Meet the HARMAN Luxury Audio Team
Name: Doug Bell
Position/Job Title: Principal Software Engineer
With HARMAN Since February 2022
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 Doug Bell, Principal Software Engineer.
How would you describe what you do in your current role?
In theory my job is Embedded Software: designing, implementing and debugging code for new products. In practice my role involves much more. One aspect is coordination with outside vendors – for example co-designing with Stream Unlimited. There’s also interfacing with colleagues in other HARMAN groups like ARCAM. I also navigate the processes in a large corporation, e.g. documentation for gate processes and working with the IT Help Desk. Much of my work involves investigating and updating code written for existing products by others. On top of this there’s a bit of investigation of new products and technologies.
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 wanted to do electronics since eighth grade. I worked at a stereo repair center during high school. I considered architecture but the five year college idea was unappealing. Going into college for Electrical Engineering I wanted to build stereos; I didn’t have that much interest in digital electronics much less computers. Upon graduation I didn’t want to build missiles and didn’t understand electronics industries. I thought I’d be optimizing some tiny circuit on a chip as an EE. So I targeted control systems work in order to stay hands-on; my first job out of college was for a firm that sent me to a nuclear plant in New Jersey and a Nabisco factory near Chicago in the winter.
How did your career path lead you to HARMAN?
I got a job at IBM – in part so I could live in New Paltz, New York for rock climbing. After five years at IBM, I joined Madrigal Audio Labs – which at the time was the manufacturer of Mark Levinson products. It was great to learn about state-of-the-art high-end audio while gaining proficiency in microcontroller code. Also, many afternoons were spent tweaking designs in the listening room, doing blind tests swapping capacitors, etc. Since then, I worked at several audio companies including Apogee Electronics, Theta Digital and DTS. My skills evolved by being involved in more and more complex software, Linux, MPEG, set-top boxes and general video. I then did some work for a digital cinema company now owned by Dolby, as well as embedded systems work on video scaling switchers for Extron. I then finally came full circle to work in the Levinson group at HARMAN. Who would have known?
What is the most important thing you have learned over your career?
One should do a favor for oneself, colleagues, and future generations by keeping notes and/or documenting one’s work.
Code is not design – it is the end result of a process in which choices were made.
Any other advice you would share with people just starting out in this industry?
Sure. Save up some money then take a half-year off sometime.
What are you most proud of in your life?
Well not sure about proud but grateful to have had and to have survived all kinds of adventures, from crazy teenage antics to various climbing trips. Among these is summitting all the 14,000 foot peaks in the Sierra except Starlight Peak (Spring 2023?).
When did you realize you had a passion for music or audio? Was there any one band, song, or movie that did it for you?
Well, it seems most high schoolers want to rock out to something. Back in those days generic classic rock was popular; Rolling Stones, The Who, Zeppelin, etc. Southern rock and progressive rock also got some traction. I was a big fan of Yes, and recently was privileged to talk with vocalist Jon Anderson. A key moment around college was being introduced to Pat Metheny and other ECM music – opening a whole new world. In the Jazz world, more so than rock, there is a lot of cross pollination – this guitarist plays in some other group, that group’s drummer has their own band, etc. I used to explore by spending hours examining (and sometimes buying ) CDs at Tower records in Greenwich Village. I enjoyed seeing jazz in New York City back then at the Knitting Factory. Most music I like is instrumental.
What current technology impresses you the most?
Whatever went into the Webb telescope. I casually read some of the steps involved in calibration – so much to it. So amazing that all the complex hardware, software and processes were planned, designed and executed without issue. Also amazing are the images we get back.
Favorite music genre?
A lot of music gets lumped under Jazz if it is instrumental, so I suppose it’s Jazz. I’d say I lean toward Jazz/Rock/Fusion/Progressive/Out There.
The desert island question, of course. If you were marooned for eternity & could listen to only three albums, what would they be?
Yes – Close to the Edge
Nels Cline and Greg Bendian – Interstellar Space Revisited: The Music of John Coltrane
Franklin Kiermyer – Closer to the Sun (F.K. is an amazing drummer -if you like Coltrane check out his music)
You have the floor. In closing, tell us anything else you want us to know about yourself.
I love the outdoors.