Podcast | The Road to Success: Life in the Fast Lane with Chetan Kotur

Written by Dave Seddon on

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Dave: Welcome to this changemaker podcast, a series where we've been talking with leaders in the industry about their career journey, how they've got where they are today, and the people that have influenced those decisions, the highs and the lows, and the lessons learned along the way. I'm joined today by Chetan Kotur, who at the young age of 33 has already had a fascinating career to date. He was the 2018 Royal Academy Engineer of the Year, has designed cars with Polestar, was a studio engineer at Volvo in Sweden where he played a key role in the world’s first autonomous car project and is now Head of Technology and Innovation at Laing O'Rourke - probably one of the real trailblazers in the construction industry. 

So, by way of introduction, Chetan, tell us where it all started.

Chetan: Well, I was born in Hong Kong, and I was very fortunate to have had that experience of living out there. My parents come from a medical background so they were based out there as civil servants, and having grown up in Hong Kong, I saw a lot of very nice cars on the streets, and that influenced me quite a bit because I got really excited and passionate about cars. And so, as I grew up, and we moved to the UK, I always had a passion for cars and really thought about a career in designing cars, which is what kicked off my journey, I guess.

Dave: And who influenced those early decisions, then?

Chetan: Well, there was a lot of confusion, and I went through a dilemma when I was a teenager because though I was excited about cars, I also had the simpler route of going into medicine as a career as that's what the family background kind of encouraged me towards. But there were a few things along the journey, which influenced me. I got to meet some really influential, inspiring people who showed me what could be possible in the world of car design. And I guess where it really started, where I realised I had something in me was my design and technology teacher back at school, I think I was 15 at the time. My teacher, Mr. Stewart knew I loved cars, and there was a design competition set by Jaguar for school kids to design the car of the future, and he said to me, “Hey, you should enter this competition because you liked cars so much, and you like drawing.” 

Though I was excited about cars, I also had the simpler route of going into medicine as a career as that's what the family background kind of encouraged me towards.

Dave: So he already knew at that stage that you loved cars then? 

Chetan: Yeah he did. Because instead of me actually talking about my schoolwork, I was always talking more about cars and cricket, which were two passions that he shared. So we would have a good chat about that. I think he had an old Triumph TR six, actually.

Dave: I just love those cars. My neighbour had one of those. Brilliant. 

Chetan: They are awesome. And so yeah, we used to have a chat about cars in class and he kind of encouraged me to enter this competition. I'd never really thought about designing cars as a profession, I was kind of just doing my school studies. But entered the competition, and then somehow ended up winning it, which was kind of cool. And then from that, I got the chance to go down to Jaguar, to the Advanced Design Studio there in Whitley and got a tour around the studio from Ian Callum, who was the Head of Design at the time, and that was massively inspirational and opened up my eyes and made me realise that actually there is a profession out there which is about designing cars. So I got really excited. 

But then when I went to sixth form, I had this dilemma of studying medicine or designing cars. And so our career advisor, and she was very confused and also thought I was a bit delusional because I had such an opposite spectrum situation, but she gave me advice on both kinds of careers. And then by a very unusual sequence of events, I managed to find myself on a Channel 4 documentary called Vocation, Vocation, Vocation, where they exposed me to both careers and showed me different elements of each. I got to go back to Jaguar's design studio and meet some designers and learn more about what it means to design cars. And I also realised the harsh realities of studying design and the reality of design students becoming designers. But then, I also met the Head of Studio Engineering there, who at the time was a guy called Craig Carter, and he explained to me what studio engineers do, and he said, “They’re the jam in the sandwich between designers who think in an artistic, creative sense, and then the engineers who sit in R&D, who think in mathematical and physics terms. Studio engineers have got the eyes for design and the mind for engineering.” And he said, “If you've got those two as passions and as interests and abilities, then that's quite a unique skill set.” So that set me off, from the age of 16 I targeted studio engineering as a career that I wanted to do. And so I made my decision. And then I was like, right now I'm going to go to university to study automotive engineering and do everything I can to get into the field of studio engineering.

Studio engineers have got the eyes for design and the mind for engineering. If you've got those two as passions and as interests and abilities, then that's quite a unique skill set.”

Dave: And what was the first big break that you had in your career then? 

