see. think. act.



From Bangalore to Lake Constance

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Saniya Khan, February 08, 2019
Saniya Khan is a 34-year-old IT engineer from India. In summer 2018, she started a one-year period at ZF in Germany and discovers new aspects of her work every day.
I have always had a passion for developing control electronics. I'm also fascinated by signal processing. But I have never imagined that it would take me to Germany one day. Now I'm looking forward to seeing the results of my software developments over my two-year expat period directly in the laboratory or on the test bench.

I've been working in Friedrichshafen since last summer, and I'm amazed at how my life has changed over the past two years. In 2016, I was still developing control software for wind turbines in Chennai on the Bengali Gulf. However, the flooding disaster in December 2015 forced me to move inland. In Bangalore I found a job at an engineering company and developed a demonstration model for engine control systems for our customer ZF.
That's how it all started. And my hard work paid off: ZF manager Ricardo Gonzalez wanted me on his team, so I moved to Hyderabad, 600 km away. Suddenly, I was one of the first of 2,500 IT engineers due to be hired by ZF India Technology Center (ITC) by 2020.

Now, during my planned one-year stay in the headquarters, I'm part of the team developing the software for automatic transmission systems for passenger cars. The transmission system software consists of several software components, including Application Signal Conditioning, Gear Shift Strategy, Electrical Transmission System Software (ETSYS), Drivetrain Control (all-wheel drive) and Driver Interface. However, my team handles the development of Application Signal Conditioning and ETSYS components.
The Application Signal Conditioning component works with the CAN interface, performing signal processing and local diagnostics as well as filtering and determining initial values. This component acts like a signal processor of the raw sensor values to produce meaningful values for the physical signals such as engine torque, vehicle speed, transmission temperature and more. After we obtain the accurate values from this component, its signal values are sent to the other software components for the further calculation.

The ETSYS component is responsible for gear shift control. It calculates the current gear and target gear, determines power flow, applies shift control algorithms and selects the next gear to be engaged. Not only that, it ensures minimum torque loss in the clutch as it engages and disengages. In addition to the above, the ETSYS has a special feature called the adaption function which is able to adapt parameter calibration to the transmission’s aging process, thus maintaining the same shifting quality as the transmission ages.

My role is to coordinate the tasks and development activities between ITC in India and Friedrichshafen. This work demands a deep understanding of how the system functions, sharing that knowledge with ITC and guiding the engineers and developers there to give everything their all. One future goal is to have the ITC team on par with the Friedrichshafen team and to work independently. My responsibilities include preparing the roadmap for this project, handling capacity planning, understanding the project structure and information flow between India and Friedrichshafen. I provide technical assistance to the project teams at ITC, support transparent communication between ITC and Friedrichshafen and, lastly, I organize job-training for new team members.
“Up to now, I’ve always just sat at computer workstations and written code. Now, for the first time, I see the products controlled by my software on the test benches or in the laboratory.”

I'm impressed at how passionate and committed my colleagues are about finding the best solution. And I enjoy the practical relevance. Up to now, I’ve always just sat at computer workstations and written code. Now, for the first time, I'm at the center of the action and see the products controlled by my software on the test benches or in the laboratory. And I ride along on test drives to experience first-hand how the algorithms for our automatic transmissions work in the real world.

Lots of readers might wonder how come, as a young woman, I've found my dream job in processing digital signals and programming algorithms. Even in high school, at the age of 14, I was interested in computers. After weeks of pleading, my parents finally bought me my own PC – which I actually still own and would never part with!

As one of 15 women among 70 students, I enrolled in Electronics and Communications Engineering in 2004, quickly specializing in digital signal processing and control unit software.
In previous jobs, I've worked for example on software for engines for the Russian aircraft manufacturer Suchoi and for the Airbus A400M. A special highlight was my time a KPIT Technologies, where I helped work on control software for Renault Formula 1 engines. I have to admit I'm very proud of that. It means I played at least a small part in Sebastian Vettel's four world championship titles.
I can't wait to find out what's next!