Imagine if someone would pay you handsomely to tear computers apart, piece-by-piece and share the results. I thought my job here at HP was pretty sweet, but Jonathan Rayner’s got me beat by a nerdy mile. He takes a closer look at our products by tearing them down to the circuit boards and analyzing how they are made. I took a couple minutes to get the skinny from Jon about what makes him tick.
TheNextBench: What’s your official title? Mad scientist?
Jon Rayner: Sadly that’s not my title. I’m the program manager of Competitive Analysis & Benchmarking in Global Engineering Services . That sounds boring. I like Mad Scientist much better. I’ll see what I can do about changing my title to that. I’m sure my boss would approve.
TNB: Oh, no doubt! So what does your "Competitive Analysis & Benchmarking" entail?
JR: If you’ve read this blog post, you know a bit about what GES does. In a nutshell, we’re a group of engineers who help solve problems for HP. My specific team is devoted to competitive analysis & benchmarking. We give HP a unique perspective on how their products will compete in the marketplace.
TNB: So you're basically dissecting HP products -- and other products in the marketplace? Sounds nerdtastic. How did you get started doing this in the first place? And how long have you been doing these teardowns for, exactly?
JR: When I came to HP 12 years ago, I started out on a team performing reliability analysis for HP. I worked on a great variety of products: servers, networking switches, ink-jet pens, laptops, desktops...you get the idea. About four years ago, we were asked to benchmark our product’s reliability relative to a competitor. From there it grew into a much larger program to look at our product’s overall competitiveness. Teardowns are a part of that larger program.
TNB: How many people work with you on these teardowns and how long does it usually take?
JR: We’ve got about a dozen core team members, but there are a lot of other people who help. The timeframe really depends on what we’re asked to look at. Considering there are on the order of thousands of parts in a typical computer (and yes – we look at every piece), it takes weeks, but not months. Considering the breath of the portfolio that HP has and the number of markets we compete in, we’ve got no shortage of work.
TNB: What’s the coolest piece of tech that you’ve had the chance to play with – in your humble opinion?
JR: This may sound strange, but the HP Wireless Mini Keyboard probably deserves that award. Yes: a keyboard. It is a great example of HP innovation for a very specific target market (those who, like me, own a Home Theater PC). It’s small, compact and includes a mouse button, which is great for surfing the web while on the couch. The soft touch back & the feel of the keys make it a real pleasure to use. I can honestly say that nobody makes anything like it.
TNB: I actually have a HTPC as well, I'll have to check that mini keyboard out. OK, what would you personally love to do a teardown of (it doesn’t have to be a computer) – and why?
JR: That’s a tough question mostly because I usually end up tearing something down if I want to understand it. It’s a tossup between a Santa Cruz V-10 & a Devon Tread 1. Nowhere is the fusion of imagination & engineering more apparent than in mountain bikes and watches. Both are seemingly simple and yet are still ripe markets for innovation and imagination.
TNB: As a watch guy, I totally get that. Now for someone who would like to get involved in this kind of job, what would you say are key attributes? Any advice?
JR: My advice is to do what you love. If you like to break things to understand them, then that’s a pretty good sign that you are, or should be a mechanical engineer. Of course, if I was a mechanic, I could probably put those things back together. Sadly, I have a lot of broken things around the lab because I’m not a good mechanic.
My other piece of advice: Send me your resume.
TNB: Wait, you want to see my resume?
If this snapshot of someone’s job here at HP sounds cool to you, let me hear it – and if you have questions for Jon, hit the comment box below. In the meantime, I’m happy to announce that I’m going to start working closer with Jon here on the blog. (even though he doesn't want to see my resume....) Stay tuned for detailed breakdowns for some of our newest products!