Interview with Vojislav Mokric, Project Manager in the Embedded Engineering Team
You started working for HTEC as a student, designing an autonomous robot-vehicle equipped with IR sensors, camera, and guiding algorithms. This was also a part of your master thesis. How important and useful was working on the development of an idea inside a real company?
At that time, I saw it as the only possible way to reaching my goal – building that robot – to ask someone for support, due to my, so to say, limited student budget. It looked really logical to me – and it still does – to knock on the door of someone who you think can help you, and say “I have this idea in mind. It’s challenging, but I believe I can do it, although it requires time and funds. Can I get that from you? Can you help me? In return, if my effort proves to be efficient, if I manage to accomplish my goal, you can have me on your team”.
So, it was kind of a gamble for the HTEC (which was then just making its baby steps). But it obviously all went well. At that time, it was a big step for me. I got a mentor and someone from whom I could learn from. I got a chance to work on the subject I liked, and I got a salary. The atmosphere was quite startupish, and there were only a few of us within the embedded team. Nevertheless, things soon started to change...
The next chapter in your career was working on a project for Intel and creating automation tests for image and video algorithms quality testing, and engineering a platform for image sensor analysis. Can you tell us a bit about your experience, what does working on an Intel project look like?
This was a completely new perspective for me. Suddenly you are part of the team where excellence is demanded on a daily basis, and no errors are tolerated. At least it was how I saw it at the beginning, and it was a bit scary. I must admit that I felt like someone who is way behind these guys and in certain cases. It was more inhibiting than encouraging for me. I was lucky to meet a guy who saw my problems and stood up for me. He offered me a chance to work in his team, which was more convenient for me than my initial one.
So, step by step, I gradually adapted, finding my own way, becoming the guy responsible for producing the image and video materials, and a crucial piece of the puzzle. Later on, I realized that others made mistakes too. I learned a lot during those few years, not just about the technology but also about the organization inside the big companies. I learned about the PMs’ ways of thinking, importance, and consequences of their good and bad decisions, ways of dealing with different personalities within their teams, etc. I closely watched their attitudes and behavior, and I learned. This particularly proved to be quite useful today.
Recently, you started leading a team on the Baby Car Seat project, which is working on creating a smart seat for babies equipped with a number of sensors and communication modules to enhance the safety of children in cars. How challenging is leading a team on a project which is the first of its kind, a totally new generation of IoT device?
It is challenging for two reasons: this is the first project that I’m leading, and this product is first of its kind. This combination is the source of numerous situations where you need to make decisions, react fast, take risks, plan for the best, adapt to changes, deal with the ever-changing circumstances and try not to let things get out of control. Pretty much the same as any other project. But in my case, most of these I’m doing for the first time.
This is the moment where support from more experienced colleagues within the company is essential. And I must say that at the beginning I was a bit reluctant to ask for help. Now I see it as an absolute necessity. It allows you to connect with people and get their experience, but also to share yours. And I most definitely found some great support.
You have grown from a student to an embedded engineer to a PM in the company. You have also grown together with the company. What kind of a ride was this for you?
The most important lesson that I have learned during this ride was that it all comes down to human relationships, which are essential for a healthy community. Building on top of that is then easy and satisfactory – everyone likes to grow and see others around him grow. By adopting new skills and good practices, by never ceasing to develop, as engineers and as humans, and by never ceasing to rise to higher levels of organization, efficiency, and relationships we will avoid inertia and the situations where we stagnate, which tend to attract us in a kind of gravity force manner. Avoiding that leads to fulfillment and success on many levels.
What was the best and what was the most challenging moment of your time here?
The best moment was when I came to the above-mentioned conclusion. The most challenging moments are always here or there, each day, lurking around the corner to test your determination.