Please tell us about yourself
I met Abhilash, as a fellow U.S. Generation 2 Trainee, at the DRIVE team building event last August in Michigan. As he is ready to embark on his second rotation and international assignment to Germany, I thought he would be an interesting person to interview for our Student Newsletter that we distribute quarterly.
Abhilash is an electrical engineer and DRIVE Trainee for the Hybrid Electric Vehicle group in the Powertrain Division. In our discussion below, he opens up about his experiences in the DRIVE program thus far as well as what he looks forward to in his international assignment in Nuremberg, Germany.
What did you study?
I did my B Tech (Electrical & Electronics Engineering) from University of Calicut and Master’s Degree (Electrical and Computer Science Engineering) from Wayne State University
How did you come in contact with Continental and how long have you been here?
I first came in contact with Continental through the tire fame; however, when I joined Wayne State University for my masters, I had classmates and professors of mine somehow or the other connected to Continental as ex-employees, interns or active employees.
I joined Conti- Dearborn as an intern in March of 2012 and six months later moved into the Graduate DRIVE Program at the same location. I have been here for a close of 14 months now.
What attracted you to the DRIVE Automotive Graduate Program? What opportunities or experiences has the DRIVE Program given you thus far?
The nature of the program, the offshore experience offered, the challenges and opportunities offered, all this set in an organization with a huge global presence are a few of the top main reasons in a list of many that attracted me to the Program.
The DRIVE program has so far introduced me to a level of awareness of the inside workings within the Automotive industry, through various get-togethers and trainings like the Corporate Entry Conference and Automotive Team Training, which in any other organization would have been hard to come by and a skill acquired over years. On one hand, while the DRIVE Program ensures advancement in my personal goals, it also nurtures a spirit of team work alongside it. The networking exposure I get through associating with different DRIVE -mates, all like-minded though from different parts of the world, in different career paths. The DRIVE program has so far provided me with experiences to build tall skyscrapers and opportunities to build great bridges.
What are you looking forward to learning and experiencing while in Nuremberg, Germany? How important is international experience for work at Continental?
Coming from a Power Electronics Background, Germany is to me the Mecca of my field. I hope to learn a lot about my field and its practical applications while in Nuremberg, Germany.
Being part of an organization with such big a global presence as Continental, we know we have a lot of resources spread out globally, as people, information, technology and so on. International exposure provided to employees guarantee the best management of these resources in tackling a problem, coming up with a solution, and furthering the quality of work every day.
What has been your biggest challenge or most exciting project so far?
The biggest challenge was moving from the college environment to the work environment. While in school, every problem I faced was ideal, taught with a “conditions apply” cautionary warning, nothing had prepared me for how variables remain variables, while how some constants join the group of variables too, in the real world.
Part of my goal last year involved getting a small PCB out with me in the role of facilitator to different interacting teams of engineers. The dynamics involved the guidance by my supervisor, Steven Kowalec and watching the way how a whole team of competent engineers brought forward a product that seemed so complex a task, in so easy a manner tops the list on exciting projects so far.
How often do you get to connect with your DRIVE colleagues and how important is teamwork in your department?
Connecting with DRIVE colleagues face to face is limited; however, it does happen every couple of months. All the same emails and chats fly out regularly, addressing common concerns, FYIs and sometime pulling each other’s legs too.
The Hybrid Electrical Vehicle department I work for is a small group of ordinary engineers, some experienced and some new to the industry. Immaterial of what the background is, we all get into the system of teamwork, supporting each other, communicating concerns, resolving issues together making it easier for each other. Like teeth on a gear, each complimenting one another moving a huge system, Conti moves forward with us working together as a team.
What skills do you think it takes to take part in the DRIVE trainee program?
Beyond the skills in our designated areas of work and the thirst to learn more about it, two factors common to all the DRIVE graduates whom I know personally is:
1) Endurance and adaptability in the face of changing environments. The program is very dynamic and challenging, being able to respond quickly to situations is a very important skill to have.
2) An ambition or drive to reach great heights along with the understanding that one is only as strong as ones team is.
These two skills I believe make a DRIVE.
How do you picture your professional future? Where do you see yourself after the program?
At a personal level as a Power Electronics Engineer, I would like to lead my career to reach a subject matter expert level.
After the program, I expect to bring back my learning, resources and contacts to further the NAFTA HEV operations.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy roller skating, long drives, great books and cooking while practically living on Facebook.