From Formula UBC To Apple: Arjun's Journey As An Engineer

"Through engineering, you learn that there is always a solution to something – you just need to know how to break the problem down into bite-sized chunks."

Arjun Venkatesh

Arjun Venkatesh

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Grad year: 2018
  • Program:
  • Campus: Vancouver

Why did you want to study engineering?

In high school, I was uncertain about what I wanted to do; architecture was probably my top choice at the time. However, my Grade 11 physics teacher encouraged me to check out UBC’s Open House, which kickstarted my interest in engineering. I was excited about the idea of inventing and creating things, about being presented with a problem and having the skills to solve it by building something or writing code.

UBC Engineering Open House


Why did you choose UBC?

I grew up in Metro Vancouver, so UBC was close to home and convenient. The funny thing is that I had never visited the campus before the Open House. When I toured campus I was awestruck at how beautiful it is.

What were some highlights of your undergraduate experience?

One of my best experiences was the second-year Engineering Physics robot building competition. We had a full semester to design and build a robot that had to autonomously maneuver along a pre-set path and “rescue” little stuffed animals. It was a crash course on building things: how to design parts using 3D modelling software, build electronics, write code, manufacture things using a waterjet cutter, and put it all together.

Outside of class I was part of Formula UBC, which is a design team where you build a single-seater race car and compete in various performance tests. We used a Honda motorcycle engine, built the chassis out of steel tubing with carbon fibre panels, and manufactured custom electronics and wire harnesses. It was really fun to be involved in this hands-on and often dirty work!

Did you participate in co-op?

I did. Co-op is a great way to get work experience before you even join the work force. It’s also nice to take a break from your coursework, to apply what you’ve learned in class to real-world problems and earn some money. It gave me a strong resume of work experience coming out of university. I actually got my first job at Zoox, an autonomous vehicle development company, from a connection I’d made at my co-op job at Tesla.

Co-Op Program Zoox

You’ve worked at a lot of interesting places, including Boston Dynamics and Apple. Tell us about your career so far.

At Zoox I was doing test engineering for an electric autonomous vehicle, working on the electronics and charging system. I then moved to Boston Dynamics working in design engineering, specifically the circuit boards used in their robots. A highlight was designing a motor drive for one of their newer robots (Stretch) used in warehouse logistics to load trucks.

I’m now back in the Bay Area working for Apple as a senior hardware engineer in a new product category. It's a fun and fast-paced environment. Apple excels at making hardware: whatever they make they are making millions of them, so I’m learning a lot of skills about working at such a large scale.

Boston Dynamics Boston Dynamics' Robot Stretch 

Arjun Venkatesh Co-op

What sorts of skills did UBC Engineering help you develop?

The main thing I took away from engineering is how to learn well.

An engineering degree trains you how to learn so that when you are in new environments or facing new problems you have the confidence to figure things out. UBC Engineering also taught me how to collaborate and work well with others. Many of our profs encouraged us to work on homework in groups, for example, because that’s how you solve problems in real life.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as an engineer?

My overall goal is to try and build things that help people. There are a lot of problems facing the world, and I would love to use my skill set to make a positive difference.

Find me on: LinkedIn

Two UBC Engineering Physics students preparing for the annual summer robot competition.

Engineering Physics

EngPhys students build a solid foundation in applied physics and a blend of electrical and mechanical engineering, while gaining extensive engineering design experience.

Engineering Physics

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