Chetan: Well, I got the fantastic opportunity to join Volvo Cars in Gothenburg, Sweden on their graduate programme. I think if I remember correctly, there were only nine seats on the global graduate programme, so I felt very, very privileged and grateful to get that. And when I started there, I expressed my passion straightaway and kind of said to them, “For the last eight years, I've been dreaming of being a studio engineer. And every single thing I did at university and everything I research now, all the skills I tried to develop and train myself on were to be able to get to that place.” And so Volvo was fantastic and they kind of opened up the doors for me. And, yeah, there was an ex-colleague of mine, Lawrence Nielsen, who was the Head of Design Operations at Volvo, and I got introduced to him because he was a unique person in the Volvo world, who was an engineer who sat in the design studio. And so I met him, and he was so encouraging and so inspirational. And he agreed to mentor me, because I said to him, “I'd love to be mentored by you and learn a little bit about your experiences and use you as a sounding board.” And he was really, really super humble and so kind to me and gave me so much time. 

And then it got to the point in my graduate programme where I moved into different departments in the R&D world, I kind of said to him, “I really would love to get the chance to be a studio engineer on my graduate programme.” And that wasn't very common, because they normally didn't let young whippersnappers into the design studio. I met the Head of Studio Engineering at Volvo, I told him my story, told him my dream, my passion, my vision, and they gave me an opportunity so that I got the chance to go in and work in the exterior studio engineering team.And that, for me, was one of the biggest breaks I could have got, I was really grateful that they gave me that chance. And then I was like a kid in a sweet shop. I just went for it.

Dave: Actually, you mentioned that passion thing at least two or three times there. So where did that passion really come from? 

Chetan: Ever since I could speak. I've always loved cars And I have always been kind of obsessed with them. I love what they represent, I love the emotions - how often is it that inanimate objects can have such an emotional connection with humans? I mean, you don't really look at a washing machine or a dishwasher and get excited by it, but they're equally as complex and interesting from a technical standpoint, but cars have this amazing relationship with humans, which I think really inspired me and made me think I really want to get into that because I can see the impact it makes on people's lives. Cars are part of people's families, you know, people treat cars as an integral part of their life and it’s the second biggest purchase that most people make in their lives, and on top of that, and this probably came with a little bit more maturity and knowledge working in the industry, understanding the impact that the global car industry makes on society and the economics associated with it was mega inspiring for me, because I realised the car industry itself, and its broader supply chain and network really does influence millions and millions of people all over the world. So knowing that that was something which I could be part of and influence and help drive into an exciting future, that for me was where the passion all came from.

Dave: And how important do you think it is to follow those passions through?

Chetan: I think it's 100% important. I'm a very passion-driven person, so everything that I do in my life, generally, I do it because I want to do it. And that's kind of an all-or-nothing approach. And most of my friends and my family would probably agree with the statement that I am pretty all in with whatever I get myself into. And I really feel once I get passionate about something, and once I believe in what I'm doing, I can be the best me. And I can really give 100% of what I feel I can contribute and what I can deliver. 

So yeah, for me, passion is everything. I think, also, if something's exciting and cool, it takes very little to get me excited and passionate about it. You know, I get very excited about very simple things. But yeah, it really triggers a lot of things in my mind. And I kind of think, yeah let's try this. And let's go for it. 

I think creativity and passion go hand in hand. So I think having a passion for a subject or a topic and then using your creativity to apply that passion, that's what life's all about in my mind.

Having a passion for a subject or a topic and then using your creativity to apply that passion, that's what life's all about in my mind.

Dave: So how difficult was that decision to go that route?

Chetan: It wasn’t easy at all, because it was a massive risk for me. You know, I come from very humble roots and a very humble family, and that principle of working hard in whatever you do is what I've been brought up with. And medicine was a career which I'd seen my father dedicate his entire life to the NHS in this country, saving people's lives. My sister also followed suit and she's now a Consultant Anaesthetist in the NHS, and, you know, the sense of contribution and commitment to society and the community is massive. And that's actually inspired my faith. So I think the faith that my family comes from, the fundamental principle of it is all about your contribution to society. And so it's quite strong in our belief system. So for me, that decision to go towards cars was not easy, but like I said, I get excited by stuff, which kind of makes me think, oh, there’s an adventure waiting around the corner for me. And I have this kind of one life policy, which is to go for it. I mean, what have you got to lose? 

