The automotive industry is one of the world’s largest, employing a wide range of people with different skillsets. One of the fastest-growing sectors in that industry right now is autonomous vehicles, with diverse roles emerging all the time. If you long for a fulfilling technology career, and not just a job that pays the bills, working with CAVs gives you the opportunity to explore what you’re really passionate about, be it robotics, mechatronics, or artificial intelligence.
Autonomous driving is a new industry, where most applicants lack direct experience working with autonomous vehicles. What they do have are technical and transferable skills – everything else can be learned on the job. Don’t let your lack of experience become a barrier to entry; people arrive at companies like Google and Tesla from all sorts of backgrounds.
If you want to apply for a job in the autonomous vehicle industry, the following tips may help.
Master the art of self-appraisal
Tech organisations are competitive, rapidly changing environments. Each of us falls somewhere on a scale between dispensible and irreplaceable, meaning there’s more pressure to be innovative and provide value. Mastering the art of self-appraisal – what you bring to the field, your ability to work well with others, and how difficult it is to replace you – is key if you hope to land your dream job. The trick is to be open-minded, but set goals.
Ask yourself the following questions – and be honest:
- What are you good at?
- What do you know?
- How can you apply that to this sector?
- Who do you know that might be able to help?
Being self-aware, particularly when it comes to your strengths and weaknesses, is helpful. Try taking the Myers-Briggs personality test at 16personalities.com. This test is used by many employers; there are whole sections on career paths and workplace habits that are particularly enlightening.
Know what’s out there
It’s difficult to prepare for a career in the autonomous vehicles industry if you’ve no idea what’s out there. Luckily, the Level Five jobs board keeps a running tally of all the jobs on offer around the world. So you know, start by looking there.
According to The Telegraph, driverless cars will create 320,000 new jobs by 2030 – and that’s just in the UK. Many of these jobs are in the field of engineering: software engineers, electronic engineers, robotics engineers. But as with any company, there are also more general roles, such as project managers, sales managers and marketers.
In a hands-on industry, remote working is rarely an option; you must go where the work is. For many self-driving tech companies, you’re looking at Silicon Valley, though it’s not all about California. Michigan, Maryland and Washington DC are all high on the list of employers with an interest in pursuing autonomy. However, that’s also where there’s the greatest competition.
The first step is to get a job despite having little or no real experience, which might be easiest in a city where there are robotics companies and fewer employers. The leading autonomous vehicle technology company in the UK, for example, is in a town of just 10,000 people!
Keep developing your skills
In this industry, learning to learn is more important than what you learn – although skills like good documentation and quality coding never go out of fashion. If you can develop mastery in your chosen profession, you will continue to create job opportunities throughout your entire life.
The top companies hire proactive people who are not afraid to educate themselves.
There are boundless learning resources available today, both online and offline. If you’re preparing for a career working with connected and autonomous vehicles, aim for transferable skills in areas like engineering, robotics, automation and advanced computing. Another approach is to take matters into your own hands and make contact with employers: ask them directly what skills they’re looking for before you apply for your next qualification.
Take a look at the online learning opportunities that are available. Lex Fridman’s guest lecture videos from MIT are a goldmine of useful information. Seek out videos presentations and posters published by computer vision, robotics, ADAS, and autonomous driving events. There is also Udacity’s Self-Driving Car Engineer Nanodegree program – check out this helpful comparison of its two popular programs by David Silver.
Get in front of employers
Never underestimate the value of networking. It’s one of the most effective ways to meet with potential employers face-to-face. Find an event, speak to sponsors and exhibitors, offer to help for free and talk to local employers. Attend as many networking events as you have time for and develop contacts wherever you find them, be it through friends, family, neighbours, college alumni or people in associations. Anyone who might help generate information and job leads.
Take part in DIY autonomous car activities such as AVC Sparkfun, DIY Robocars, and Formula Pi. If you’re studying, consider Formula Student AI (UK), Driverless (Germany), or Student Robotics if you’re aged 16-18. Go to meetups in your local area – if there isn’t a group, start one yourself! Do as many courses as you can: paid or free. There are all sorts of ways to talk to people already in the area, but you must be proactive.
Once you get the job
To get the most out of your career in the autonomous vehicle industry, continual professional development needs to be a priority. Being part of a progressive tech organisation is a great opportunity to grow your skills and experience. The learning doesn’t stop once you secure the job – quite the opposite, in fact. The most successful and satisfied people have proactively determined what they want from their careers.
There are several ways to accelerate your career growth:
- Request and attend training sessions
- Read, network and stay up-to-date with the industry
- Seek a mentor in an area you’d like to learn more about
- Learn from the experience of those around you – job shadow other employees
- Broaden your skills beyond your area of expertise
- Develop a career timeline with achievable milestones
- Make the most of employee development programs
When it comes down to it, most employers in the autonomous vehicle industry want two things: a good technical degree, and a willingness to learn. It’s not just about software and computer vision – the main focus of the Udacity nanodegree – but also skills in areas like robotics, mechatronics and FPGA programming. The beauty of a multidisciplinary approach is that it enables you to understand the full extent of the research and practical implications that take place in the CAV industry, allowing you to choose exactly which area you want to specialise in.
See what’s out there by browsing the latest opportunities on Level Five Jobs.