Damian Nowak is a graduate of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology. As he says himself, electronics and programming has been his passion "since childhood". He came to Lublin immediately after graduation to work on an innovative mechanical hand design for remote ultrasound examination. Then he was recruited to one of the largest IT companies in Silicon Valley. Nevertheless, after just one year he returned to our city.
What is your job now?
I work as a programmer for embedded systems in EMBIQ. My work consists mainly in programming microcontrollers. Moreover, I deal with issues related to electronics.
Is this the direction you were interested in from the very beginning?
Yes, definitely. I was interested in electronics as a child. Studying it came naturally due to my interests. For some time I was an electronics engineer, but after some time I started to be interested in programming embedded systems. This is a department on the borderline between electronics and programming.
What were your first projects?
My parents told me that I really liked to take all my toys to pieces and screw them all over again. I wanted to know how they work. The first "successes" in the field of electronics were the sets sold in stores to be put together at home. Already in elementary school, I bought components and then assembled them into systems such as flashing lights and audio signals. Then came high school, when I took a break and came back to the very subject of electronics in college.
What did you achieve then? How do you look back on your college education?
The first year at the Warsaw University of Technology was difficult. I would like to point out that I studied Automation and Robotics. After just two semesters I knew that if I wanted to graduate, I had to "enter the world of robotics". And so my passion for robots began. It was a very early phase of amateur robotics development in Poland. My colleagues and I were learning how to program technical novelties from the West. We missed many things, such as documentation or project descriptions in Polish, and we had to do most of the things ourselves. I'm not hiding the fact that it was still a very interesting entertainment, giving a lot of satisfaction. One of the biggest obstacles we had to deal with was the lack of access to cheap parts.
But after all, can a Polish person do it?
Of course. As it turns out, jar lids could be great wheels for a robot.
You mentioned the national competitions…
In the beginning there were only a few competitors. Only with time they started to arrive. The first one was that the robots were moving autonomously on the floor. A black mark was drawn on it, resembling the shape of a few metres long Formula 1 track, and the competition consisted in comparing the time needed by the successive robots to cover the whole route. Later I started to be interested in robots from minisumo category. It consisted of fighting with half a kilogram of robots in a round ring of one meter in diameter. Their task was to detect the enemy and push them outside the ring.
I wonder how long it takes to build one robot... A day, a week, or a month?
It depends on the required deadline (laughs). You can always change something or add to the robot. Smaller constructions were made even overnight. However, it usually takes one to three weeks to build a simple robot.
Was it only robots that interested you during your college education?
The whole way through I was also interested in electronics. Apart from classes at the university, I looked for materials myself and read a lot about programming. During our classes, we had a lot of mathematics, control theory or automation. These were theoretical issues. I was much more interested in practice. During my studies, I used to build or repair various devices for my friends. One of them was e.g. a CO furnace controller, tile etching machines and audio amplifiers. Besides, I was very often involved in the Polish Robotics Forum FORBOT. There I wrote articles about what I had just learned, described projects, shared ideas.
You graduated the Warsaw University of Technology…
...and I was faced with the question of what to do next. I remember that at that time I didn't quite know what I could do on the Polish market with such passion. After several attempts I managed to find an interesting company in Lublin. The company deals with prototype robotics. I took part in several projects. One of them was a robotic arm for remote ultrasound treatment. It was one of the most interesting projects I have done so far. The robotic arm combined both electronics and programming elements, it was also used to save human lives. It was a great opportunity to learn interesting things from professional and medical robotics. By the way, I also had a chance to visit several countries in Europe and meet world-class robotics experts. Later I decided to start my own business. As it happens, at first it was... different. I took part in several interesting projects, mainly in the field of IoT (Internet of Things). In short: these are devices communicating with the user via the Internet. Nevertheless, the most important stage of my own business was to recruit to one of the largest IT companies in the world from Silicon Valley. I worked with them for over a year as a programmer. I was mainly involved in a narrow field which is cryptography.
I know there's not much you can say about this partnership because of the clauses you have.
Unfortunately, this profession is often burdened with a large number of business secrets. However, I can give you some information. In the company mentioned before, I worked on a project that is partly open to the public. It is created under the "Open Source" license, so anyone can browse its code on the Internet. My tasks included mainly integration of symmetrical and asymmetrical cryptography algorithms. In short, my job was to speed up some of the tasks performed by new generation processors. The company I worked for produces devices used in servers to speed up encryption and data compression operations. After about a year of work I received a message from EMBIQ company from Lublin.
I understand that working in Lublin turned out to be more interesting than Silicon Valley?
Against all appearances, yes (laughs). I remember I was very pleasantly surprised. I didn't expect that I would get such an interesting job offer here, that included a good wage. At EMBIQ, I appreciate the cool atmosphere, very good working conditions, a team made up of outstanding specialists and, above all, interesting and demanding projects we are working on. The decision to move was influenced by many factors. After some time in Warsaw, I noticed that the capital does not serve me. I was burning out very quickly, I was getting depressed. I feel much better in Lublin. There is more green here, life goes more peaceful, people are much more open, friendly. At the same time, in Lublin, I can enjoy all the benefits of being in a big city, whether culturally or recreationally. I absolutely do not regret my decision. I hope to stay here a long time.
It may sound banal, but tell me what you like the most about your job?
Challenges. The more I delve into different projects, the more often I discover completely new things for me. Then I realize how much I don't know yet and I want to know all the nuances of my work even more. I really enjoy the satisfaction of the project. Although sometimes it requires one or more sleepless nights.
Stereotypically, we can state that the profession of a programmer is intended for individualists?
I think that without a well-coordinated team it is difficult to achieve success. It consists of the work of many experts in narrow fields. You can't know everything by yourself. Here at EMBIQ we complement each other. Sometimes I help my colleagues, and sometimes they help me. Good cooperation and motivating each other allows to achieve much more than individualism.
You can find the original text in Polish HERE. For more information please contact Lublin City Hall Strategy and Entrepreneurship Department:
+48 81 466 2513