see. think. act.



California dreaming

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Tags: SeeThinkAct, ArtificialIntelligence, TraineeProjects, TraineeCommunity, Careers
Neeladhri Rama, March 20, 2019
Neeladhri Rama is from Houston, TX. He studied Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University in the US. What makes Neel stand out is his diverse cultural background as he has attended high school in India and is fluent in five languages.
If you are looking to join the ZF Global Trainee Program and wonder where it can take you, you are reading the right article. Trainees have the flexibility to choose and participate in four projects, each carried out at a different location - including one international location.

So while picking my second project, I wanted two things: to be in a department with a high degree of flexibility and to live in a big metro area. All this pointed me in one direction, the Global Innovation Hub in Sunnyvale, CA. Based in the heart of the Silicon Valley, this is a small location with about eight people. This was a big change for me personally, as I was in metro-Detroit for my first project, which is home to three major technical centers and the corporate headquarters of ZF North America.

ZFs' Global Innovation Hub is part of the Digitalization Office and is responsible for identifying opportunities to harness the potential of data in optimizing operations in existing business units and also for new business opportunities.

ZFs' Global Innovation Hub is part of the Digitalization Office and is responsible for identifying opportunities to harness the potential of data in optimizing operations in existing business units and also for new business opportunities.

This group is also responsible for the development of ZF’s IoT (Internet of Things) platform and develops use cases for the platform in collaboration with the various business units. Another key function and the core reason for the Silicon Valley presence of this department is to foster partnerships and investments in startups working on innovative technologies with regards to the Internet of Things, autonomous driving, connected services and many more.
My task within this group was to support the product management of the platform and tech scouting for startups working on technologies as desired by the different Business Units. Our office is located at the Plug and Play tech center. Plug and Play is one of the biggest accelerators that brings together startups, corporates, Venture capitalists, academia and lot of other players into what then becomes an innovation ecosystem. ZF is a corporate partner of plug and play and we work together to to scout for startups whose technologies are required by the company. There are many networking events that are meant to bring corporates and startups under one roof and as a trainee for me; this was a good opportunity to learn about the direction in which technology was heading. In addition to this, I was required to go visit startups around the bay area. I had the opportunity to pursue a class in Artificial Intelligence while I was there and this gave me a lot of insights into the field.
Besides the professional and work side of my project here, the buzzing bay had a lot to offer. The area has a unique blend between the hustle and bustle of San Francisco to the open spaces in the North Bay.
"Often times, the city of New York is called the melting pot but I would now say that today Silicon Valley with its influx of immigrants has evolved into another one."

The international demographic brings along with it the culture from these countries. Just to give you an idea – I had some Indian dishes at restaurants here were those that I never had in 19 years of my life in India. Therefore, all the good food around here did require some physical activity to even out things a bit. And that transitions into the numerous running, hiking and biking trails that this area offers in one of the most scenic settings in the world.
All good things do come with a fee and I was completely aware of the fact that I was going to break my bank a bit with choosing the Silicon Valley for a project. Nevertheless, I would say that the exposure that I got here to the tech world was totally worth the price. I came from a mechanical engineering intense background and I would say I was rather a noob when it came to understanding the business models in the tech world. For the first few weeks here – I must confess that I did feel a bit out of place. However, the ZF community is always there for you and was there for me as well. I had a lot of support from my supervisors and colleagues to integrate into this environment. Therefore, coming back to the beginning of this blog post, if you are looking for a program that will cater to your interests this is it. It was one of my goals after I moved to the US to be able to live in the Silicon Valley and after 6 years in this country, the ZF Global Trainee Program made this happen.