Keno Mario Ghae, 24, is a Project Engineer at Imagination Technologies, UK. He talks about his engineering career
What is your educational background?
I attended the University of Cambridge, England. There, I first studied General Engineering, and this enabled me gain a broad foundation across all engineering disciplines. Afterwards, I specialised in Manufacturing and Management. I also hold a Bachelor of Arts in Engineering (all Cambridge degrees are Bachelor of Arts, even in engineering) and MEng (Master of Engineering). I also studied the CORE Business Fundamentals Programme at Harvard Business School, where I gained a deeper understanding of financial accounting, business analytics and economics for managers.
What is your work history?
As an undergraduate, I was interested in aviation and automotive engineering. I had great opportunities to do placements in leading companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Williams Formula 1 and e-Go aero planes. The opportunity to intern at ARM Holdings was a great insight into the power of technology. It is a technology company with a truly global reach whose technology touches the lives of almost everybody on the planet. They design the internals of the chips that power 98 per cent of the world’s smart phones.
Upon graduation, I joined Imagination Technologies as a project engineer in their Systems (IMGsystems) team, focused on building platforms for the ‘Internet of Things.’
What is your job description?
I have an interdisciplinary project management role at IMG Systems, with particular focus on scalable Internet of Things technology, collaboration and growing the wider MIPS ecosystem.
I work with teams from embedded software, hardware, applications, cloud frameworks, web and marketing to develop and showcase the next generation of products and platforms based on technology from Imagination Technologies.
The role is quite varied and can range from managing suppliers and aspects of the manufacturing process, to collaborating with clients and managing projects from initial conception to delivery. An example of that is the wireless car park system or even working with the marketing team to increase market awareness of our technology, products and services. I tend to focus on collaborations rather than solo efforts.
How and when did you start to work with Imagination Technologies?
I had never heard of Imagination Technologies until I became an undergraduate, so I didn’t even envision I would be working for them, or in this industry. But being open to new experiences and opportunities has played a part. I think having some experience before joining the company also helped. Being able to complement a theoretical background with some practical leadership and management experience early has been an advantage. For example, during my time in Cambridge, I was selected to lead Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER), which is a team of 60 students who design, build and race solar powered vehicles. Leading the team is comparable to running a technology start-up, given the experience of leading a team, managing a budget and innovating, all of which are valuable skills that we use every day.
I also think that being adaptable and willing to learn new things and new skills is important. Praying and having God on your side really does help.
You led the Cambridge University Eco Racing (solar car) team that designed and built Resolution, an innovative vehicle with a signature teardrop design for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in 2013, what was the experience like as team manager on that project?
I was selected to lead Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER), which is a team of 60 students who design, build and race solar powered vehicles. We built a very aerodynamic solar car to compete in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, which is a 3,000km solar powered race across the continent of Australia. The experience was a huge learning curve, and I learnt a lot as I grew into the role. It was also the first time that I was leading people older and more experienced than myself. The three main take-away points from the experience are authenticity in leadership is important; people respond better to the real you. The importance of clarity of the vision and mission cannot be underestimated. I learnt first-hand that motivation matters a lot and different people are motivated differently. 60 motivated volunteers built a car in a year without remuneration, simply because they wanted to.
How did you feel when you were awarded the 2016 National Microelectronics Institute’s Young Engineer of the year?
When I received the message from the NMI informing me that I had made the shortlist, I was over the moon with excitement. It was an honour just to be considered, and to actually be awarded Young Engineer of the Year in a strong field was incredible. I was elated, particularly because my background in manufacturing engineering is not typical in our predominantly electronics industry.
The awards night was a different experience entirely. It was great to meet with peers from across the industry, who had also been shortlisted. And then having dinner and interesting conversations with the leaders of our industry was a real encouragement to keep learning and getting better.
What stirred your interest in engineering?
As far back as I can remember, I have always had an interest in how things work. As a child, I took apart a skate board to see how the steering mechanism worked. I also disassembled remote controlled toys to have a look inside. I didn’t realise that this were the first steps towards engineering. It was when I reached sixth form and started thinking about university that I really became aware of engineering as a career path. I had a really inspiring teacher called Mr. Keith Bridgeman who studied Engineering at Oxford; he was a real evangelist for engineering. I remember after one particularly exciting lesson about momentum and Newton’s second law, I was so curious to know if those calculations were true that I assembled a few of my friends and we designed and built a rocket which carried an egg in a capsule to 700ft, coming down by parachute.
Do you think you could have attained this position if you had schooled in Nigeria?
I would like to think it wouldn’t have been impossible, but honestly it would have been more difficult and taken longer. Looking at the global engineering landscape at the moment and looking to the future, having the grades is just one component but it is not enough in itself. Gaining experience is important, having exposure to the leading edge of technology is important if you want to participate in those fields and most of these ecosystems are based overseas.
You are also a four-time Athletics Blue and Varsity Champion in high jump and hurdles, when did you develop interest in sports?
I love good healthy competition, which I believe drives excellence. Athletics is competition in its purest form because at its core, you are competing to be the best you can be. To jump higher, run faster, throw further. It’s just you against the clock, or the bar. Competing against your peers is exciting and tends to bring out the best performances in you. The mindset and focus of athletics is transferrable to other aspects of my life.
Who and what influenced your career?
I have had a good selection of mentors and encouragers in the course of my career so far who have been able to share knowledge, discuss ideas and give frank feedback when needed. All have had my best interests at heart, and pushed me to achieve things that I never knew could be possible. I cannot possibly list them all, but I am grateful for the support they have given me over the years.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, I see myself leading teams that are positively impacting lives around the world with technology. Outside of work, I see myself improving the lives of the next generation and communities in the developing world at a much larger scale than I have been able to achieve till date.
How would you encourage young people to pursue their life’s goals?
The key is to try out new things, and experience is also important. I would encourage them to just get started in the right general direction, even if they do not really know how things will end. Don’t talk yourselves out of pursuing your dreams just because you are not sure exactly how to get there.