Syed Hammad Ali is an Automotive Mechatronics Engineer and has recently worked for Daewoo Pakistan Express Bus Service Ltd. He recent experience is in brand management and business development with Karsaz Ltd. Syed studied mechatronics, robotics and automation engineering at Indus University in Pakistan.
Syed Hammad Ali, Automotive Mechatronics Engineer
Background and path to Automotive Mechatronics Engineer
Were you interested in engineering or science as a child?
Yes, my father is an associate engineer and has a technical mind. So, since childhood I was interested in science, and experimented with my toys by disassembling them and much more I don’t really remember. When I was a child, I wanted to be a pilot and so my favourite subjects were computers, maths, science especially chemistry, as well as art and drawing.
Do you like making or mending things?
Yes, of course I love it. I am often involved in fixing or repairing things at home.
Has there been a particular person who has inspired you?
My uncle who was a pilot, but now I don’t remember about him much as he passed away in my childhood.
Why did you decide to study mechatronics, robotics, and automation engineering?
I had already taken an associate engineering diploma in auto and diesel and had then worked for three years in the field. That meant that I understood the importance of mechatronics engineering as car manufacturing uses AI, robotics and automated features in every single activity. So, for someone who wanted to learn more about automotive technologies, mechatronics was ideal.
You have worked all the time even whilst studying. What did you do?
In my career, I have worked in many different places and faced many challenges due to the culture of our society, the lack of job opportunities, and the undervaluing of technical skills. After completing my diploma in associate engineering, I worked in local workshops without pay, just to gain experience. I faced many difficulties, such as issues with food, water and toilets while working. I also worked in a manufacturing plant on an assembly line.
During my four-year mechatronics degree, I faced many challenges. I was at university during the day from 9 to 5 and then had to work part-time in the evenings or at night, just to make ends meet. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy these jobs, but I had to do them to support myself. I also faced issues with food, water and had only one day off per week, which I spent doing household chores.
After completing my degree, I worked in various places, such as a manufacturing company, in the field as a service engineer, and even taught robotics and STEM for a while.
Technical experience in automotive and mechatronics engineering
You have worked as an automotive technician. Could you describe the work you did?
As an automotive technician I carried out all the usual jobs of a technician. From service, tuning, inspection, to overhauling all kinds of major and minor jobs on all kind of cars, SUVs as well heavy machinery equipment.
Which skills did you take with you when you moved into mechatronics?
I took the bulk of my experience and knowledge of automotive with me. That meant it was easy for me to understand more about mechatronics. I already had knowledge of sensors, controllers and how they work so it was easier for me to understand.
Can you explain what mechatronics engineering is?
Mechatronics engineering is based on mechanical and electronic engineering with some additions like AI and robotics.
For example, think of it like this for a robot:
The controller is the brain.
Sensors are eyes, ears, nose etc.
Actuators are motors or hands, legs or body.
Or let’s take the example of a car:
When you apply the brake on a car it will sense how fast you push the pedal;
then give a signal to the controller;
and then the controller will give a command to the brakes to stop; the car (all based on the urgency of the driver).
This is mechatronics at work.
Marketing and brand management experience
What attracted you to moving into marketing and brand management?
As R & D was part of my job, I learnt something new every day about the market, people’s needs, demand, requirements, etc. For me the most interesting part was the modification and alterations made as per the requirements and desires of customers. Plus, to be very honest, it was the salary as well as the job which attracted me into marketing and brand management.
How important is it to have a technical background for your role?
It is very important to have a technical background in my role so that I can understand customers’ needs and requirements in order to provide them with the best options.
Challenges of field engineering as an Automotive Mechatronics Engineer
What do you find most challenging when you are working?
The most challenging things are when:
Senior people don’t want to teach you because they are insecure.
Your boss doesn’t appreciate your hard work and there are no rewards.
There is jealousy, favouritism and politics which leads to lack of motivation.
There is a lack of training/equipment/tools/resources/focus on health and safety.
Work becomes tougher but with less pay.
Customers don’t appreciate the level or quality of your work and always want cheap solutions.
There is a lot of travelling and catering facilities are very limited.
However, we manage and compromise as engineers and technicians.
Sometimes we have to risk our personal safety to perform tasks.
What has been your most challenging job in the field as an engineer?
The most challenging jobs are when there is lack of time, equipment, tools, resources, and safety protection.
How do you explain technical things to non-technical people?
When explaining technical concepts to non-technical people, it’s important to consider their level of knowledge and understanding. To make the explanation more effective, it can be helpful to use analogies or comparisons to everyday situations. Another technique is to break the concept down into smaller pieces, use visual aids, and encourage questions to ensure understanding. By following these strategies, you can help non-technical people understand technical concepts more easily and effectively.
Making a winner
What makes the type of field service engineer who is tomorrow’s senior engineer?
I think there are six things:
Extra skills i.e., short courses in a relevant field or something extra in terms of experience
How important are communication and people skills for an engineer?
Communication and people skills are a very important part of the job for an engineer. This is because engineers need to understand what the problem is that someone is describing even if it is not being described in a very technical way.
How key is experience from working compared with academic knowledge?
Academic knowledge gives you the facts when all the conditions are ideal. However, real life experience gives you things which no amount of studying can. You learn by experience:
What does it sound like, smell like, look like, feel like…..
How important is ongoing training?
Ongoing training is very important to keep an engineer up to date with the latest changes and innovations in their field. Then they can work more efficiently.
New field engineers
What advice would you give to someone who has just started their first job as a field engineer?
I think there are six areas to consider.
Learn as much as you can.
Take the time to learn about the equipment, systems, and technologies you’ll be working with. Take notes, ask questions, and pay close attention to the details. The more you know, the more confident and capable you’ll be in your job.
Make sure you have all the tools and equipment you need, keep your work area clean, and maintain a schedule to ensure you’re meeting deadlines and completing tasks in a timely manner.
Safety should always be your top priority.
Be familiar with the safety protocols and regulations in your field, and never take shortcuts or risks that could put yourself or others in danger.
Good communication skills are essential for field engineers.
You’ll need to be able to explain technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders and work collaboratively with other team members. Be clear and concise in your communication, and always be open to feedback.
Be prepared to think on your feet and adapt to changing circumstances.
This may mean working in adverse weather conditions, dealing with unexpected technical issues, or adjusting your work schedule to accommodate the needs of the project.
Attend industry events, participate in online forums, and seek out mentorship opportunities to connect with others and learn from their experience.