- Course: Civil and Structural Engineering (International) MEng
- Year of graduation: 2016
- Job title: Co-founder, Director of Operations
- Company: Autzu
- Location of year abroad: McMaster University, Canada
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/darrenmartinelli/
Life after graduating
After graduating, Darren founded a tech startup with a friend, whom he met while in his third-year study abroad in Canada. He is now currently living in Toronto as a Co-founder and Director of Operations of an automotive tech startup, Autzu.
Autzu is a drive sharing platform that aims to decrease global carbon emissions by switching all rideshare vehicles to electric. This is accomplished by building smart and sustainable infrastructure for vehicle control, charging and connectivity. Autzu operates in Toronto and New York City, with 250+ vehicles and over 12,000 users and will be launching in San Francisco in 2022.
Darren said “Over the past five years, we have built dedicated software applications focused on managing our users and controlling our vehicles. We use advanced algorithms to connect our vehicles to multiple ridesharing platforms (such as Uber and Lyft) to maximize our user’s earning capabilities and the efficiency of our fleet. Our proprietary in-car hardware transmits real-time vehicle health and driver behaviour data to ensure the safety of our users.” He continued “It also allows us to optimize the recharging time of our electric vehicles while minimizing the load on the electrical grid and maximizing vehicle utilization.”
Building a career in civil engineering
Darren is currently leading the operations team at Autzu, where they build and manage centralized connected smart hubs to enable efficient vehicle maintenance, repair and charging. He commented “Our connected smart hubs are crucial for managing and scaling large fleets of electric vehicles while allowing easy access for our users. The operations team includes fleet, customer service and marketing, and works closely with the product and engineering teams to ensure a smooth user experience.”
As part of launching Autzu’s operations in new cities, Darren has had the opportunity to visit New York City and San Francisco, which have been unique experiences that he looks forward to continuing.
He added, “I have also had the privilege of taking an executive education program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to enhance my leadership skills further, build a general management foundation, and connect with a global network of Stanford students and alumni.”
Time at Leeds
Thinking back on his time at Leeds, Darren said “My engineering degree at Leeds provided me with a good foundation for problem-solving and critical thinking, which I use daily to solve the many problems I encounter with running the business. Even though I am not using the specific engineering learnings from my degree while at a tech startup, I am actively using the engineering mindset we were taught to tackle problems with scalability solutions that address the root cause instead of the symptoms.” He continued “Remember: the symptom is a sign or indication that a problem exists, while a root cause is the reason for a business or performance problem.”
Darren had always enjoyed physics and mathematics while growing up and spent lots of time with computers and technology. He knew he wanted to study engineering at university, but the hard part was choosing which engineering discipline to study. Darren ended up choosing civil and structural engineering due to his great admiration for all the fantastic skyscrapers, bridges, and stadiums worldwide. He said, “Although I am not currently working in construction, my engineering degree has undoubtedly helped me build a company with a great team of people around me.”
In his third year, Darren was fortunate enough to study abroad, choosing McMaster University in Canada. He said “This was a tremendous opportunity to live and learn in another country and is the main reason I ended up going back to Canada to live. I was fortunate to meet some amazing people, with whom I continue to share positive experiences today. I truly recommend anyone to consider the option to study abroad!”
This was a tremendous opportunity to live and learn in another country and is the main reason I ended up going back to Canada to live.
Summing up his time at university, Darren said “Leeds prides itself as a heavily researched based institution. To be taught and fully supported by world-renowned lecturers in their field who continue to contribute to the engineering discipline is genuinely remarkable.”
He continued “This support system enabled me always to find peers or members of staff that were willing to invest their time to help me understand and overcome the most difficult parts of the course’s content. Engineering students are generally collaborative, where students are willing to actively work in groups to combine each other’s strengths to find a solution. Each year, the course included a group work component, which, although it may have been frustrating at times, I found it was one of the essential aspects and lessons for the real world; solving important and challenging problems is best when working with others and collaborating.”
To be taught and fully supported by world-renowned lecturers in their field who continue to contribute to the engineering discipline is genuinely remarkable.
Life outside the classroom
Darren was often involved in peer mentoring other engineering students in lower years with problems they would be facing. He also assisted in the University’s Open Days, where he would share advice with prospective engineering students and help them in their choice of university. He said, “I regret not joining more clubs and societies which Leeds has to offer - there is always a group of students who share the same interests as you, no matter how niche your interest may be.”
Advice for future engineering students
When thinking about the future, Darren said “Studying engineering at university is not easy, but if you are motivated to succeed and continuously work at it, you will undoubtedly reap the rewards. It is often easy to get lost in a module, so keeping on top of the course content is vital.”
The skills I have learned from studying engineering, such as working with others, thinking critically, and problem-solving effectively, have prepared me well for the workplace.
He added “Engineering is also a lot broader than you may initially think - as the wide range of modules prepares you to work in various fields after graduation. The skills I have learned from studying engineering, such as working with others, thinking critically, and problem-solving effectively, have prepared me well for the workplace. These core foundations are necessary to succeed in whatever you put your mind towards.
The learning process does not end once you graduate. Instead, it gets even more intense. This is a great thing; it is gratifying to develop your professional career and gain vital real-world experiences. I am grateful for the experience I have from Leeds - and I look forward to supporting the university as an alumni.”
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