We have recently added a new consultant to our team and we wanted to introduce you to him.  Here is our interview with Jay Kannaiyan:


Engineering is becoming an increasingly popular major/concentration these days.  What advice would you give to engineering students to help them differentiate themselves from other applicants?

Engineering is an excellent major to pursue for it will always be in demand, especially these days when innovative interfaces between the software and hardware world can have a big impact. When applying to engineering colleges, if students can demonstrate that they have executed a small but interesting project outside of school work, that will really make them stand out. This can be challenging but that is exactly what top engineering colleges want to see in students. Doing such an extracurricular project that tackles a specific problem shows that the student has the ability to clearly define a problem, lay down the methodology to achieve the goal and then execute on those targets.
Why did you choose Purdue University for undergraduate and then Texas A&M University for your Post-graduate studies?

I pursued Mechanical Engineering and Purdue is known for its very hands-on learning experience. During my undergrad there, I joined the Formula SAE group where we designed and built a mini race car using a motorcycle engine and this exercise very closely mimics what engineering teams go through at a professional level at large companies. Purdue’s engineers are known in the industry for their practical experience and this leads to placements with the Big 3 car companies of Detroit and others in the region like Caterpillar. At the time, I was interested in further studies in thermodynamics and the masters program at Texas A&M was a perfect fit. I engaged in advanced research there that lead to my full time job at Motorola.
Even after Texas A&M you studied at SOAS for a Master of Science in Sustainable Development.  How would you describe your experience of studying at these different institutions?

My studies through SOAS were quite different from my prior engineering degrees. Studying for a social sciences degree involved much more reading than studying for a technical degree, but the difficulty was just the same; just of a different nature. SOAS has a progressive attitude to their course design and I enjoyed the fact that the course materials were constantly updated with events that were going on around the world.


At FutureWorks, how do you plan to help students realize their dream of studying abroad?

I am excited to be a part of the FutureWorks team and plan to help students make a very strong impression on the engineering colleges they apply to. I strongly recommend that prospective engineering students get started early on a project that they can execute and make the admissions committee wonder how this young adult managed to do something creative and impactful while still getting excellent grades and test scores. I am excited to work with highly-motivated students who are looking for a mentor for their projects that will set them apart from the crowd.


You have changed from working with a large company like Motorola to working with the NGO Pragya, what motivated you to make this change?

I spent many good years working for Motorola as a Product Design and Quality Engineer but my heart was actually in the humanitarian sector and that’s why I pursued the masters in Sustainable Development and am putting my engineering experience into creating innovative solutions for disadvantaged peoples.


What do you think you learned from universities abroad that you might not have if you studied in India?

I believe universities abroad are in the business of creating well-rounded individuals so that they can thrive in the fast-changing nature of our global economy. It’s a fact that most people don’t end up working in the field that they studied for and universities abroad understand this very well. Big data and green technologies are hot programs today but what will be the exciting field in 20 years? It’s hard to say, so best to attend an university that provides opportunities to excel in more than just your core field of studies.


Jay Kannaiyan received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and then received a masters in the same field from Texas A&M University. While at Purdue, Jay gained hands-on real-world engineering experience as part of the Formula SAE team, where college teams design and build a mini formula race car that is judged at an international competition for performance and engineering management. Automotive and other engineering companies would hire directly from the SAE teams. At Texas A&M, Jay lead an organisation that placed students in technical internships around the world, through which he himself had the chance to intern with Volvo in Sweden. However, he chose to stay Stateside and after two internships with Motorola in Florida, he landed a full-time position with them in Chicago. He started off as a Quality Engineer where he was responsible for taking prototype mobile phones (the K1 KRZR and L6 SLVR) from the design stage through to mass production in China. This position involved root-causing failures and implementing solutions that met design and manufacturing goals. Then, Jay moved to the product design side where he used 3D CAD software (Pro/Engineer) to model the various internal components of a mobile phone and ensure parts were manufactured within cost and to spec. This was the period when the first generation of Android smartphones were coming out and Jay was heavily involved in testing the new software and hardware configurations. His love of all things tech saw him experiment with early app creation and he encouraged the corporate transition to a cloud-based email system.

In addition to his career in engineering, Jay pursued a distance Master of Science in Sustainable Development from SOAS (UK), while taking time off to travel on a motorcycle through South America and Africa. His research on gender and agricultural water management in Kenya earned him a distinction and lead to his current position as a development researcher in New Delhi for Pragya, an NGO focusing on the high Himalayas.