Job title: Development Engineer Employer: HELB Ltd. Year of graduation: 2020 Supervisor: Associate Professor Siniša Šadek, Ph.D. Study profile: Electrical Power Engineering
Hi, I’m Kristina and I’m still not fully aware that I’m not a student anymore. At FER, I actually had little experience with “electricity” because I often chose courses that had to do with computing and later with nuclear safety, which is why I enrolled in FER. During my studies, I volunteered at BEST, participated in 2 summer internships organised by the Career Centre, worked in 2 electrical engineering companies, and, what I like the most, helped to set up the FER esports section, which I now occasionally advise. At HELB, I’m working on an EU project with partners HEP ODS, Sedam IT, and FER, where we’re developing a system to monitor and predict losses in secondary distribution. When I’m not working, I try to spend as much time as possible with friends and family, because I realised a long time ago that my strength comes from these relationships.
What does your typical working day look like?
Although I officially hold the position of development engineer, I spend most of my time managing the project. This includes administration, planning tasks, identifying and eliminating risks, and a lot of communication. Besides, there is never a dull moment because during the last year I’ve been involved in the techno-economic analysis and procurement of various devices, telecommunication, development of the whole system from hardware to communication, data reception and processing to visualisation, tests, field trips, in-depth research and even marketing.
Given the chaotic nature of the job, I’m very happy to work in an industry where the need for a work-life balance isn’t stressed because it goes without saying. It also means that there’s a routine. HELB is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The first thing we do in the morning (after emails) is drinking coffee, at 10:00 a.m. we have breakfast in our office, and if we find time in the afternoon, we take another short break. For me personally, this routine is perfect because it keeps me from getting too bogged down in the challenges of the day that throw me off track.
How did the selection process for this position go?
The stars simply aligned for me for this position. In a moment of panic when I was told at the internship that there would be no space for a full-time position, a senior colleague from the internship forwarded my CV to a friend who forwarded it to HELB. If HELB hadn’t called me, I never would have gotten a job there. But after the interview, which I accepted out of courtesy as I already had an offer from another company, they offered me the job of my dreams. Within a week of my colleague picking up the phone, I’d a job.
However, during my studies, I had many different experiences. From people telling me “this isn’t the right job for me” because I was a woman, talking on their mobile phones while I answered questions, and never replying to my emails, to nice experiences where even if I wasn’t the right person for a job, they kindly told me so during the interview or in a reply email.
One of the things specific to our profession is perhaps how important it’s to know people. It’s difficult to find a good engineer and companies don’t want to “waste time” training people, so they put a lot of emphasis on recommendations. I’m not enthusiastic about such a mentality because it’s not sustainable. The need for professionals is huge, and if no one is willing to train fresh graduates, then there will be no skilled workers.
What experiences have helped you realise that you’re on the right path and that you’re doing what you want?
In my previous jobs and through volunteering, I worked on many projects and got to know the business world before I finished my studies. That was my goal – I wanted to know what to expect afterward before I finished my studies. There I learned that the business world is really a jungle and has everything. It opened my eyes to the fact that it’s up to me to decide what my priorities are when choosing a career. Now I work with good people and that’s what I want for the future.
What are some of the challenges you face in the workplace?
The scope of the project I’m working on requires much broader knowledge than that of energy technology. So, it’s always a challenge when I get a question that requires knowledge of telecommunications, programming, or law. On the other hand, I can’t afford to neglect expanding my knowledge of energy.
The biggest challenge, however, is communication. I admire people who simply recognise “what the author wanted to say”. I don’t have this talent, but fortunately, this too can be remedied by working on one’s communication skills.
Thinking about your experience at FER, what prepared you for your career?
Not only in my career, but in my whole outlook on life, the greatest help was that I failed a year. After a few months of mourning, I filled my free time with travelling, volunteering, internships, and passing my second year of computing. After that, I passed the exams as an mandatory side effect of all the good things that come with FER.
What advice would you give to students who are looking for a job in your field?
It’s said that FER students spend a maximum of 2 days at the employment bureau – and that only if they graduated on a Friday. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to most energy professionals. That’s why many of us end up not working in the profession but going into programming instead. The industry is losing brilliant people because it doesn’t build relationships with students, is very slow to adapt, and doesn’t realise that IT companies are competing with it for talent.
Electrical engineering students, don’t be discouraged! You can speed up the job search process by trying to find a job while you’re still studying – it’s possible, especially in the higher semesters. For all good things, you’ve to work hard anyway.