Transforming your interests into a career is easier said than done because its always easier to follow a trend rather than create your own path !

Rahul Kiran, our next pathbreaker, Digital Designer at Hyundai Motor India Engineering, solves creative problems related to design and ergonomics using digital tools.

Rahul talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his childhood interests in car design, his masters project on electric vehicles and currently doing his PhD in Industrial and Product Design !

For students, don’t aim for a job with plenty of opportunities, instead, aim for a job that allows you to use your skills to make a difference in the world we live in !

Rahul,  Your background?

Hello I am Rahul I was born in Andhra Pradesh in a city called Rajahmundry. I grew up and studied there till my intermediate. I was pretty much fascinated by cricket in my initial days. I also used to have a lot of interest in cars and used to dream about becoming  a formula one racer one day, but unfortunately couldn’t. But I used to play a lot of cricket, so that at least I could become a cricketer. So these were my initial interests . I am the only son to my parents, my father was a bank manager in a local bank and my mother is a housewife. My initial interest in cars grew deeper and that led to my becoming a automotive engineer and hence I have chosen mechanical as my field of interest .

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Gitam University and after that I did master’s in Automotive Design from M.S Ramaiah University Bangalore.

Like I mentioned above, my interest in cars evolved into a passion and that made me choose mechanical engineering for my graduation. Initially, I used to work solely on mechanical aspects of cars, and soon realized that there is a lot more to learn because that is not what customers see. They only see the aesthetics and the looks to a larger extent. Hence I did my research into what that study is called and found out that it is called design. I wanted to learn design. Hence, I chose automotive product design as my Master’s specialization.

Though I could go for some simple software job, I didn’t want to leave my dream job or compromise on it. Hence, in order to stay in the loop with the basics, I joined as Asst Professor where I could teach product design while looking for my dream job as car designer

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

I used to go to my school in my father’s car and there were other students who used to come in their own vehicles, and I slowly became more and more fascinated by automobiles, and that was the seed of my interests which kept growing over time.

Tell us about your career path

The approach was initially to find the relevant study or branch which would take me closer to my dream job and I found out that it was mechanical engineering first and later design, which gave me a complete overview of both the design and the mechanics aspects of a vehicle.

I did my first internship at Hyundai back in 2015. At that time I felt I should be working here someday in the future. I did my internship at Hyundai plant in Chennai where we worked on tool life optimization of a crankshaft and it was an amazing experience to work there.

How did you get your first break?

I applied online where they conducted a tool test and normal written test followed by 2 technical rounds and finally the HR Round. I got through the Hyundai selection process after proving my knowledge and worth.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: To develop a stand out portfolio

Challenge 2: To make sure I had more than adequate knowledge to offer on the table

Challenge 3: To sharpen my problem solving skills 

Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?

I currently work in Hyundai Design as a Design Engineer. Hyundai digital design deals with designing concepts with the help of various software tools like Autodesk Alias, Sketchbook Pro, Autodesk V-red , Catia Freestyle

We solve creative problems related to design and ergonomics.

I am also doing a PhD in Industrial and Product Design. My thesis is on evaluating product properties in the early stages of product design. I decided to do a PhD because with the kind of projects I did in masters I felt I haven’t got enough knowledge, and felt the need to go into the depths of this topic and field, and that’s why I decided to do PhD.

What skills are needed in your role? How did you acquire the skills?

Software design skills like Autodesk ALIAS,CATIA ,Vred , Clay Modelling, Digital sketching, Visualization as well as quick and creative thinking.

What’s a typical day like?

It’s an 8 to 5  desk job with a lot of creative work. 

What is it you love about this job? 

I am doing what I dreamt of as a kid and love the feeling that most of the people out there in society are peacefully going to their jobs in the vehicles which I designed. 

How does your work benefit society? 

My work provides safety, luxury, comfort, and the convenience of an easy commute for customers to their destinations.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

I designed and developed a full size electric car  prototype for my master’s project back in 2018. At that time, though electric cars were the hot topic, they were not on the roads and I was not sure if I would pull that off. But I did and that added more fuel to my fire within. Later I came up with an electric scooter concept as my graduation project which even got patented by my university.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

I always used to keep telling myself that I am not aiming for a software job or a mechanical job with plenty of opportunities, obviously I am aiming for a job which decides the future of the product in the market and decides whether it’s a success or failure. 

Do not get disappointed if you don’t get your dream job in the first attempt, it took me more than 3 years to reach where I am today. I tried thrice to get this job and even in my last attempt, there was only one vacancy while there were 250 plus profiles competing for one position. Generally, these kinds of R&D openings in a MNC company are very rare because there is only one plant that they set up in the whole country and hence you won’t have multiple branches like software companies have. Hence, stay strong and believe in yourself, and don’t lose your mettle for people who pass easy statements and derive easy conclusions 

Future Plans?

Volkswagen has been my dream company to work for, at least once in my lifetime. But I couldn’t crack it directly, hence I am working with some of the biggest companies like Hyundai ,TATA etc. I am aiming for VW as they are one of the biggest automotive manufacturers in the world. I plan to complete my doctorate in the field of design meanwhile and come back to the education field to share all  my experiences with the next generation and make sure they don’t make the mistakes that I made.