So when I had that dilemma of do I want to do medicine or do I want to go into the car world? I thought, let me do it. No one's done it in my family. No one's done it in my ancestry. I will learn something from making that decision and taking a risk. And it has paid off now, I really enjoyed doing that journey. 

Dave: Yeah, I'm sure you have.

And one of the things you touched upon earlier, and was part of your decision because cars impact people's lives, but doctors do as well, but I guess the difference between them both was that you were just massively passionate about one and less passionate about the other?

Chetan: Well, interestingly enough, there was a fairly significant incident in my life that kind of motivated me and gave me an even greater respect for what engineers contribute to society. And that was when I was 20 years old, I had a really serious car accident. I was driving back home from Loughborough University up the A1M to the Northeast to see my family for Christmas. And that Christmas actually in 2010, there was a lot of ice on the road and it was really, really cold that winter. And actually, unfortunately, my car clipped some black ice on the motorway and skidded off and actually rolled. So I had a rollover accident which a police report says the car rolled 7 to 10 times, which is pretty serious. And somehow the car went off the motorway up a kind of mound on the side of the road across a ditch through a fence and some hedges and ended up in the farm and landed on all four wheels. And the only thing that saved me was the seat belt and the crumple zone of the car. And somehow I walked out of that accident without any major injuries. And I looked back at the car and thought, some clever engineers around the world just saved my life because of the way that they designed the crash structure of the car and the seatbelt. And then I realised at the time, I was studying automotive engineering, and instead of me kind of looking at that experience thinking, I'm never going to sit in a car again, I kind of thought, you know what, I could actually contribute to saving someone else's life in the future by being a good engineer in the car industry. So that's one of the motivations that made me want to apply to Volvo, because Volvo was and is respected as the safest car brand in the world. They invented the three-point safety belt, something that saved my life. And when I got to Volvo, before I went to design and work in studio engineering which was my childhood dream, I wanted to work in the safety team because I wanted to be part of that world-class team that engineers brilliant solutions to save people's lives.And I got that chance to work in the safety team in the collision avoidance department. And there, I got a project to design and develop the world's first collision avoidance system using autonomous braking and steering for the first time, which was called Evasive Manoeuvre Assist. I worked with a brilliant team there learning so much as a graduate and contributed a small piece of the puzzle to help design this function, which we launched with the XC60, a car that my father bought, which now makes me feel this immense sense of pride that every day, something that I have engineered and I’ve designed, is actually looking after my dad every time he jumps in the car.

If you're not fearful in life, then you're not living. So, you might as well just get on with it and just do it, because you'll learn stuff and the journey that you'll go on is what life's all about. 

Dave: And when you've subsequently made other changes in your career, what factors have influenced those decisions do you think? 

Chetan: Opportunity to make an impact, that for me is massive. The opportunity to make a positive contribution to society is absolutely integral to everything that I’m made of. And the reason why I've made leaps or jumps to what I would say riskier options than what I was doing was because I identified that there was a chance, maybe a small chance, but a chance that I could actually help make a difference and improve the status quo. And so, you know, I was doing my childhood dream job as a studio engineer at Volvo Design, and I was like a child in a sweet shop. I was as happy as can be every day going to work. I think many of my friends and colleagues back then were a bit amazed at how positive and excited I was every day coming to work because I was really living my dream. 

And then I got an amazing opportunity offered to me by Thomas Ingenlath, who was the head of design at Volvo, who then became CEO of Polestar, to be his right-hand man and work as his assistant. He called me up and asked me if I'd be interested in supporting him in launching Polestar, and, I mean, I was so shocked by that opportunity. And I said to Thomas, I said, “Thomas, are you sure? Me?” But I realised, wow, this is a massive opportunity, and who knows what can come of it.

Dave: It was a completely different business at that stage then was it? It was almost the startup phase then? 

