Escaping factory work
Anawat Chullasewok is one of the engineers that had no interest in working in a manufacturing facility, and so he chose electrical engineering, surmising that to do design he would work in a modern office, not a dirty factory environment.
But after hacking the tough undergraduate curriculum here in Thailand and moving to the United States to get his Master's degree in the same field, he realized that he was not that interested in engineering as a career. Stoking his desire to travel, he now works for the Thailand Board of Investment as an investment promotion officer, in New York City, and says he has never looked backed at chucking his engineering degree to pursue what he loves best.
How can Thailand possibly counter such attitudes? “First we have to convince students that engineering is a good career and that there is an abundance of companies that they can go work for and do interesting things,” says Unakal.
Organizations like the Thai Embedded Systems Association and the Thailand Board of Investment are reaching out to engineering students early -- in their second year -- to inspire and expose them to things that are more fun than solving second-order differential equations, like robotics contests.
They also try and match students with companies for senior-year internships, the theory being that it will give potential engineers a feel for real engineering work and may often result in a permanent job offer. Companies in turn consult with universities to shape the curriculum and help to ensure that graduating students have the relevant skillsets to succeed in today’s job market.
The vibe of a company seems to be an important draw, too. Like their counterparts in Silicon Valley, prospective engineers here are more likely to want to work for companies that are accessible via public transportation, offer perks like onsite gyms and juice bars, have flexible work hours, and don’t resemble somewhere your father worked.
Chalermpon Punnotok, founder and CEO of CT Asia Robotics Co. Ltd., has struck upon a novel way to motivate more students to pursue careers in engineering. Inspired by the Thai University student teams that were designing and winning awards for their robot designs, he realized that leveraging those existing skills would give him a jump start in launching a new robotics division of his software company and at the same time appeal to what engineering students loved doing the most.
Chalermpon Punnotok, founder and CEO, CT Asia Robotics,
with the company's award-winning robot.
“We had the software already, and these students had the know-how in robotics. The next step was to go out and hire them,” says Punnotok.
With 80 engineers currently on staff, the company has now developed three generations of award-winning robots, including the Dinsow, a small robot that serves food, picks up objects, waves and greets people, holds the telephone, and notifies the appropriate parties in case of an emergency.
"I tell students that if they want to work here, they have to want to do crazy stuff,” says Punnotok. “We think out of the box, and we are brave enough to compete with the giants in Silicon Valley.”
And that sounds, well, exactly like the kind of place that any Gen-Y’er would want to work.
— Karen Field, Director of Content, EE Live and EE Times. She is in Thailand this week on special assignment.