28 Apr 2023

Hardware Engineering Sprint: An Update

In my last post, I set out to learn hardware engineering in 3-weeks, powered by our dear friend ChatGPT.

I asked ChatGPT to curate a list of resources and concepts to help me learn about hardware engineering.

I used the mental model of the 100-hour rule to strive to get into the top 95th percentile for hardware engineering.

This post is a self reflection of my learnings, self-criticisms, and what I would change if I were to do it again.


You kind of need a lot of equipment for hardware engineering…duh

I should have realized this before I started, but you need a lot of equipment and materials to get hands-on experience with hardware engineering.

I could have definitely worked around this constraint by joining a maker studio or buying cheap learning kits. That said, I’m on the move a lot and don’t have a ton of space for this, so didn’t plan for this well.

I think next time I choose a learning curriculum, I’ll choose something that doesn’t require as much setup to get running.

I’m not going to become a hardware engineer, but maybe a project manager?

It became quickly apparent that this curriculum wouldn’t enable me to become a hardware engineer.

A lot of the initial learning modules were focused on gaining a theoretical understanding of concepts ranging from electrical engineering, circuit and PCB design, embedded systems, microcontroller programming, power, sensors, and signal processing.

The theoretical was already a lot to wrap my head around without the ability to practically apply any of it. Maybe it would have been easier if I remembered even a sliver of the material from my high school physics and math classes?

Going beyond the theoretical, there are a lot of nuances of which components to use, ways to manage power supply, creating PCBs, etc. Ultimately, I’m not going to put in enough hours to understand the nuances here.

That said, I do feel better equipped to manage a hardware engineering project. I think I could ask the right questions to understand trade offs, evaluate partners, and not sound like an idiot when talking to engineers. I’ll count that as a win.

I think I could add value to a hardware engineering startup

All that said, I could still add value to a hardware engineering startup.Effectively communicating with engineers, understanding tradeoffs, and identifying potential risks with a project are all aspects of leading a team.

I think that if I layered on my business acumen, I could be a resource for defining use cases, sourcing materials, quickly getting a product to market, managing costs and timeline, hiring, and all marketing/sales activities for a go to market strategy.

ChatGPT was helpful with defining modules, but not helpful for finding resources

ChatGPT doesn’t have access to the realtime web (edit: now it does with extensions), so I knew some of the links to resources would be broken.

However, I greatly underestimated how many of the links would be broken. I spent a lot of time finding alternative resources. Plus, technology moves fast, so I often was leaning into learning methodologies that have since been updated.

For next time

I would change a lot of things next time I approach a learning sprint:

  • Spend more time on first-principles: Knowing that you’ll get to project manager levels after a sprint, I’d spend more time on the fundamentals. That will ultimately be the most important part when managing a project.
  • Allocate more than 3 weeks: 3 weeks was ambitious. Work heated up during this block and I took a couple of trips to visit friends. That basically completely wrecked my plan.
  • Use ChatGPT extensions or AutoGPT: The purpose of using ChatGPT to build the curriculum was so I could quickly start and have the confidence that the resources provided would be good enough. They were not. Hopefully, this can be solved with ChatGPT extensions or a different tool like AutoGPT.