Chetan: Blank sheet of paper startup. I mean, at the time, the company was borrowing an office from a construction company. So we had a floor in Gothenburg in this other office, it was very much a startup. And yeah, I got the chance to move over with massive amounts of anxiety and fear, because I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I didn't know what I had to deliver. I had no idea what a CEO did. For me, to be helping a CEO do their job, I was terrified because I thought I'd been designing parts of cars. How do you launch a global car company? All of this stuff for me was new and it was an absolutely enormous step change. In terms of a learning curve, it wasn't a curve, it was literally a step change in what I had to deliver and what I had to know. But my goodness, I mean, talk about people that have given you an opportunity and a break to change your life. You know, I have the highest level of respect for Thomas because he gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, which I will forever remember.

For me, it's a case of what's the worst that can happen? You try stuff, you learn stuff, you have some fun, and make the most of it, and you'll end up somewhere else.

Dave: And just before we leave that point, and something you've touched upon earlier on, the anxiety and fear about going into that, you know, that inner voice that talks to us at times, I think people sometimes know this as the imposter syndrome. So how do you overcome that inner voice?

Chetan: I think for me, impostor syndrome, or feeling out of place or feeling like you're different, has never really been a thing, because I've always been different. And I've always stuck out wherever I was. I was born in Hong Kong to Indian parents living in an environment in which I did not look like anyone else around me. I then moved to the UK at a young age in the Northeast of England, going to a primary school where I was the only person that looked like me in the playground, then growing up, every single step of my life, you know, every job I've done, I've been the youngest person or the least experienced person in my team, and, you know, as a result, I've had to just get on with it. 

And there's a book I read recently, which I absolutely loved. And honestly, it is, for me, a book that I just go back to just to make myself feel happy again. It's called Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers. 

Dave: Yeah, I know that book, it’s really, really good. 

Chetan: It's great. And that book, when I read it, just confirmed so many things that I feel like I'm living in my life, which I'm really happy about, because it's kind of everything is scary, and if you're not fearful in life, then you're not living. So, you might as well just get on with it and just do it, because you'll learn stuff and the journey that you'll go on is what life's all about. 

So, for me, that imposter syndrome, or that kind of fear of can I do it? Of course I have that almost every other day, but for me, it's a case of, you know, I'll give it a shot and I will end up somewhere. There was another amazing thing I heard once, which was, if you're offered a ride on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat, just get on. And it's true, you'll end up a million miles away from where you started. And it might not be where you intended to go or where you first thought you would go, but you'll go somewhere pretty exciting.

Dave: Looking back on your career, I mean, there's been some big jumps that you've made in terms of some of the risks, but how much do you think that is part of your psyche?

Chetan: Quite a big part, I would say. I mean, it's funny, I mentioned I come from a super humble family and my father is extremely risk averse, you know, he's brought me up with a sense of thinking about stability and security and all of these things. I have so much gratitude and I've been so fortunate to have that background, because my father came from super, super humble roots in India to build a life for my family, to give me that stability, to even have the audacity to dream that I can take risks. And so I guess that's a generational shift, where, you know, my family has kind of provided me with that platform to be able to think that yeah, I can take that risk, I can try things out. And yeah, I realised as much as I always thought I was very similar to my dad in terms of my attitude to risk, I realised I'm pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum. I don't think he'll ever understand the way I think. But I think, for me, it's a case of what's the worst that can happen? You try stuff, you learn stuff, you have some fun, and make the most of it, and you'll end up somewhere else. And, you know, like I said, it might not be what you planned at the start of your journey, but who ends up where they planned? No one.

Dave: You talked previously about taking lots of risks and the opportunities that have come from that, but equally in life, we get highs and lows and along the way. So when you reflect back, how have you coped with some of those disappointments?

Chetan: I’ve had plenty of disappointments. I mean failure is key to success, right? The more you fail, the more likely you are going to succeed at some point. And you know, I've had plenty of failures. I've had plenty of times when I've got my hopes up and got excited about something, and suddenly it doesn't work out. You know, the first job I ever applied to as a student was just a job to work in a role which would be similar to a studio engineer. So I got my hopes up, and I was so excited and I didn't get the job. And I was completely floored by it. Because I put so much effort into applying and preparing for the interviews and it didn't work. But I learned a huge amount from that. And then the next time round, I got a job, which was amazing. 

I mean failure is key to success, right? The more you fail, the more likely you are going to succeed at some point.

Dave: Sometimes when you reflect back on a podcast, all you really see are the positives, and you don't often realise that in those people's journeys, there are actually different crossroads that you've had to get to. And some are fraught with disappointments.

