From Meshing to Infrared

For those of you who I didn’t contact directly or don’t already know, this post will serve to inform you I no longer work at Pointwise. I was invited to continue as a guest blogger here at Another Fine Mesh so I felt my first post-Pointwise post should give some background as to why I left Pointwise.

To be clear, my departure from Pointwise had nothing to do with unhappiness. Pointwise was an amazing place to work. The people were awesome and I have the utmost professional and personal respect for everyone there. The work environment and building couldn’t have been better. The city of Fort Worth and the state of Texas are a fantastic places to live both for young professionals and for families. I miss it all.

So I know what you’re thinking – because I had the same thoughts – “Why on earth would you leave, you idiot?”

My Career To Date

I spent my 5+ years at Pointwise as a technical sales engineer on the sales team. While there were some tough days, like any position, as whole I really enjoyed working in sales. When I started at Pointwise there wasn’t nor had there ever been a dedicated sales person. My job was to sell software but because I was the first, I had the opportunity to build the sales process from the ground up. What I mean by “building” was to develop and implement a repeatable process. Together with Heather McCoy, we configured our customer relationship management (CRM) system for both our needs. Rick Matus and I attend several professional sales seminars to learn how to give structure to the process of converting leads into sales. Rick showed me how quantify the results in an attempt, if even possible, at semi-reliable forecasting. Heather, Rick, John Chawner, myself and eventually Travis Carrigan had many brainstorming sessions that would help formulate our annual sales strategy. And I think I was successful at building a reliable sales process and am proud of what I accomplished. Now that I have left, and Travis has taken over my duties, he might have his own opinions on how well I did!

The Five Year Itch

After five years I felt I was ready for a new challenge. I want to stress that I never felt sales got easy or boring . I don’t think that ever would be possible. Having worked in sales for the time I did, I have a whole new respect for the profession. By new challenge I mean I was looking to round out my skill set.

Being in the early part of my career, I have my own ambitions but no matter what path I take I know software will be involved so I felt I was missing honest-to-goodness, in-the-trenches commercial software development skills. I had written several CFD codes and a few other small applications in graduate school but academic software is usually only written for one person – the author. These programs generally don’t have sophisticated interfaces, often don’t employ state-of-art coding methodologies and technologies and commonly aren’t rigorously tested – all things commercial software have to endure.

I don’t mean to insinuate software developed in an academic environment isn’t sophisticated and is full of bugs. What I’m trying to say is that software becomes complicated when users’ – the number can vary but lets at least say more than a hundred – demands are accounted for. The demand for timely support, timely bug fixing, needing parallel code branches to support current, next release and bleeding edge features and alternating user experience opinions puts commercial software development in another category. The priorities are simply different. To get a better feel for what I mean, Pat Baker, product development manager at Pointwise, has previously blogged about the internal workings of Pointwise’s development process. I personally like the one about the release process.

Now the astute reader will ask, “Pointwise develops good commercial software, why not be a developer there?” Even though Pointwise is used mostly for CFD and by engineers with a CFD background (i.e. me), the skills needed to develop mesh generation software aren’t skills CFD engineers generally have. Mesh generation requires a solid background in computer science, computational geometry, meshing algorithms and graphics. These are skills I don’t have and I’ll argue most CFD engineers don’t get even in graduate school. While some may debate this and the general trend for new engineering graduates is moving towards having better programming backgrounds, by in large, we don’t have the necessary skills. I would have been a burden on the development team at Pointwise because quite frankly it would have taken me months before I would have become even remotely productive. It wouldn’t have been a good for fit for either myself or Pointwise.

My New Adventure at W.R. Davis

I choose a position at W.R. Davis Engineering in Ottawa, Canada. My role involves the development, research and support of an infra-red susceptibility analysis suite called ShipIR/NTCS. ShipIR/NTCS is a comprehensive software package for predicting the infrared signature of naval ships in their maritime background. ShipIR and NTCS were developed by W.R. Davis Engineering for the Canadian Department of National Defence. The ship signature component of the model, ShipIR, consists of several sub-models, including an infrared sky radiance and atmospheric propagation model (based on MODTRAN4) and a complex sea reflectance model. The software has been under development since 1990, with the first version delivered to Defence Research Development Canada (DRDC) Valcartier in 1992. Sub-models of the plume, flare decoy and missile engagement were added in 1994 to form the basis of ShipIR/NTCS (v2.0). The acronym NTCS (Naval Threat Countermeasure Simulator) refers to the IR engagement capabilities of the model. ShipIR/NTSC has been adopted by several NATO countries including the US Navy and has become the NATO standard for IR signature susceptibility analysis.

In my new position I won’t be straying far from the Pointwise software because we have integrated it into the ShipIR suite as the de facto preprocessor for ShipIR customers. In addition, we will be coupling the sophisticated radiative heat-transfer capabilities of ShipIR with CFD to handle certain marine configurations that require it as well developing it’s applicability to aerospace. As such I will continue to use and advocate the use of Pointwise. If you have a more immediate interest in the details about ShipIR/NTCS and how we use Pointwise contact me. In the mean time, here’s an aerospace application I’m working on right now. It’s the Eurocopter Super-Puma with a W.R. Davis IR suppressor installed. We don’t include the rotor model in the IR analysis – I’ve just included its display for context.

ShipIR mesh of Eurocopter AS332 Super-Puma meshed with Pointwise

ShipIR mesh of Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma meshed with Pointwise

In a future post I’ll speak about the specific differences between requirements for IR and CFD meshing and how we couple the two simulations.

No Regrets

It’s been 3 months since I started my new position and so far it has lived up to my expectations. It’s a really interesting (and in my opinion an under-appreciated) field of work and I have the freedom to learn development skills and practices on commercial software. For those of you interested, ShipIR itself is written in C++, I use Python for other ancillary tasks, we use Git for source-code management, I’ve implemented Doxygen for automated source-code documentation and the software is supported on Windows and Linux platforms in both 32-bit and 64-bit variants.

So do I regret leaving Pointwise? No but I miss it a ton. The skills, experiences, people and friendships I made there were all top notch. I wish Pointwise and everyone there all the best and I know that our paths cross again someday in the future.

Note: The second image originally in this article was removed at the request of the client.

About Chris Sideroff

Energetic entrepreneur. Maniacal scientist. Typical engineer. Devoted husband. Frayed father. Principal Director of Applied CCM Canada
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