By Matt Zebiak, edited by Caroline OstermanThe Fung Institute’s Tech Talk series brings industry leaders to the UC Berkeley campus to speak with MEng students about life in the field and career opportunities. In January 2018, the Fung Institute hosted a lunch with General Motors (GM) for current students to learn about opportunities in leading the automotive industry as the future of transportation and personal mobility unfolds. We also happily welcomed back two alumni: Matt Zebiak, a Vehicle Performance Engineer with GM (ME ’16), and Nada Alameddine, a Design Engineer with GM (IEOR ’16). Below Matt shares his experiences in the MEng program and with General Motors, and his advice for current students. After growing up in the suburbs of NYC, and completing my BS in Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University, I staged an escape to the west coast to join the MEng Program at UC Berkeley in the summer of 2015. Eager to make the most of my time in the Bay Area, I spent much of my time hiking in the hills, exploring San Francisco, driving along the coast, visiting Napa and Sonoma, and skiing in Lake Tahoe. Somehow, I had enough time left over to graduate with a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering and a concentration in Advanced Energy Technology. I was also a member of the CalWave Wave Energy Converter capstone team, where I helped to design a novel submersible device to extract the kinetic energy in ocean waves and convert it to electricity. My path to GM began with an event in the Etcheverry breezeway in the fall of 2015, where I gravitated towards the Corvette that the GM recruiting team set up to ensnare gear heads on their way to class. Though I didn’t expect GM to have many open positions in my field, I spent some time discussing my passion for energy efficiency and was surprised to learn that GM has a dedicated division called the Global Energy Center. Better yet, I discovered that this department — which focuses on modeling and reducing energy use at a system-level — was actively growing and looking for new talent. Two days (and two interviews) later, I was scheduling a flight to MI for my final round interview, and by October I had accepted my offer. I’ve been a Vehicle Performance Engineer focused on energy since joining GM in August 2016 — I started in Advanced Vehicle Development at the Warren Tech Center, simulating the efficiency of vehicles 3–6 years from production with whole-vehicle energy models. Now I’m working at the Milford Proving Ground, testing and making changes to pre-production vehicles to ensure they’re delivering on the energy targets set by my former group. The balance of analysis and in-vehicle testing (especially on the track) is particularly exciting for me, and the access that we have to specialized equipment and facilities for vehicle development and testing is still mind-blowing, even a year in. The best advice I can give to current students looking for jobs is to not rule out any companies (or industries, more generally) before you really explore their opportunities and chat with current employees. As a car fan, I had always associated GM with their V8 muscle cars, and I had no knowledge of their efforts to improve energy efficiency or drive towards the future of mobility. In retrospect, I very nearly overlooked the opportunity to join what I now know is perhaps the most innovative company in the fast-evolving auto industry. Hopefully, by giving companies a deeper look, you’ll be lucky enough to learn about opportunities that you couldn’t have imagined, like I did! Best of luck in your search, enjoy the rest of your time at Berkeley, and Go Bears! If you’re interested in exploring what openings might be right for you at General Motors, Matt invites you to reach out to his recruiting team at Berkeley_OSKI@gm.com.
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