Diego works at one of Sweden’s largest consulting companies and highest ranked employers for engineers
Diego Vargas graduated from the master’s programme in Engineering Materials Science in 2014. He now works at ÅF in Gothenburg as a consultant.
Hi Diego, where are you working at the moment?
I am employed by ÅF in Gothenburg and I have an assignment as Materials Engineer at GKN in Trollhättan, where I am in charge of developing and evaluating 3D printed alloys.
What can a regular day look like at your job?
In the laboratory I might get samples from 3D printed parts to examine using various types of microscopes; then I might attend Skype meetings that we hold with GKN in other countries to track progress and to discuss measures to implement in the projects. I could help other colleagues with examinations that they are performing, and at the end of the day I can be back at the computer finalising a report on an alloy that is being developed. Not to forget the short fikas (coffee breaks) that are encouraged in the Swedish culture to help your mind rest from the tough work. And it also serves as an opportunity to mingle with colleagues and talk about work and non-work topics.
Have you worked with anything else since you graduated?
Yes, before my employment at ÅF I worked as a Development Engineer at Element Materials Technology in Linköping for four years. Here I employed non-destructive techniques on a variety of materials and structures, from polymer composites such as carbon fibre and glass fibre to additive manufactured alloys. At Elements I worked with Swedish Defense, Saab Aerospace, Saab Kockums and GKN Driveline. At GKN, I had the opportunity to act as an on-site consultant for five months when I performed failure analysis evaluations on components from the automotive industry.
Why did you choose this programme at KTH?
As far as I understand, KTH is the most renowned engineering university in Sweden and its collaboration with other universities and industries positions it as a cutting-edge institute. The Faculty of Materials Science at KTH has well-established connections with the leading companies in the field which allows professors, researchers, PhD students and students to undertake activities that benefit Sweden’s industry and themselves.
Are there any insights or knowledge you acquired during your studies that have been particularly useful for you in your career?
I was introduced to the working culture in Sweden. People strive to obtain a balance between work-life and leisure. Something I came to realize is that time for yourself and your family is very important in Sweden, and only on rare occasions are you expected to respond to job requests during out-of-office hours. This has helped me plan my life better and to enjoy myself in my free time and to cope with the normal stresses that can occur in life.
What were the best aspects of your studies at KTH?
The first thing that I experienced at KTH was the international atmosphere everywhere I went. From international students studying a short programme, a full programme or doing research, to the international mindset in every person I talked to, Swedish or foreign, employee or student. KTH presented opportunities for me in the form of projects which I presented in another country; a summer job as Coordinator for International Students of Erasmus Mundus programmes; weekly language cafés with many different languages from all nationalities; or knowing that important personalities of the calibre Barack Obama and Stephen Hawking would hold lectures in KTH facilities.
The Faculty of Materials Science at KTH is rather close-knit and former students and current ones often get together in social events through industry and the university. There is one alumni gathering specifically, called Bergslusse, that takes place every year, where members of our faculty are welcome to attend regardless of age or how long ago one graduated. It was very special to me the first time I attended and, among decorous chants and Swedish songs, I got to meet classmates that now have promising positions in their respective fields, and even people who due to their age have already retired.
What is your best memory from your time at the university?
Coming from Mexico and the American school system in which I studied, I experienced a cultural shock when studying at a Swedish university. When I studied at KTH, the semesters were divided into two periods with some courses that would finish mid-term and others at the end of the semester. It was at the end of each of the periods, after the final exams, that students would celebrate their successful exam grades in a party called Tentapub. The fraternities from the different societies would open doors and offer drinks at a self-cost price and students would walk the whole night from society to society and enjoy themselves. It was a great chance to have a good time with your classmates or meet other students from other societies, both Swedish and international.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to stay in Sweden and deepen my knowledge in 3D printing and develop my skills within cross-cultural management. However, I do not reject the idea of moving to another country if that represents the right choice for my career.
What would you say to a student thinking of applying for this programme?
The directors and managers of the programme are always revising the subjects to keep them up to date so that they are relevant to the technologies applicable at any time. Collaboration between industry and academia is strong and you will have the chance to learn from successful companies and brilliant professors. Students, graduates and professors of the programme are often featured in social media because of their contributions to research. I believe that joining the programme would be a great choice and the extent of your success will be up to you!