Freedom to innovate and encouragement to think like an entrepreneur are just some of the reasons the people behind Magna technology enjoy working here.
Sulbin Park and Kelvin Chan, two Magna engineers working on exciting research projects, explain why this is a great place to grow a career.
Friends Working on Future Mobility
Kelvin Chan’s path to Magna began with his longtime friend Alastair Yu, who got a job as a software engineer in May 2018 working in a Mechatronics new technologies and innovations group.
“You know your friends and they know you,” said Chan, the 2019 winner of the Magna Employee Innovation Challenge (EIC). “It’s a good way of getting to know what a job entails before actually applying.”
Yu told Chan, a 2018 graduate of the University of Waterloo with a bachelor’s degree in mechatronics engineering, about a supportive work environment at Magna that included “incubator” projects on Wednesdays.
This is a free period within Mechatronics where engineers can tinker with “random R&D ideas” outside of their everyday assignments. Currently, Chan is working on an augmented- reality head-up display.
“The freedom to pursue my own ideas attracted me,” said Chan, who joined Magna in September 2018 as a software engineer working on various technologies, including computer vision, deep learning and artificial intelligence algorithms for automotive applications.
Today, Yu and Chan work side by side with Magna colleagues who help to foster creativity well beyond Wednesdays.
It’s a perfect fit for Chan, who was born in Hong Kong and developed his curiosity and creativity through his photography hobby and his family’s love of traveling, and exploring different cultures and cuisines.
Sharing ideas is how Chan came up with his winning EIC concept, a software solution for keeping an automotive camera clean, even when there’s rain, snow or dirt on the lens. His idea uses a recent innovation in machine learning called “Generative Adversarial Networks” that can be used for generating realistic images.
“The inspiration came from Alastair Yu, who went to the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show and brought back a lot of pamphlets,” Chan explained. “I came across one from a company that offered an image cleaning or restoration service for databases with distorted images, not cars. I said ‘Hmmm, what if we tried to do this image-cleaning solution for automotive?’”
At Magna, that’s how innovators “auto qualify” or adapt ideas from other industries for automotive use.
“It was my first time entering a competition of this scale, and I’m very excited that my concept was so well received,” Chan said. “But the real prize that I got with the EIC was the chance to meet with other finalists from all over the world and exchange our ideas with each other.”
Today, Chan said he likes to spend his free time working on personal projects, cooking and planning his next trip – and interacting with his Magna friends and colleagues on technologies that are five to 10 years in the future.
Kelvin Chan, winner of the 2019 Magna Employee Innovation Challenge
Click here to watch 2019 EIC video
It was my first time entering a competition of this scale, and I’m very excited that my concept was so well received.
When Sulbin Park started working at Magna in April 2018 as a research engineer, she was excited to find a corporate culture that gave her access to people like Swamy Kotagiri, the company’s president, and other executives.
“I work on the same floor with them and it’s such an open place,” she said. “If you have an idea or a technical question, you pop in and talk to these people. Besides, we’re all working on the same thing – making cars smart.”
Park’s current assignment is to develop object-tracking algorithms, one of the building blocks for autonomous vehicles.
“It’s all about predicting the movement of people and objects, and securing the safety of self-driving cars,” Park said. “What I really like about my job is that I’m at the frontier. This field is advancing quickly and I am moving along with the tide. It keeps my mind fresh and sharp with continuous learning.”
Her workstation at Magna’s Troy, Michigan headquarters even feels like home, with framed photos of her two dogs, Giles, a dachshund mix that Park rescued, and Parker, a long-haired dachshund.
A 2016 graduate of the University of Michigan with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, Park was attracted to the field while studying physics as an undergraduate student in South Korea.
“I was in a research lab and my teammate had tremors in his hand,” she recalled.
“I wanted to develop gloves that would cancel his tremors. I started working with a mechanical engineering professor who was doing robotics. Not long after that, I realized I wanted to do engineering rather than natural science. So I made the switch.”
The glove prototype wasn’t a success, but that led Park to haptics, or what she calls the “technology of touch,” and then to the automotive industry. It wasn’t the career path she envisioned as a teen.
Growing up in South Korea, Park learned English from watching the American TV show Friends and said, “languages were my natural inclination.” But her mother, an entrepreneur, urged her to focus on science and math. It turns out mom was right.
“I love what I’m doing,” Park said. “Behind the math and the coding is the theory you have to understand, and that’s where the beauty lies. And it’s refreshing to be at a place like Magna that is committed to treating its employees well.”
Sulbin Park, a research engineer at Magna's Troy, Michigan headquarters.
What I really like about my job is that I’m at the frontier. This field is advancing quickly and I am moving along with the tide. It keeps my mind fresh and sharp with continuous learning.