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Peeraya Pongpanyaporn, from Thailand, studied Robotics and Automation Engineering at the prestigious King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, and was granted a scholarship by the Taiwan Ministry of Education for a Master’s program at Taiwan Tech. She graduated from the Graduate Institute of Automation and Control Engineering with a M.Sc. in 2020, and joined Turing Drive Inc. in the beginning of 2021, where she has been working as a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer since.
Turing Drive Inc. is a Taiwanese company, located in Taipei, that specializes in low-speed autonomous vehicles. It is best known in Taipei for its autonomous bus line project along Xinyi Road in Taipei. Peeraya is tasked with developing vehicle simulations systems to verify algorithms. Thus, field-testing experiments can be reduced, saving time, cost and manpower. For Peeraya, simulation engineering is a dream job: “It is not easy for new graduates to gain a position in simulation because the products that need simulation are usually huge, expensive, and they have to be infallible. So, most companies prefer experienced engineers. I really love my job, and I feel very honored that I got the opportunity to work on such an interesting project in my first job.” Nevertheless, she decided to leave the company next month to do her PhD at National Tsinghua University. Quitting her job has not been an easy decision, but as she is planning to engage in an academic career, she does not want to postpone her doctoral studies for too long.
"Gender does not matter!"
At Turing Drive, Peeraya is the only foreigner and one of just four women in the R&D team of twenty colleagues. However, from her experience, gender plays no role, what matters is a creative mindset. “It’s true, engineering is a male-dominated discipline. At college in Thailand and, as well as, at graduate school in Taiwan, I was one of the very few females, so I am used to this situation. But, it has always been a good experience, both at university and at my workplace.”
After graduating from Taiwan Tech, high-flying Peeraya obtained an offer to pursue a PhD from prestigious Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. But in the end, she decided to stay in Taiwan and get some work experience, a decision that she never regretted. “I want to settle down here. For me, Taiwan is a very good place to live, in all respects.” Although she is not a fluent Mandarin speaker, Peeraya has been managing well at work, study, and daily life. She has learnt how to deal with the language barriers on both sides, and always encourages Taiwanese colleagues and students to try out their English with her. “I would say: Your English is still far better than my Chinese, that’s how I broke the ice with my lab mates, when I started my Master’s program at Taiwan Tech.”
Advice for job-hunting in Taiwan
For job-hunting, she recommends to check out local websites, like 104 and 1111, for engineering jobs, but LinkedIn might be better for business graduates. Although most job advertisements on local websites are in Chinese, Peeraya chose English for her CVs, cover letters, and the job interviews.
To prepare for the interviews, the most important thing is to research the company, she says. “Your skills and experiences have to match the requirements in the job ad. You should spend some time learning about the company’s products and projects, and think about how you could contribute or make improvements”. Moreover, she recommends to think of good questions to ask during the interview to show your interest.
"International alumni are a very valuable asset"
In December 2021, the NTUST International Alumni Association was established, and Peeraya became one of its Vice-Presidents. She believes that the new association will be a valuable tool for alumni to get connected with each other, particularly those who are working in Taiwan. “It is a network of many outstanding people from all over the world, which might lead to new friendships, and even open up business opportunities in the future.”
Peeraya believes that international alumni are also very valuable asset for Taiwan Tech, and its current international students. “I think, most alumni, and certainly I personally, are grateful for everything that we have received from Taiwan Tech. As for now, I would like to give back to the Taiwan Tech community by sharing my experiences with younger student generations. I hope, this interview will be a guideline or source of inspiration for everyone. Good luck!”