technologies for DLP® projectors.
"Find something that you can be passionate about, and look at your classes through that lens. Being passionate about an end goal will make learning the basics much easier."

Q: When did you know you wanted to become an Engineer?
Capps: As a young kid, I always wanted to invent and create new things. I would take apart toys and try to make them do something new. This usually ended with me breaking the toy. Then during the last few years of elementary school, my brother taught me how to program in BASIC and C. As a result, that creative desire naturally funneled into programming small games. Engineering became a perfect fit as I grew older. It also didn’t hurt that my father, brother, and sister were also engineers

Q: What was your college experience like?
Capps: College classes were much more challenging than high school for me, so I quickly had to learn how to study and manage my time. I focused mainly on electrical engineering classes so that I could broaden my technical knowledge beyond software. Of course, I balanced school work with the typical college fun. At Texas A&M, that meant attending all the football games, going two-stepping, and experiencing all the other traditions.

Q: Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
Capps: I interned at TI all three summers during my undergrad. My last internship was in the DLP® group, where I hired in after I graduated.

Q: How did you get your first job?
Capps: I submitted my resume to TI through A&M’s engineering career fairs and ended up traveling to Dallas for an interview. I then had to follow up a few times with the recruiters to make sure I got placed for that first internship.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about doing the work you do?
Capps: The best part of my job is getting to work with so many talented and cool people. I have had the privilege of working with countless engineers across many disciplines, traveling the world to work with customers and experience their cultures, and traveling with business and marketing folks to promote our products. The people that I work with are what make this job fulfilling.

Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've worked on has positively impacted the world?
Capps: The technology from my pet project has recently made it into several products. Our DLP® interactive projector technology allows teachers to turn just about any surface into an interactive whiteboard. It does not require calibration and allows the teacher to interact with the image at a distance. This allows the teacher to walk around the room and better engage the students.

Q: Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
Capps: It varies from year to year, but a typical year might include a trip every couple months, either overseas or domestic. I have had the great opportunity to travel frequently to Asia and develop friendships with coworkers at our field offices and engineers at our customers.

Q: Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years? Was this helpful to you?
Capps: I do not have a formal mentor, but I have always had plenty of good relationships with coworkers, management, and family. The experiences and advice they have shared in casual conversation has been invaluable.

Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Capps: I work exclusively in teams. There will always be work that must be done alone, but the majority of my time is spent interacting with others.

Q: Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while working in your current job?
Capps: It can be difficult during crunch times when finishing up a project, especially when you are personally invested in the project. However, my managers have always supported a balanced work life. The challenge is learning to turn off your own personal drive and set your own limits.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you earn the degree you did? Why?
Capps: Yes. There are certainly classes I wish I had not taken and other classes that I wish I had, but overall it prepared me well for the career I wanted. 

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you be doing the same work you are doing? Why?
Capps: Yes. It has not all been easy, but my work has exposed me to such a broad life experience as to make it worth it.

Q: Did you think that your education prepared you for the way the work gets done in the real world?
Capps: My education prepared me well with the technical knowledge necessary for my job, but my internships were what prepared me for the way work gets done in the real world. The key is learning not to rely on others for direction. Taking the initiative to get things done, whether it’s your job or not, is invaluable to an organization.

Q: Where do you see jobs in the future for those interested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or medicine (STEM)?
Capps: The best advice I can give is to keep your eyes open, look for ways to improve the world, and create the job or position for you to accomplish that goal.

Q: What should middle and high school students be doing to prepare themselves to take on STEM careers?
Capps: Find something that you can be passionate about, and look at your classes through that lens. Being passionate about an end goal will make learning the basics much easier.

Q: How important is mathematics to the work you do?
Capps: Mathematics and logic are the building blocks for everything I create. When I studied math in school, I was not good at memorizing steps to solve a problem. Instead, I focused more on how the equations behaved and how they could be used, and that has become essential to my everyday work life.

Q: What advice do you have for teachers or counselors who are assisting students who are interested in STEM career?
Capps: Teachers should be passionate about the subjects they teach. The subjects that held my interest in school were often the subjects with the most passionate teachers. Beyond that, help find projects where the kids can develop their own passion. Give them the tools and freedom to go beyond canned lessons.

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