So what did you learn from not getting that job which you had your heart set on?

Chetan: I think it's about your attitude to what people would call failure or disappointment. I don't really look at it as disappointment or failure, I look at it as an attempt that didn't go to plan. You just have to pick yourself up. I think the most important thing, and that's what I'm very grateful for, is I had a network and the support mechanism, which was my family and friends, to help pick me up. And it's not about how you fall, it's really about how you pick yourself back up and keep running. And that's one thing I think I've been very grateful for, my support network. Every time I may have fallen, I get myself back on my feet, and I start running again, pretty much straight away. And don't dwell on things which haven't gone to plan, learn from them. 

I always sit back and reflect and think, okay, what happened there? Why did that not go exactly as I planned? And then I move really fast, I think, right, next, I go forward, and then try and find a new way to carve out a new journey. So yeah, my dream was to work in car design and my first attempt at it didn't go well. And then I ended up going and doing another job working in diesel engine design, which was a far cry away from the glamorous world of designing cars. But I learned a huge amount from that. And I learned how to be an engineer. I learned how to work in an office environment. And that helped me build the foundations. And what it also did is it strengthened my ambition and my passion for cars because I realised I didn't want to continue working in the commercial diesel engine business, I wanted to go for my goal. So I think failure and sometimes things going wrong is such a great thing to go through because you actually realise that if you really want something, you will go for it, and you'll keep going. And you won't treat those kinds of mishaps or those more negative experiences as too serious, you'll just find a way.

Dave: And they reckon we learn more through our failures than we do our successes. I remember reading a great quote once, and forgive me if I have it slightly wrong, but it goes along the lines of this: a young reporter is interviewing Thomas Edison about the experiments with the light bulb, and he says, “How does it feel like to have failed 1,000 times?” And Thomas Edison says, “Young man, I haven't failed 1,000 times, I've just found 1,000 ways it doesn't work, which means I'm one step closer to finding out how it will work.” And of course, he did find the solution.

Chetan: Exactly. And that's the classic thing, right? I mean, ‘yet’ is the most important word. If something doesn't work, it hasn't worked yet, keep going because there is always a way. I firmly believe that anything is possible if you really put your mind to it.

Dave: Risk taking seems to be a big part of what you're doing and how you approach different roles. And you've had some great examples in your career of grasping those opportunities.

When some of those doubts have crept into your mind before, how have you overcome them?

Chetan: I mean, I'm not going to say that I'm just a bit of a lunatic just jumping into risk, because that's not that's not my approach. It's it's calculated risk. So I really assess and think through a kind of critical analysis of what decisions I’m making. So if I do have options, I kind of think, right, that one, yes, it may be more risky but like I said, what's the alternative? And what could go wrong? And what would be my plan B? So, you know, for example, when I left university, I had a job offer in the UK at a big car company, and I had an offer at Volvo. And initially, I was going to go for a car company in the UK. But then I kind of thought, I've never lived abroad by myself, I've never lived in Sweden, I don't know anything about the culture, what's the worst that can happen? I'll try it out. And if I don't like it, I'll come back to the UK. And then I'll do whatever there. Again, you know, when I was offered the opportunity to go from Volvo to Polestar, I thought, I'm literally doing my dream job now. And I've been doing it for the last few years. What's the worst that can happen? Well, it could end up taking me somewhere that I never even dreamt of. Or I'll hate it. And then I'll just say, right, and to go back to the old gig. And even now, you know, I’ve left the car industry to move into the construction industry, which was a massive risk.

Dave: Yeah, I was gonna go on from that, you know, you go from a passion in the automotive industry and doing the things that you love and desire, and then you end up in a senior role in the construction industry. Very, very different industries.

So how did that come about?

Chetan: So again, it was one of those situations where I felt very fortunate, I got a phone call, and the phone call was from Ray O'Rourke, the founder and owner of Laing O'Rourke, and he told me about his vision and his dream and his life's ambition, which was to transform the construction industry and bring it into a modern, technology-centric, and really future way of working, and really changing the way that the construction industry builds, which I found mega inspiring. And he offered me the chance to come and lead Technology and Innovation at his company, which for me, I was very anxious about and fearful about because I said to him, “I don't know anything about concrete.” And he did tell me that there's plenty of people who know a lot about concrete in the business and I don't have to worry about that. And for me, I kind of thought about it thinking, wow, you know, this opportunity to change an industry at this stage in my career was something I never anticipated. I then kind of thought, okay, I'm literally doing something which I never dreamt of, and I'm having the time of my life. 

