By Sarujan Thangarajah

In our series, club visitors talk about their professional lives. Today, Saru tells us about his work as a failure analyst in the automotive industry in Munich.

Dear Saru, thank you for taking the time to tell us about your workday today. What exactly do you do for a living?

I am a failure analyst for Level 2 driver assistance systems, which means semi-autonomous driving. Semi-automated vehicles are cars that can brake, accelerate, and, in certain cases, steer automatically. However, the driver must always be able to take control.

An example of this is the lane change assistant. The normal process is as follows: the driver checks the mirror and the lane they want to switch to, and if it’s clear, they steer into the desired lane. Semi-automated, or partially self-driving, means the vehicle will use cameras and distance sensors to check the lane the driver wants to switch to and then steer into the lane without the driver’s input.

During such a process, things can go wrong at various points, for example, if the cameras don’t  work or the lane the driver wants to switch to is blocked by another car.

That’s where I come in. These scenarios are tested at hardware test stands, called HiL (Hardware-in-Loop), where cameras or other components might not work. I check if the driver assistance software reacts to the error, and in the case of non-functioning cameras, it should shut down and inform the driver to take control, indicating that the driver assistance is not available.

Wow, that sounds very exciting! How did you come to this profession?

After my training as an automotive mechatronics technician, I worked at emissions test stands but got very bored over time – so much that I experienced a “bore-out.” One day, I realized I needed a change and started applying for new jobs, preferably in the field of autonomous driving. Initially, I applied as an automotive mechatronics technician, but when I talked about my analytical skills, comprehension, and further training as a technician, the recruiter introduced me to the relevant project manager of the so-called FAS Test House. FAS stands for Fahrer Assistenz Systeme (Driver Assistance Systems). The surprising thing for me was that they proposed me for an engineering job. Without a degree, I was able to impress with my expertise and ended up there.

What a fortunate turn of events! I assume the bore-out is now history? What does your normal workday look like?

First, I help myself to the infamous fruit basket with fruits and nuts to fuel me through the day. Then I create a list for the team and my boss of the tests that still need to be analysed. After that, I spend the rest of the day analysing driver assistance systems for which I’m responsible. My tasks also include coordinating with function managers and developers about problems encountered during testing. This way, we can quickly find a solution before a deadline or determine if there is a software error.

Which tasks have surprised you? What activities did you not expect in your daily work before starting your training?

Well, I certainly didn’t expect to land an engineering job without a degree. But it’s hard to say, as I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do professionally until and during my training. I just knew I wanted to get into research and development.

You seem very satisfied with your current job. What do you like most about your profession?

That I learn something new every day and my skills are fully utilized. And the interaction with my colleagues and superiors. Yes, I never thought I’d get along well with my superiors.

And what do you find challenging about your job?

When deadlines approach, and I haven’t found a solution to my problems or am still waiting for important results. It’s also frustrating when the simplest solutions are found for the most persistent problems because then I think about why I couldn’t have finished the task earlier.

Do you still sometimes think about changing jobs?

Yes, actually. For some time, I’ve been considering eventually moving into personnel development after gaining enough life and professional experience.

Those are interesting plans. What do you wish for your professional life in the future?

Before ClubIn and the job I have now, I had a grand career in mind. But since then, a lot has changed, and my focus has shifted more towards my personal life. Since then, I’ve been going with the flow in my (professional) life, staying open and curious, following the motto “Let it be.”

A good resolution! Thank you for your time, dear Saru, and all the best for your professional and personal future!

Translated by Joeline O‘Reilly

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