Meet the Team - Neville

Meet the Team

Meet the HARMAN Luxury Audio Team

Name: Sam Burkin
Position/Job Title: Product Test Engineer
With HARMAN Since 2016

With Meet The HARMAN Luxury Team, our goal is for you to get to know us better. In each edition we feature a different member of the team, and this month it's Sam Burkin, Product Test Engineer.

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How would you describe what you do in your current role?
The essence of my role is that I try and break things (although I should point out I do this in a specific and organized manner).

Aiming primarily at functions of products and apps, I devise and then carry out test plans which put a product or app through its paces in an attempt to provoke and uncover software, firmware and/or hardware issues. This is both during the development process of a product/app, and also after release. When an issue is found I then need to log it in a comprehensive and clear manner and assign it to the relevant party for it to be addressed.

I am also tasked with expanding the scope and effectiveness of the test department for the future. It’s currently an exciting time as there is real backing and enthusiasm from the business to do this. I see commitment to investment in testing and I have the privilege of helping to steer where and how investment should be applied.

What did you study in school? Did you always imagine yourself doing something like what you’re doing now, or did the fates just take you in that direction?
I really had no idea what I wanted to do while I was at school and so my studies haven’t really had a direct influence on where I’ve ended up. The winds of fate have very much blown me to where I am now. I do believe my strengths lend themselves to my role though, and I do enjoy it.

How did your career path lead you to HARMAN?
I guess you can mainly trace it back to my days working for a department store in the UK called John Lewis. From an early age I was always into music in a big way. John Lewis gave employees a discount on in-store purchases so one of the things I treated myself to when I was young, working there and had a bunch of disposable income, was a quality sound system from the John Lewis Audio and TV department. The components I chose were from a UK luxury audio brand called ARCAM who coincidentally were based just four miles from where I was living at the time.

I worked in a number of areas in the store, but it was noticed I had a technical leaning. The management of the Audio and TV department therefore asked me to transfer there. Over the course of some years I became an AV specialist and had a few interesting experiences including selling Professor Stephen Hawking a TV. Eventually I was then promoted to a coaching/training role in the department. I was therefore deep into the world of technology and specifically audio and video.

After some time in that role the business decided upon a periodic rotation of all the coaches/trainers in the store. The rotation was going to take me to the second floor which was lady’s fashion. There were a lot of lovely young ladies there and if I’d still been a single man at that point it would no doubt have held a great deal of appeal. I was however a married man by this time with no interest in fashion so I suspected I’d be a bit bored. I therefore started looking for another job.

My lovely and amazing wife spotted a role which was advertised by a recruitment firm. It was to run technical support for “a local technology firm”. The specific company wasn’t named in the advert but it sounded like it was in my wheelhouse. I applied in order to find out more.

As it turns out the company was ARCAM and things very much started to fall into place. They had been looking for the right person to fill the role for a little while and had exhausted their list of candidates without finding a suitable one. As mentioned previously I had some of their kit already (albeit quite old by that point) so had a slight head start with product knowledge. During the interview process one of the questions was how I would travel to work. I replied that I would likely be cycling in on my road bike. It turned out later that the person interviewing me was a big cycling nut which no doubt worked in my favor. On my application I had made a reference to “The Dark Side of the Moon” and it turned out that one of the other interviewers was a massive Pink Floyd fan. On my second interview I was asked a technical question, the answer to which I had been reading about in great detail the day before. I was therefore able to answer in more detail than even I was expecting. The waves seemed to just part in front of me to walk in to the job.

I did indeed get the job and the now over-20 year old ARCAM DV88 which I had treated myself to from John Lewis as a teenager came home to the ARCAM offices landing on my desk as a decorative monitor stand.

In 2017 ARCAM was bought by HARMAN International Industries and became a HARMAN brand. I continued in Tech Support until early 2022 when I saw the role of Product Test Engineer advertised internally. I reasoned that the role had quite a large overlap with support and looked interesting. I applied, eventually getting the role in May 2022.

What is the most important thing you have learned over your career?
I think the most important thing is that people thrive when focus is primarily on what they are doing well. When people have an air of positivity around them, and towards them, they will generally perform better and be more receptive to adjustment in the areas they might need to work on. I’ve seen a big variety of management styles and the managers that seem to get the most from their team are the ones that realize and apply this.

Any other advice you would offer people just starting out in this industry?
Gobble up as much relevant training and knowledge as you can, it invariably comes in useful.

Be truthful. That doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone everything but make sure that what you do choose to share is truthful as far as you can reasonably be sure. Short term it may seem advantageous to be untruthful but long term people start to realize when a person can’t be trusted and trust goes an awfully long way. Also the old saying rings true: “the softest pillow is a clean conscience”

What are you most proud of in your life?
Sorry it’s a cliché, but my kids.

When did you first realize you had a passion for music or audio?
As far back as I remember, which is probably about age four or five, I was aware of the strong effect that music had on how I was feeling. I remember roughly age seven digging around my parents old vinyls which would have been presses from the ‘60s and ‘70s and specifically listening to “Do you know the way to San Jose” by Dionne Warwick and “That same old feeling” by Pickettywitch.

My musical taste was soon influenced though by the tunes I could hear coming out of my older brother’s room. He was playing Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Queen, Kiss and so on and so I was inducted into the world of rock music. From then on I constantly had a Walkman welded to my hip and a pair of headphones on. Even when my parents thought I was in bed going to sleep I was lying there wearing out some audio cassette or other. Albums that stand out in the earlier days of this kind of listening would be Guns and Roses “Appetite for Destruction”, Metallica’s “Black Album” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind”.

What current technology impresses you the most?
In terms of audio, our class G amps coupled with Dirac room correction are such a complete, accurate, potent force I can’t help but be impressed. More generally, mobile phone technology impresses me. The amount they can now do, funky folding screens, taking on the role of car keys and credit cards, quite sophisticated gaming and so on. They’ve come a long way from the days when you had to choose which 15 text messages you wanted to store.

What's your favorite music genre?
Classic Rock

The desert island question, of course. If you were marooned for eternity and could listen to only three albums, what would they be?
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin II
Led Zeppelin III

You have the floor. In closing, tell us anything else you want us to know about yourself.
I suspect I’ve already given you enough information to steal my identity so I’ll leave it there.