At the time, I was launching Polestar products in Shanghai for the Asia Pacific region, doing some super exciting stuff, which was way beyond my wildest dreams. And then here's an opportunity to jump to another industry and make an impact and try and transform an industry and bring it from a fairly kind of mediaeval practice to a modern way of working. And that opportunity for me was massive. You know, the construction industry contributes, or the built environment contributes to 39 to 40%, of global carbon emissions. So there's a huge sustainability agenda to resolve. There's a massive labour shortage and skill shortage all around the world, and also methods of working are very outdated and unsafe. And there are so many things that can be improved and make a massive change to people's lives and society. And, you know, inevitably if we crack how to solve a lot of the ways that we build in the construction industry, we can genuinely change the world and make a positive impact on the climate crisis. When I thought about that, and I realised, wow, you know, the dream I'd be living with Polestar was amazing, and doing the thing with cars and truck cars at the forefront of the industry was so exciting. But then I kind of thought,my purpose in life is to make a positive impact on society. And whatever I can do to throw myself into big grand challenges and work with teams and try and inspire positive action and drive change, that's what I will do. And this opportunity for me just was so exciting and so big and kind of intimidating for me to think, well, what's the worst that can happen? I'll give it my best shot, I'll do whatever I can with as much humility as I possibly can, and learn from others around me, and hopefully, by the end of it, we might have moved the barrier a little bit.

Dave: You certainly come across as an incredibly enthusiastic and passionate individual. So how does that energy compare in the construction industry to what it was like in the automotive industry?

Chetan: And then the one thing, which I'm massively humbled by in the construction industry is the willingness to just get on and do the job, it is amazing. The scale of these projects, the magnitude of the effort that's required, the way that teams of people come together to solve problems and build, you know, from football stadiums and hospitals, to schools and bridges, and infrastructure, railway stations and nuclear power stations. I mean, these are some of the biggest infrastructure projects in the world. That energy is amazing. So there is a huge amount of energy. The construction industry has had this kind of unfortunate fate so far where they've just constantly been stuck in this way of working, and they haven't been able to crack how to break out of it. 

I really believe there is so much potential in the industry to make a positive impact, there's so much to go at. And I think society and the industry wants it. And so I think, and it's the classic situation a lot of industries have gone through, this kind of siloed thinking, because there are a lot of people who've been in the industry for a period of time, and the diversity of thought is limited. I really appreciate the opportunity that I've been given to come here and bring a different perspective. And who would have thought someone working in the world of electric cars in Shanghai would end up in the UK talking about building infrastructure projects. But the point is, the ability to solve problems and think about things in an analytical way and in a critical way, I think is universal. And I think as long as you use those principles, you can do anything. 

The ability to solve problems and think about things in an analytical way and in a critical way is universal. And I think as long as you use those principles, you can do anything. 

Dave: That's why I'm incredibly interested in people's career journeys because it taps into motivators and values. I've got a little bit of a rhetorical question, really, but I'm going to ask it anyway.

With respect to careers, some people have a very clear view of what they want to do, and others just go with the flow. Where do you think you fit in on that spectrum?

Chetan: So I started off knowing exactly what I wanted to do, as I told you, from the age of 16, I knew I wanted to be a studio engineer. That's really rare. And now I'm at a stage where I don't know where I'm going to go, but I'm just enjoying the ride and learning and challenging myself. I'm meeting amazing people, I'm working with incredible teams, and I'm just trying my best to do whatever I can to make a difference. And I don't think people, especially young people, should worry too much about where the destination is going to be because it's not about the destination, it's absolutely about the journey.And if I could go back and tell my 16-year-old self any pieces of advice, I would say, enjoy the ride. Because very often I think once you get to the point where you reach what you've been aspiring towards or are dreaming of, I've seen a lot of people who've had certain dreams who got to that place and been massively disappointed. We talked about disappointment earlier but they've got there and they kind of think, well what next? Is this it? And sometimes you put stuff on a pedestal in life and you get there and you think, wait, is this it? And for me, I've really appreciated people who've given advice to me over the years, you know, mentors and such, you know, the journey and the learning process and what you discover on route to where you think you're going is really what makes life so exciting. And focusing on that bit is absolutely the journey. I don't really think you should ever chase success, whatever that means, I think you should, you should really chase excellence, and strive to be as excellent as you possibly can be. And I'm convinced that success will follow that. I really do believe that sincere, hard work will always pay off.

