Beyond Silicon Valley - exploring the GaN revolution

Dhruv Thakkar is currently in his second-year of Mechatronics Engineering and has completed two work terms so far. In this blog, Dhruv explains his new-found passion for the electronics industry and shares how his co-op experience has helped him grow and find himself. He also reflects on his time in California and gives us a glimpse into that life.  

Dhruv’s co-op experience:

An image of DhruvWork term 1: Dhruv worked at BC Instruments as a mechatronics engineering intern. He led the manufacturing of high-quality components and assemblies for the expansion of clean nuclear energy. Working in the nuclear section, he was able to design CNC tool paths for nuclear parts, help engineering teams with audits and testing tolerances. In addition to that, he was able to generate CNC toolpaths using Fusion and GibbsCAM for aerospace parts and he debugged the G/M codes to reduce machining time by 20%. Simultaneously, he was able to work with project management teams to understand the life cycle of a nuclear project. His takeaway from this experience was the ability to work towards perfection.  

Work term 2: Dhruv worked at Transphorm as a product/application engineering intern. This company is a global semiconductor company, leading the Gallium Nitride (GaN) revolution with the highest performance and reliability for high voltage power conversion applications. The bottom line of the company is to eliminate energy losses with competitive solutions. His role in this organization involved leading a year-long firmware project to automate power control for voltage surge by developing custom control algorithms, enabling seamless testing. He also conducted LTspice simulations to test 650V, 900V, 1200V GaN transistors for a range of applications. He leveraged his technical expertise to optimize circuit performance and ensure compliance with design requirements.        

Q and A with Dhruv: 

Q: What was your biggest accomplishment during your co-op term

A: “I was quite nervous coming into the electronics industry with little electrical experience, as my previous experiences were in more design- centered roles. However, I am happy to report that I was able to identify my passion for working in the power electronics industry. I always wanted to give back to our planet and I feel that desire is being fulfilled through my work on a revolutionary product like the GaN semiconductor. This product makes power conversions much more efficient and greener. I was able to gain trust in myself and the process of finding my passion, and now I am truly able to enjoy myself in this field.”  

Q: What were some challenges you faced?

A: “Working with different microcontrollers like STM and Microchip was challenging. Another aspect I found challenging was reading data sheets to find the right configuration for different test topologies. Nevertheless, I was able to push through and enjoy the process because I was able to progress with these aspects and see the true value in my work. I believe that the biggest factor that helped me overcome these challenges was the space I was given to make mistakes by my supervisor. This helped me work freely, focus on the process of my work and not worry too much about the result.”  

Q: How has co-op changed your career aspirations?

A: “Ever since I began my academic career at the University, I was inclined toward working in the mechanical industry. Hence, working at Transphorm completely changed the game for me as it helped me find my passion for electronics and hardware.” 

Q: What did you learn about yourself through your co-op positions?

A: “My biggest realization was my love for the software and automation side of things. Prior to my co-op at Transphrom I did not enjoy coding, but through this experience I was able to understand the depth and intricacy of coding in software. Working on embedded platforms not only helped me grow my programming skills, but it also helped me overcome my challenges with debugging hardware. When I felt like I was hitting a wall with my knowledge, my programming skills helped me find a way around my tasks. I felt truly blessed to be an engineer as it teaches you how to push through even in trying times. Now, I look forward to facing new challenges and coming up with solutions to help the world become a better and greener place.”

Q: Can you tell us about your experience doing a co-op abroad?

A collage of Dhruv Thakkar standing with colleagues

A: I am thankful and humbled to have got such a wonderful opportunity so young. I was amazed to see how Southern California is developing as a tech hub and I am certain that it will be the new Silicon Valley (I would like to call it the GaN Valley, as that is the future) in the years to come. The best part about working in California is the weather. Some other things that impressed me is the work culture there; I have seen some of the happiest professionals working there. I was able to see the balance between work and life and there was an immensely strong presence of mental health awareness in the company I worked at.”

“I was fortunate enough to have interreacted with people of different nationalities. I made a good friend from Modena, Italy, who always made me feel at home. On the weekends, we would go on hikes and have dinner, and I am so grateful for this and other connections in the industry.  I can say that I have found real friendships in California. My time at Transphorm is just the start of several milestones yet to come. Now I am on the lookout for new co-op opportunities with different challenges and new memories.” 

Q: What advice would you give to students looking to work abroad?

A: “The advice I would like to give is to keep working hard and to not give up. I believe that good things take time, and that having trust in yourself can go a long way. I would also recommend spending your free time networking. I believe that network = net worth. In today’s time it is the most important skill you can have and this one factor will help you stand out in a crowd of people. So, step out of your comfort zone but don’t forget to find the balance between a happy life and a successful career path.” 

Q: What’s next for you?

A: “Now that I have clarity about my passion for the electronics industry, I want to look for a new co-op position in this industry. I definitely want to work in a new organization, as I want to capitalize on my opportunity to do six co-ops. I want to experience new cultures before I graduate so I can gauge which kind of environment would be the best fit for me. While it sounds fun to move from one place to another, it can really test your adaptability and integration skills. This is another aspect I look forward to nurturing and growing throughout my co-op journey.”   

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