How to Land an Autonomous Vehicle Job: Networking

I wrote earlier that my formula for landing a job in autonomous vehicles had three parts:

  1. Coursework
  2. Projects
  3. Networking

The first two parts consist of developing skills. The third part, networking, requires selling those skills to the world.

Like all good salesmen, I used a CRM tool, although in this case it was just a spreadsheet. And I filled in that spreadsheet with all the different companies I was excited to talk with.

I didn’t have this vocabulary at the time, but essentially the potential employers in this space break down into segments.

Transportation-as-a-Service

  • Uber
  • Lyft

OEMs

  • Ford
  • Google
  • Tesla
  • Toyota
  • Mercedes
  • etc.

Tier 1 Suppliers

  • Bosch
  • Delphi
  • Continental
  • etc.

Tier 2 Suppliers

  • NVIDIA
  • Mobileye
  • Velodyne
  • etc.

With limited exceptions, these companies base their autonomous vehicle teams in three places: Michigan, Silicon Valley, and Germany. So it’s worth considering your willingness to live in those places.

The next step is to scan the careers pages of these companies and apply for the positions that interest you. These cold applications rarely lead to jobs on their own, but once you get to the right person within the company, they will usually ask whether you have applied for jobs via the website. It’s helpful to be able to answer that question yes right off the bat.

Finding the right person to contact is often laborious, but this is the key step. I leveraged my own network, which was great, but my most promising leads, including at Ford, actually came from cold emails. I found recruiters or hiring managers on LinkedIn and then sent messages. I would follow up on these messages two or three times each before giving up.

The final step was building my CV to focus on my AV work. Since my previous professional experience was less relevant, I pushed that to a second page and filled the first page of my CV with all of the courses and projects and keywords that I wanted autonomous vehicle people to see.

After that, if all goes well, will come interviews, both formal and informal. Maybe some programming challenges.

Interviews are more about luck than predicting employee success (that’s literally true, according to personnel selection research), so it helps to have a lot of interviews and hopefully you’ll get lucky at least once.

Fortunately, I did 🙂

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