Menelaos kanakis

Menelaos Kanakis

What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

I currently work at National Instruments, which is a company that aims to equip engineers and scientists with systems that accelerate productivity, innovation and discovery. Most of the Mechanical Engineering department is familiar with NI LabVIEW, but there is a lot more than that in the company; ranging from software such as TestStand, Multisim to hardware such as compactRIO and myDAQ used in a vast number of industries. These tools have been used in great success in applications ranging from condition monitoring, RF test, medical engineering, robotics and many more, all with a great success in their relative field.

What is your role within the company?

I am currently working in applications engineering within the National Instruments UK branch. As part of my job I aim to assist our customers by improving their experience with our tools and helping them to be as effective as possible when using them. This is a very exciting job as you are able to experience first hand the technology that is about to revolutionise the world we live in today and you know that you are a part of this process.

We also have the opportunity to work on projects ourselves, which is one of the most challenging parts of the job and which I had the chance to do in NI. I was given a week to work on an individual project and a three month group project which enhanced my understanding and perspective of the business world and how that ties in with the engineering field.

A typical day on placement

During a typical day we assist customers in resolving the problems they are encountering, these can range from better programming practices for their application to a more efficient use of our hardware. Although this is our main role, there is always something extra going on which keeps things exciting. This could be preparation to teach courses at other universities or to customers from the industry, working on the company's projects, or spending time on self-development and learning. This means that things remain interesting and there is a friendly environment in the workplace.

What are you enjoying the most and are you involved in any interesting projects? 

Due to the nature of the job you receive very different questions every time, which makes the job fun and interesting. You learn about many things including electronics to RF testing, condition monitoring and many more, these skills are very useful within the industry and also fun to learn about. Furthermore, other tasks include writing community examples of how you solved specific problems and assisting the LabVIEW community with your expertise as well as learning a number of new skills such as business awareness and presentation skills.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

As a Mechanical Engineer I learn a great number of things from the books, but I believe that the knowledge you can gain from them is limited. Some skills cannot be taught from the University so I wanted to undertake the placement year so I could have the opportunity to learn these kind of things; for instance, how a company actually works, how to talk to customers, how to present to a number of important people within the company my project andĀ my ideas and all of my hard work. Of course, you always learn a number of new things from the company such as how to use their software and hardware; which is widely used across the globe as well as the understanding of what companies look for in graduate candidates. Thus, becoming more marketable within a challenging market.

What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

There are a number of things that I would like to get out of this placement. Most importantly, I'd like to learn how to communicate with customers and important people within the company. To be a great engineer you must be able to gain your employers confidence in your work, in other words make them trust you.

Furthermore, I've always had a passion for robotics and the way they can assist and make our lives easier. I am able to acquire the mechanical aspect from University but learning the electronic side of it is quite tricky for a Mechanical Engineer. Working for an electronic company for a year allowed me to learn a vast variety about electrical and electronic concepts, and designing my own PCB and working on robotic projects allowed me to test all that knowledge and put it to good use.

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

I would strongly advise everyone to undertake a placement year, you will learn so much from it that you cannot even begin to imagine. The most important thing for me is that you become more motivated and understand why you learn all these things at University and are able to connect them to industry and real life applications. Let's not forget that you will also have a great number of things to talk about in future interviews, and that is what employers want to hear - people who are able to prove why they are suitable for a position because of their experience, and not just their exam results.