The green economy poses several challenges for the automotive industry related to the safety, reliability and road-worthiness of various vehicle components!

Kavana Dayananda, our next pathbreaker, works as Project Manager at DEKRA, the largest inspection company in Germany that also provides comprehensive product validation and analysis services primarily for the automotive field.

Kavana talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about being involved in the launch of a new solution in approximately 15 countries for evaluating the health of the battery of Electric Vehicles.

For students, real impact is through innovative solutions that not only make business sense but are safe and sustainable as well !

Kavana, tell us what were your early years like?

I grew up in a small village in the hilly, picturesque Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. My parents are Government school teachers, as a result of which I developed an interest in reading and learning early on (trying to follow or rather imitate my parents ☺). My parents firmly believed in the overall development of the child, so at home, the focus was not just on the academics but extra-curricular activities as well. I was enrolled in Classical Hindustani & Carnatic music classes, Bharatanatyam & western dance classes, drama lessons as well as athletics. I won a number of prizes in singing completions, sports, debate and participated in school skits & functions. I was a very active kid during my school days and maintained good grades too.

Physics was my favorite subject growing up, so I leaned towards Engineering studies like most of us do. Quite honestly, I was not fully aware of other options at that stage.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I studied Electronics & Communication Engineering in Bengaluru and moved to France to do my Masters in International business.

Recently I did another remote Masters in Renewable energy & Sustainability. 

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

After graduation, owing to my technical & business background/education, I had the opportunity to seek work in a variety of interesting fields or sectors. Therefore, in the early days of my job-hunting phase, I did not restrict myself to one field. I deeply care about the planet, and believe that we have it in us to positively impact the world through innovative technical solutions. I wanted to work on technical solutions that would make this world safe & sustainable. This led me to my job with the Company DEKRA, which strives to make the world safe, secure & sustainable.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

I started as a Project Engineer in Bengaluru & worked in a well-known MNC for 2 years. I quickly understood that I lacked the business acumen necessary to grow in the company and in various managerial roles. I also have great interest in start-ups that are innovative and influencing the world positively. This is the reason why I decided to pursue a Master’s in business studies.

I wanted to travel, explore the world, understand different cultures, which is why I chose France. Additionally, I received a partial scholarship to cover the living expenses. I met people from all around the world and it was a great experience! 

Despite having excellent grades, it was not very easy landing the first job. I needed to learn the French language. I took classes, and started actively applying on the job portals.

During the beginning of the COVID-19 due to lockdowns, I found myself having plenty of free time outside of work. I read a lot of articles & educated myself on climate change related topics. I wanted to be a part of the solution to tackle this.  So, I decided to do some certifications on new energy/alternative energy related topics. I was so fascinated by it that I decided to do a full-fledged Masters in Renewable energy. 

What is so great about this program is that it’s taught by leading subject matter experts across the top universities in the UK. It was flexible & self paced. I learnt about Hydrogen energy, Solar PVs, Wind, energy efficiency & conversation, Electric Vehicles, Renewable Energy management & finance and many other interesting topics.

How did you get your first break?

I consider getting a job here in France as my first real break, because of the additional challenges involved in being a foreigner (language barrier, limited contacts in the companies). Even though it was extremely difficult to get interview calls, I made sure to prepare well & give it my best shot. I thoroughly researched the company and prepared a powerpoint presentation on how exactly I can contribute and why I am a great fit. This greatly impressed and convinced the hiring team and they decided to give me a shot. 

My parents were my backbone throughout this whole process. They believed in me, supported & encouraged me to do my best. 

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

Challenge 1: Getting Interview calls

There is no concept of campus selection here; individual students have to apply for relevant companies & jobs all by themselves. Based on my interest, I did lots of research on the companies and tried connecting to employees through linkedIn

Challenge 2: Language Barrier

This is a very common challenge for students in Europe. I worked a lot on my French, & practiced interview Q/As in French. You do not have to be perfect, but need to show that you are ready to put in effort to learn the lanuage.

Challenge 3: Networking

When you are in a foreign country & you do not know many people, it is difficult to learn about job opportunities that are not advertised. This is often the case. Use Linkedin here , learn to write effective cold emails and build your network.

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

I work in a German company called DEKRA. I work on innovation & technical projects in the new mobility area (Electric vehicles, Advanced Driver assistance systems, Hydrogen energy). 

DEKRA is a leading Testing, Inspection & Certification (TIC) company. It is the largest inspection company in Germany and a European market leader. It is known for but not limited to inspection of vehicles and various technical systems, active mainly in the automotive field.

My work is an amalgamation of technical and business fields. I work closely with the research & development team to build new solutions, as well as support in bringing new solutions to the market (market & customer study, business case, competitor analysis etc.)

There is no typical day, everyday is new & exciting with intercultural, interdisciplinary teams. What I love the most is we are developing solutions that not only makes the mobility sector green but also safer & sustainable.

How does your work benefit society? 

We know that the transportation sector is one of the major contributors of CO2 emissions. What I work on helps the mobility sector to transition into a low CO2, electrically driven, safer & sustainable sector.

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

Recently, we launched a new solution in approximately 15 countries for evaluating the health of the battery of Electric vehicles. This is a novel solution which I hope brings in some transparency in the EV market & fosters ta sense of trust in customers. It has been a challenging yet rewarding experience being the Technical Project manager of this solution.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Don’t be afraid to explore different fields (the road less travelled), adapt to new situations & acquire new skills. Learning is a life long journey & doesn’t stop after getting a degree ☺

Future Plans?

I am personally & professionally passionate about all things technical & sustainable. I would like to continue my work developing technical solutions to tackle climate change & help transition to a more sustainable world.