Dave: It's certainly an incredibly good value to have. I've got a couple more questions just before we finish up. And actually one of the things you've touched upon earlier, was when you did the graduate placement at Volvo, you did a number of different roles.

How beneficial do you think it was working in a number of different departments and gaining experience in different roles before you chose what to do in your next role?

Chetan: Massively, massively important. First of all, it got me a network, which is massively important. I think knowing people across an organisation or across multiple organisations is so important, because you need to know the right people to get the right help and solutions to solve the big problems that you're chasing. So I think that a really important thing is making sure you can get a good understanding of the people around you. Also, just knowledge-wise as well, to learn stuff that you never really thought about is so common. So when I went to work with safety, for example, we worked on collision avoidance, and there was a whole load of stuff that I didn't know how to do, like coding. I never looked at myself as a particularly strong programmer, but I learned so much with the people around me there about code and actually how to program functions. That was invaluable. Did I do it again after that role? Not really. But it taught me so much and gave me so much respect. And I was able to compile and add up all of those different experiences to take me where I wanted to go. 

So working in collision avoidance, I learned a lot about sensor technology. When I went to design, I was able to then focus on the design and integration of sensors, radars, LiDARs and cameras into the vehicle design itself. And then moving on from that, the design bit that I did helped me when I went to work at Polestar, because the whole DNA of the brand was all about design. So that taught me so much on the journey there. And then going to Polestar, launching the startup, disrupting the industry, driving the sustainability agenda in an industry has helped me now come to the construction industry and try to continue those values and those principles that I've learned. 

So I think it's really good to get exposure to different areas. And also, don't confine yourself to what your professional education is, I think that's really important. So I mean, on my graduate programme actually going and spending time with the salespeople, and going to dealerships to learn how people sell cars and how to interact with customers because I realised working in the design world at the start of the process, I had no idea, as a graduate, how the company made any money or how my salary was paid. And I needed to go to the other end of the site, the other end of the spectrum to learn, how do we sell cars? That was so important. So I would definitely recommend graduates to move around and try stuff out because the learning will be absolutely invaluable. 

Dave: Wise advice. I'm going to take you back now, so you've been invited by the school headmaster to do a talk, you're standing on the podium reflecting back on your 15 years or so in industry, looking out to all those expectant faces.

What advice would you give them?

Take risks, dream big, and make sure that you have the right mechanisms around you so that if you do fall, you can get yourself back on your feet and get running again straight away.

Chetan: I would say follow your passion. That is absolutely important.Make sure you believe in what you're doing every day and that should get you out of bed in the morning. It shouldn't have to be a chore. So follow your passion and what excites you and makes you feel like there's an opportunity to be yourself, that's the most important thing. 

Take risks. You have one life, go for it. What's the worst that can happen? Honestly. I mean, as long as you're doing it with a certain degree of common sense, and not threatening your life. Take risks and try stuff out. You never know where you'll go. And resilience is really important, because there will be dark days, there will be moments where you feel like, am I doing the right thing? Can I do this? Is this too much for me? Should I give up? Surround yourself with people that make you feel good about being you. And those people, they're more than friends, they're cheerleaders. They're the people that will be there in your darkest times, and times of need. And there are people that will inspire you. I mean, my friends and the people I choose to spend time with, they inspire me every time I meet them, they bring so much happiness, they bring so much excitement to life and they make me feel alive. 

So surround yourself with people that make you feel alive.Take risks, dream big, and make sure that you have the right mechanisms around you so that if you do fall, you can get yourself back on your feet and get running again straight away.

Dave: Well, I hope those listening will get some really useful wisdom and insight from Chetan today. He’s someone who was clearly following his passion, living out his values and at times just taking risks and jumping in all the doors that have opened as a result, and his very exciting career that it's created already. We will, I'm sure, continue to follow this journey with great interest. It's been a genuine pleasure talking to you, thank you.