Meet Sam – Designer, Team lead, Project manager

He started out as a project manager. Now he’s nerding out on electromechanical and plastics design, besides being manager. Take a look at Sam Bakhshi’s journey as an inContext employee.

When talking to Sam Bakhshi, it only takes a minute or two for you to realize you’re meeting an ambitious and extrovert person with an above-average energy level. And he confirms this initial impression when recapping his 6+ years career at inContext.

However, it all began with something completely different. In August 2016 and fresh out of Linköping University, Sam decided to start his career with something that didn’t have anything to do with his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in design and product development.

Attracted by the high work pace of the banking sector, he started out in finance. However, the reality of a junior employee in finance was far from what he had expected. He was assigned to making cold calls to potential customers, a job far from his engineering education. After six months he’d had enough. It was an educational experience, absolutely, Sam recalls.

But suddenly I realized I had this engineering toolbox, and it was completely covered with dust. I needed to do something that could fully realize the potential I felt I had.

Cold call to inContext

He decided to take a closer look at inContext, a company he had met earlier and that had impressed him by being named a Gazelle company for four consecutive years. No stranger to cold calls he decided to call them, and in February 2017 he started his career in engineering consultancy working for one of inContext’s major clients, the truck manufacturer Scania.

inContext offered me two assignments, one as a cable harness designer, the other as project manager. Being offered a job as project manager was quite unusual for a young guy like me, being completely novice with almost no experience. But they said we could try it out for two months. I’d learned a lot of theory about project management at university, so I thought why not, let me give it a try.

Project Manager at Scania

Sam started as object leader of a project regarding the exhaust inlet and outlet to a new truck engine. Gradually he became acquainted with the inner workings of a large organization such as Scania, always looking for the exact place where he could create the most value. As object leader his primary task was to make the life of the designers easier and give them as much time as possible to develop new solutions.

Realizing that he was very much a junior compared to his older project manager colleagues, he decided to compensate by working harder. And not least, not to be ashamed to ask for help.

As a junior I had zero chance to compete with them, because they had so much knowledge. But I found a way to fix that. I made a lot of Excel sheets with all the stuff I didn’t understand, and then I went around the office for help. The older guys loved teaching me things and telling me what they had done in other projects and so on. I started learning, and slowly I took on more and more responsibility. And it paid off. After a while they offered me a new assignment as project manager for three large projects. I was only 24 years old, competing with experienced senior project managers. I don’t know where I got that confidence from, but it worked.

Inhouse project manager

Sam stayed at Scania for two years. After that, he switched to working as an inContext inhouse technical coordinator, managing customer projects conducted internally. Meanwhile, inContext was growing and expanding its workforce significantly, and together with a large number of new projects a lot of work was needed to manage assignments and make everything go as smoothly as possible.

At the same time, I started to feel I was missing something. I was feeling limited as a project manager. Instead I wanted to dig deeper into the technical stuff. So, I talked with my manager, and he asked me to write a list of companies I’d like to work for. I did, and at one of them he found a project that suited me. It was Northvolt, a fast-growing start-up specializing in developing and manufacturing lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. When I heard that I was scheduled for an interview with Northvolt, I was so happy I started doing push-ups in the management room.

Battery packs for mining trucks

Sam got an assignment at Northvolt as project manager for the development of battery packs for mining trucks. There was much to learn. With his experience from an old and well-established company like Scania, to a hectic and slightly chaotic start-up with a pressing delivery schedule, Sam had a lot on his plate. On top of that, the tech got really deep. Having had experience with mechanical design and cable harness design, he now had to learn about fine electronics, PCB boards etc. What’s more, he got the chance to work with some extremely talented people.

I met some of the heavyweights in the business, and it was super interesting to see how these people work, especially when they’re under pressure to deliver at short notice. It was really interesting, but at the same time I understood some of my own limitations, and that made me a little frustrated. I realized I wanted to learn much more about the tech, so I decided to become a designer and to learn electromechanical design.

Sam, again, went to his manager at inContext and told him that he wanted to put the project management on hold for a while and learn to design instead. At first, he thought it was a joke, but as he realized Sam was serious, he said that whatever he was passionate about, he would make it happen.

Back to the basics

Sam is happy to admit that the shift from project manager to becoming inContext’s most junior designer wasn’t easy to begin with. But with dedication and hard work, and mentoring from talented colleagues, he has achieved what he set out to do. After doing sheet-metal design and cable routing for large vehicles for a year, he went on to become designer for high-voltage components and supports in a flagship battery pack project for one of inContext’s largest clients.

And, while working as a designer he has also become part of the inContext management team, managing 5 consultants, enjoying coaching them and encouraging them to take all the opportunities inContext offers, to keep developing, and to grow as both engineers and individuals.

Six months in Vietnam

According to Sam, he loves to work, and he especially enjoys the opportunities inContext has given him to grow and develop, both personally and as an engineer. But as much as he likes the pulse and the action of development work, now the time has come for a long break. Together with his fiancée, who is a consultant as well, he has decided to go off duty for six months to tour Vietnam.

We both like our jobs and we work a lot, have friends, family, hobbies etc., so there is a lot going on all the time. For the next six months we’re going to relax, enjoy ourselves and just see what comes up.
If you ask me what will happen when we return, I don’t know. That’s the whole point of it. Let’s see what happens but like the other times of uncertainty I’m sure that inContext will find a good challenge for me. Right now I have a great role for me, close to the technical design process and managing a small team. For me that combination is perfect.
During my 6 years at inContext I’ve been given so many opportunities. Basically, I’ve just said what I wanted to do, and they listened, gave me the opportunity and I’ve tried to make the most of it. It’s me who has done the work, but the company has given me the opportunities and the tools, and I’m grateful for that.

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