For those who knew me when I was newly graduated from undergrad, with a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering, they are probably wondering why I am now offering classes in communication, interpersonal and intercultural interactions, and leadership. From the Advanced Engineering lab, soldering up prototype boards to the TI TMS370 emulator that stood on my desk for the majority of my daily work, writing 8-bit assembly code first for an early generation navigation system, then a Japanese radio subcarrier project, and lastly a concept cluster for a German OEM (graduating to C code!), it seems to be an almost 180 degree career change.
I don’t really see it that way.
If I remember the early days, working with in particular the Japanese radio, our specifications were poor (and in Japanese, with minimal translation support), so most of doing the concept was decoding the digital signals sent into the subcarrier and comparing it to what was displayed on a competitive system. It wasn’t really clear what to do, and required a lot of curiosity and creativeness to get it to work.
The German project brought together several suppliers with a customer who wasn’t entirely sure what they wanted for a concept that wasn’t entirely clear what it should do. While I was a decent coder in the team, the real value I brought was both the interest and patience to work with the customer (and other suppliers), and interface to my deeply technical colleagues. That was my first experience as a cultural bridge, and I loved it.
My role in that project gave me the visibility to apply for and be accepted for a company fellowship to study Engineering Management at Stanford. I loved the combination of taking C++ and Internet Programming with Strategy, Marketing, Organisation Behavior, and Global Project Coordination. My program, with classmates from top schools around the work, as well as GPC taught with KTH and Handels in Stockholm (top Swedish engineering and business schools), continued to grow my passion for decoding global engineering challenges.
After graduation, I chose an opportunity to work with SAAB Automobile as my customer. While the original assignment was to do System Engineering on one component, by need and a good fit, I ended up responsible for the Customer Program Management across multiple electronic control units (ECUs). This brought together design sites in Germany, US, Singapore, and England, with manufacturing in Hungary and Mexico, a Swedish customer (with engineers from around the world), and a car intended for a global market.
It was here that I found my purpose, to help solve both the interpersonal and technical issues holding up development. While technical challenges on their own were numerous and interesting, the combination of technical product development and human psychology fascinated me. I found that more often than not, when the people involved could reach a common understanding and goal, the technology was easy. It was coming to the common understanding and goal that was the elusive challenge.
I continued to seek global experience in various ways:
- Working on radio programs with engineering in Mexico, validation in the US, the customer in Brazil, pre-production in Buenos Aires Argentina, and a plant at the end of the world in Rio Grande Argentina, on Tierra del Fuego at the bottom of South America.
- Marrying a Swede and moving to Germany
- Working in Germany at another German OEM, again as a Customer Program Manager, interfacing to engineering colleagues in Germany and Poland, with manufacturing in Portugal
- Working in Germany, managing an ERP change across German and European sites, with an international team (while commuting from Sweden for half of the time)
- Managing a hardware product launch with basetech software in Sweden, electrical and mechanical engineering in Poland, customer in Sweden, and manufacturing in Portugal
- Building a local engineering organisation in Sweden (with international colleagues) while supporting French and Swedish customers, close collaboration with Germany, and supporting manufacturing plants in Singapore and Mexico
- Joining the international company CEVT, which was Geely (China’s) engineering arm in Sweden, helping to build the Infotainment and later Connected Car and UX organization, while working on the launch of the Lynk & Co car in China and later Europe
Through all of these experiences, I believe the greatest contribution that I have been able to give is my combination of psychology and technology: how can we solve the people issues that stand in the way of great products.
I have had a chance to apply this contribution in mentoring, coaching, leading, and more often through the recent years, formal training. On my own time, I have for years prepared my own training material to share my studies and personal research with my colleagues and teams.
I combine research with my own practical experiences and stories. In some cases, I share my mistakes and things that I did wrong.
I believe that is the unique advantage I have to teach in this area. This isn’t just something I studied at school. This is my research and study, but more importantly, my life is a practical applied research lab.
That is what I am now offering to you, at a low cost so that individuals can invest in themselves, in my first class, How and Why We Misunderstand Each Other.