Where do you work? And what are you doing exactly?
Christian Paar: For the past three years, I have been a project manager in pre-development at Magna Steyr in Graz, and am responsible for the management of research projects. My professional focus is on battery-electric vehicles. We deal with various aspects of that – from the battery to the electric drive to new charging technologies.
What is the fascinating thing about this job for you?
Christian Paar: As a project manager, you always need an overview of the entire project. After all, a vehicle consists of many technical sub-disciplines: classical mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and more and more computer science and software development. As a project manager, I have to keep an eye on all of these departments to reach the project goal.
In your opinion, what does it take to be a good electrical engineer? What does she/he really need to be able to do or bring to the job?
Christian Paar: Basic knowledge coupled with the ability to deal with new technologies quickly. That is an advantage, especially in the automotive industry today. Our industry is currently undergoing a major transformation, most notably in the field of electromobility. Product life cycles are becoming shorter and shorter, and it is particularly important to be able to quickly familiarise yourself with new topics in industrial research. Graduates of electrical engineering have a clear advantage here.
Has your degree programme prepared you well for your current job?
Christian Paar: The degree programme Electrical Engineering has helped me a lot. I have always worked in the electrical engineering segment of the vehicle industry, i.e. in the field of classical electrical engineering. I'm still benefitting from those basics that I learned during my degree programme. For the job as a project manager, I attended some courses while working and of course I also learned a great deal
on the job.
How did you experience your time at the TU Graz? What do you look back on?
Christian Paar: TU Graz offers students a wide variety of opportunities. Coming from the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt, I entered the Doctoral Programme at TU Graz and found the variety and options in the departments fascinating – I was able to choose whether I wanted to specialise in Automation and Control, Electric Drives and Machines or something else. Everything was much stricter at the University of Applied Sciences. I was employed by Magna during my doctoral programme and wrote my doctoral thesis on a joint research project of TU Graz and Magna in the field of drive technology. Now, as a project manager, economics and social skills are in high demand, and from today's point of view, I would emphasise these subjects more than I did during my studies.
Are you still in touch with your fellow students from back then? What do other careers as an electrical engineer look like?
Christian Paar: Yes, I am in regular contact with my doctoral programme colleagues. Many work in software and electronics development. From the perspective of industry, I can say today: electrical engineers are in great demand. The electric mobility industry is looking around desperately for such experts. There is also a big demand in the classic areas of electrical engineering, such as the calculation of electrical machines or in power electronics.
Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
Christian Paar: I plan to stay in industrial research for a few more years and to gain more experience there. I now have budget and project responsibilities in my job and could well imagine assuming personnel responsibility in the form of group or departmental management in a few years' time.
What advice do you have for prospective students who are interested in studying electrical engineering?
Christian Paar: Prospective students should take a good look at all areas of the discipline and only then decide on a path suited to them – and this means specialising in a discipline such as Automation and Control or something more business-focused with Energy Innovation or some other field. Once you have learned the basics, there are so many opportunities thanks to this variety of institutes and departments. It also seems important to me that TU Graz should give students an idea of all the many diverse job profiles this field offers and emphasise the good industrial contacts they have here, which is certainly one of their greatest assets.