How Do You Engineer the Perfect Career in Mechatronics?
Like road trips, careers are about the journey and not the destination. For recent Mechatronics graduate Petter Falkenstrand, that journey began at Neonode. We sat down and spoke to him about his experience at Neonode and looked at how he has already accomplished extraordinary things.
Did you know that Neonode is a Great Place to Work? But don't just take our word for it. We recently spoke to Petter Falkenstrand, a Mechatronics graduate from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. He chose to pursue his career at Neonode after graduating because of the opportunity to test a variety of roles before settling in to his chosen focus area in the Software Engineering team at Neonode, where he is now working together with the Optics Team to develop software for Neonode's touch sensor modules, that enable rugged, contactless and gesture control interaction for our customers.
Here is what he had to say.
What made you pursue a career at Neonode?
Upon graduation, I wanted the freedom to continue to grow and learn within an agile company – and that’s when I found Neonode. After learning about the company, I knew that this is the kind of organization that’s a good place to learn and a jumpstart my career. It was also a perfect chance to work with different kinds of cutting-edge technology together with some really experienced mentors. While I spoke to several of the big employers in Sweden, I was worried about being pigeonholed and stuck in very specific role. In the end, the decision to join Neonode was easy.
Can you tell us about your background?
I have experience in a lot of different fields, ranging from professional soccer to teaching – and now in applied mechatronics. I was an assistant teacher in an elementary school, worked in sales and played sports at a high level. I was also the Head of Corporate Relations for the KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s mechanical engineering career fairs. I’ve always been interested in all the different aspects of high-performing teams, from people to project management. Eventually my sister – who studied industrial engineering – inspired me to move into engineering too. I opted for mechanical engineering as it allowed me to be creative and explore different fields, but it became clear that I wanted to pursue the more technical path.
Mechatronics is a discipline that allowed me to work with all parts of the engineering process, from project management and development to manufacturing. It’s an excellent degree to study if you want to learn how all the different pieces of the engineering process fit together.
What things have you worked on since you joined Neonode?
I’ve been at Neonode for just over a year now, and as part of my employment, I was given the opportunity to explore multiple roles, which is awesome! One of my professors said: “the only thing you can be certain of is that you won’t be working with the things that you have studied here.” I didn't really believe him at that time, but since then, I’ve found myself working on many things beyond what was taught at university. When I first joined Neonode, I began working as a support engineer, which I really enjoyed as you can work closely with people and customers. It was a very valuable experience as it helped me understand our customers’ needs, challenges and how they utilize our products. Three months later, I took a leading role on an extremely exciting and challenging project as a quality engineer that involved going in-depth with our processes and quality work – and the project was a huge success. I then moved on to a different team to work hands-on with our products and their software tools as a software engineer. After a year with Neonode, I already have a 360-degree view of our product development process – and some great achievements to look back on.
Petter Falkenstrand. Software Engineer at Neonode.
Can you tell us a bit more about this exciting project?
The company wanted to implement two new ISO standards for quality assurance and information security. We already had a lot of processes in place, but implementing the standards meant we had to go the extra mile to integrate them into everything we do. My soon-to-be manager, Neonode’s Director of Quality & Operational Excellence, asked if I wanted to help him drive the implementation across the whole organization. It sounded like an exciting opportunity, so I happily accepted. We worked tirelessly to bring the project to fruition and it was great fun to work toward a clear (and important!) goal. Because of how important the project was, the entire organization rallied around to help make it happen. It was rewarding to have everyone support our work, and as part of the project I had many interesting discussions with people from across the organization and outside experts.
Working on this project was a fantastic experience – I discovered that it’s not only about what you're learning, but about how to listen, absorb information and utilize it. I also had a lot of personal freedom and important responsibilities, and the management team really trusted us to bring it home, which we did.
Not least because of the project’s success, I had the option to continue working as a quality engineer, but I wanted to work closer to our products again. Thankfully, my managers were very helpful and happy to let me move on to my new challenge as a software engineer.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far at Neonode?
Don’t be afraid to do things a bit outside of your comfort zone – providing the organization offers the right support and it aligns with your experience and career goals. It’s something I’m really proud of, especially in terms of the ISO standard project. I had no previous experience in this area – there are no college classes that I know of on how to get ISO certified – but by working together with experts and applying my education and curiosity in a new context, we made it happen. Being open-minded to new opportunities and always learning goes a long way in career development.
Any advice for others with similar degrees looking to enter the job market?
For me, feeling inspired and being challenged at work is important. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but if you’re working on something challenging alongside colleagues that inspire you and share common values, you’re onto a winner – and will have a lot of fun. Since the day I joined Neonode, I’ve never felt overwhelmed or anxious about going to work. Even though there are moments of pressure, like meeting deadlines on certain projects, I still feel inspired and have fun. Neonode is perfect because we are big enough to take on complex global projects, but still agile enough to let people try different things. That's why I've always experienced a strong sense of support from colleagues and received the resources I need to excel in my role.
How would you describe the company culture at Neonode?
I’d say ‘supportive’. We always stand up for each other and help each other, and I can ask anyone anything and never feel like I’m being a burden. This is especially great when you’re at the beginning of your career, because you will ask a lot of questions. You’re also allowed to speak your mind and come with suggestions and input. In Swedish, we say it’s a "högt i tak" company – which translates to ‘high ceiling’, or limitless opportunity. There’s an openness to new ideas and nothing is taboo. Well, almost nothing, the only time there’s tension in the office is when the rival football teams in Stockholm, Djurgården IF and AIK have a face off - or when we get together in the office for a friendly game after work.
Neonode afterwork team building: Football and burgers.
What are you working on now at Neonode?
I’ve been in my software engineering role for several months now, and there’s been a lot of great new learnings, and I love it. I can’t share too much just yet, but we’re executing on some exciting new projects while also continuously working on our software tools to improve the user experience and user interaction with our sensors. It’s such a good fit that I can see myself working in software development for the next couple of years at least.
I work as part of a great team and company, and I also have amazing mentors who are perhaps the best in the field. I learn so much from them every day, from project management to software architecture. I feel really fortunate to work here.
Are you interested in working for Neonode? We are always on the lookout for the brightest talents. Please check out our careers site at: Neonode Careers