Please tell us about yourself. How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
At age 16 and in a career dilemma between studying medicine (following family tradition) or pursuing vehicle engineering and design, Chetan was selected as the subject of a Channel 4 documentary,” Vocation, Vocation, Vocation” where he chose to follow his passion. Following graduation Chetan secured a place on Volvo Cars Global Graduate Programme. He worked on designing and developing the company’s first collision avoidance safety function using autonomous steering and braking and as a Studio Engineer led the design and engineering work of future cars, as well as the world’s first highly autonomous cars in Volvo’s “Drive Me” programme and now works for Polestar developing Volvo’s first fully electric car.
What did you study?
Chetan Kotur, a graduate engineer at Volvo, the Swedish carmaker, had a college dilemma – should he stick to the family tradition and become a doctor, or follow his heart? “I have always been extremely passionate about and obsessed with cars,” Chetan says. He jokes: “I think my first word as a toddler was actually ‘car’!” His started his automotive career early. “When I was 15 years old, I won a car design competition set by Jaguar Cars to design their ‘car of the future’. This gave me the confidence and belief that I could enter the world of car design,” he says. But coming from a medical family put him at a crossroad. “I very nearly chose to study medicine at university,” says Chetan. “I went for a careers appointment whilst doing my A-Levels and shortly after, got an amazing opportunity to be part of a Channel 4 television documentary series on career dilemmas.” It was this program that helped him realize his true vocation: “This experience immersed me into the car design industry.” Chetan carried out work experience at Jaguar Land Rover’s design studio, but his mind was torn again when visited Loughborough University’s automotive engineering department. At this point he decided what he wanted to do; automotive engineering seemed like the perfect path. It paid off; he eventually won the Engineering Leadership Advanced Award, issued by the Royal Academy of Engineering. “It was truly an incredible, eye-opening experience,” Chetan says. He developed a passion for international engineering, and the award gave him the self-belief and drive needed to become an “industrial leader”.
The UK has some fantastic opportunities in the automotive sector, but most of the major car companies are based abroad, adding an extra challenge to graduates who want to work for the top firms.
However, by building a fantastic CV that demonstrated his fascination with and love for the automotive industry, Loughborough University graduate Chetan Kotur secured himself a coveted overseas job with Swedish company Volvo Cars.
‘I was the only person from my degree that got a job internationally straight out of uni,’ says Chetan. ‘I’m doing everything I dreamt of doing right now.’
Tell us about your internship at University
As part of Volvo’s two-year graduate programme, Chetan is undertaking his final placement with the company in its design studio, having already spent time working on weight distribution in vehicle bodies and helping develop automatic collision avoidance systems.
‘The best thing about Volvo is the corporate culture and how flexible their programme is,’ he says. A lot of graduate programmes can be quite set in stone and rigid. Volvo Cars took everything in terms of my ambitions into account and helped my fix up those opportunities.’
Perhaps surprisingly, Chetan’s desire to become an engineer formed only relatively recently. Growing up the son and brother of doctors he had initially been keen to follow his family into medicine. But after taking part in a documentary about teenage career choices, he realised that his childhood obsession with cars would provide a better path.
‘I realised I was more interested in cars than people so automotive was right for me,’ he says. ‘It took me to Loughborough University because that was the best for automotive, and I had a view to go to Royal College of Art to study vehicle design.’
Why did you switch to being an Engineer?
However, his mind was changed again after he won an Engineering Leadership Advanced Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering, which gave him £5,000 to spend on activities that would advance his career.
‘I developed this passion and respect that I had been dodging before because I had this dream of being a designer,’ he says. ‘I realised I could do so much more as engineer in the car industry than I could as a designer. It was more of an opportunity to change company strategies rather than just designs.’
The award enabled him to visit Ford’s innovation centre in the US, the Geneva Motor Show and the global physics hub CERN in Switzerland, and to undertake voluntary work in Brazil.
While most students don’t get such amazing opportunities, Chetan says what really helped him get the job with Volvo was being able to demonstrate an appreciation for different cultures and mindsets, and to show just how passionate he was about the car industry and engineering – something anyone can do with the right ideas.