Rajkumar Rajappan, 44
Director of automotive consulting and advisory , HilMil Solutions
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My first automotive job was with CG Smith Software in 2000. I was responsible for developing transmission control and engine management software for the General Motors Powertrain division. In the last 19 years I have worked on nearly every major vehicle electronic control unit (ECU) at global automakers and Tier 1 suppliers. Cars and embedded automotive software were and continue to be my passion.
Born: Salem, India
Languages: Tamil, English, Hindi, German
Education: MBA, Symbiosis International University, Pune, India; bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli, India
Your greatest achievement?
The professional highlights are being named Best Project Manager and winning Best Project Award at Bosch India. It was also a huge honor to be named 2014 Alliance Partner of the Year by National Instruments. Personally, it is the good fortune to have caring parents and in-laws, a supportive and smart wife and son as well as lovable sisters and brothers-in-law. Without this strong family support, I wouldn’t be able to take so many professional risks.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
I don’t remember any major failure. I take life as it comes and don’t worry about what went wrong and why it happened.
What is your current challenge at work?
Knowing and understanding the many different cultures in the many different countries of the many different people I work with every day. I am still learning. The second-biggest challenge is coping with shorter product life cycles. Everyone on our team has to work together so we can meet tough deadlines without sacrificing on quality.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
When I started in the automotive sector it was more mechanical driven and less about electronics and software. There were a few ECUs in cars, which meant there was a few thousand lines of code. Today the industry focus is more on software and electronics. There are more and more ECUs and cars have multi-million lines of code. This will only increase as we move toward automated driving.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
After graduation I had to pick between working in web application software or embedded software. I asked my friend’s brother, who was an engineering manager at a U.S.-based IT company, for his advice. He asked me what I was passionate about and the answer was embedded software. I remain very happy about my choice.
2017-April 2019: Head of R&D, Rimac Automobili, Osijek, Croatia
2016-2017: Head of electronics and electrical practice for Europe, India, Japan, Allegis Group, Bangalore
2015-2016: Country head India, Apag Elektronik, Zurich, Switzerland; Nuremberg, Germany; Bangalore
2012-2015: Managing director and CEO for Indian subsidiary, CGS, Munich, Germany; Bangalore
2005-2012: Multiple high-level project and technical manager roles, Robert Bosch Engineering & Business Solutions and Robert Bosch Inida, Hildesheim, Germany; Bangalore
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Know your strengths and limitations and set short-term goals. Always keep learning. And, no matter what happens, always believe in yourself.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I will leave this question to my future employer.
What do you do to relax?
I spend time family and friends. I also meditate regularly and spend the summer in our farmhouse.
What is your pet peeve?
Compromising on quality at work.
What was your first car?
A 1990 Ambassador Mark 4 diesel from my dad.
I prefer using Uber, MyTaxi and ride-sharing services.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I would be a self-driving car from Waymo. Or, better yet, since I have spent most of my career working with automotive suppliers on ECUs that is what I would be, the brain of the car controlling the engine management system in a combustion-drive car, the battery management system in an EV or the advanced driver assistance system in an autonomous vehicle.