Workforce WindsorEssex is excited to welcome you to our Promising Sectors blog series. This series features people who are working in the promising sectors in Windsor-Essex. The blog updates will give you an insider perspective on what working in the sectors look like, as local professionals share their career journey, their insight and advice.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Workforce WindsorEssex.
This blog update is brought to you by Aaron Mavrinac, electrical engineer at the North American driver assistance division of Robert Bosch LLC. His occupation falls under the Automotive sector. We cannot thank Aaron enough for sharing his careerpathway back to Windsor with us.
I have always liked Windsor, but had you asked me a few years ago if I could see myself building a career here, I’d have told you it was just plain unrealistic. Around that time, I was bringing my bike in to Courtesy Bicycles, down the street from my packed-up apartment, to be disassembled and boxed. John, the ever-helpful owner, asked where I was off to. “California,” I replied. We talked a bit more, and at the end of it, he said, “Well, you’ll be back. Everybody comes back.”
Whatever. By the time I was getting ready to defend my doctoral thesis in electrical engineering at the University of Windsor, it was a foregone conclusion that I’d be moving away from my hometown for work. I specialized in sensor planning and fusion, something I was convinced I could only get paid to do around here as long as government agencies were willing to fund the research and the researcher, and that was ending in due course. I wanted a Research and Development (R&D) job, and, for reasons that elude me now, I wanted it to have nothing whatsoever to do with the automotive industry. My resumes were going to Montreal, Vancouver, Boston, and San Francisco.
I soon landed a job with Robert Bosch LLC in the robotics group at their Palo Alto research facility. The position turned out to be in automotive after all – a fact that wasn’t communicated in the posting, because Bosch’s automated driving project was a secret at the time – but I fancied my automotive experience might be more unique in Silicon Valley, and driverless cars were the new cool thing, so I ran with it. My wife, a nurse already licensed in two states, was excited to continue her own career out there. We never explicitly expressed intent to move to California permanently, but we didn’t put much thought into moving back to Windsor one day either.
Fast forward about a year. It is ten years to the day since we moved in together to our first apartment on Peter Street, and my wife is heading back to Canada after losing a protracted battle to find some way through the red tape to a California RN license. Our big plans seem derailed. Some months after that, it’s announced that, with automated driving moving closer to reality, our group is being absorbed into the North American driver assistance division of Bosch, located in Plymouth, Michigan. I promptly requested a transfer. Plymouth is expanding and in need of engineers, and my Palo Alto team has built a reputation, so it’s an easy sell. By the time relocation day comes, I’ve spent another year in a long-distance marriage, so there’s no question in my mind about moving back home – but at this point I still wouldn’t have chosen it if not for that circumstance.
As I sit on the patio at the Dominion House on a Saturday night some months later, having a beer with a couple of my former colleagues – world-class roboticists from Bosch, in the area for a conference, and visiting Windsor for the irresistible Armando’s pizza – we try to explain to the locals how the temperature in the South Bay Area plummets when the sun drops behind the coastal mountains at night, clearing patios from Sunnyvale to San Mateo. They get three hundred and sixty something beautiful sunny days a year, and here they are, admiring how the much-maligned summer humidity in Windsor keeps the party going out under the stars. What other grass is greener, I wonder?
I’m surrounded by friends – an army of derby girls from the Border City Brawlers, the local league my wife helped build, celebrating after an action-packed double header. A few minutes ago, a friend I grew up with and haven’t seen in too long popped in and sat down at our table, and we end up talking all night. Later, I’ll walk home along the riverfront (to an apartment I don’t pay $3,000 per month to rent), and pass my alma mater and my childhood home along the way. Earlier, I spent a few hours working on robotics programming for kids at Hackforge, a local hackerspace my friends and I dreamed of launching for years, which, thanks to a great community, is now a reality.
Professionally, I’m in a unique position, bridging the gap between research and production on an emerging technology, in a sector this area still owns. The engineers I work with are every bit as bright and motivated as the phenomenal team I left in Palo Alto. The problems we work on are interesting and challenging, and we get to see people all around us benefiting from the results. After learning to embrace a core competency of our region in a place far removed from it, I feel empowered working in the heart of the automotive industry again.
Revisiting the question, I do choose Windsor. Something has changed in me. I send out job postings to fill desks in my own department, and I remember passing on postings just like these by the dozen during my graduate school job search. I can only shake my head. There’s a life for me here, and there really is a career for me here, too. If this is a second choice or a compromise, it sure doesn’t feel like one.
I won’t try to tell you what there is in Windsor for you. There are plenty of people doing that already. You’ll probably ignore them, and find your own path. It may take you to distant shores, and Windsor’s loss will be somewhere else’s gain, and you’ll hone those talents amongst peers and grow for the experience. But when you look back one day, you’ll be looking with different eyes, and maybe they’ll see opportunities where they didn’t before. And so it goes. You won’t believe me now, but you’ll be back. Everybody comes back.