Predicting the Next Big Technology Movement: Mehul Patel '89
Mehul Patel currently serves as the chief technology officer and vice president of engineering for Honeywell Home and Building Technologies where he directs the Engineering/Technology organization, which has an exciting portfolio advancing cutting-edge research and development, new product introductions and partnerships, and developing “the best team of engineers in the business.” In the following interview, Patel shares his thoughts on his experience as an international student pursuing a B.S. in electrical engineering at NJIT and how engineers play a key role in the Internet of Things (IoT).
NJIT: Do you think your NJIT degree helped you to pursue your career? If yes, how?
MP: Definitely, yes! The technical knowledge I gained through my bachelor’s and master’s coursework has been invaluable throughout my career. Early on, as an individual contributor, I relied heavily on my electrical and semiconductor physics knowledge to design products for the auto-identification industry. Further on in my career, as a technology leader, I have drawn from it to understand the technology developed by our global teams.
NJIT: Did you ever envisage doing this while you were at NJIT?
MP: Absolutely not! I was just hoping I would get a job related to what I had studied, planned to work hard and aspired to manage a group one day. To be the technical leader of a team of over 4,000 engineers responsible for developing products that generate over $10 billion in revenue at a Fortune 100 company like Honeywell was far beyond anything I could have imagined for myself at that time.
NJIT: Where did you live when you were a student?
MP: I was a commuter. I had recently immigrated from India and lived with my sister and brother-in-law.
NJIT: What was your most memorable moment as a student?
MP: When I walked into the student center during my first semester and ran into one of my closest grade school friends from India. That was memorable because we had lost touch after his family moved to England many years ago. To this day, he remains my best friend.
NJIT: What is your lasting impression of NJIT?
MP: The environment at NJIT was very friendly and welcoming to foreign students. Everyone, the students, TAs, professors, deans as well as other support staff, everyone who I encountered was friendly and always eager to help. As an international student coming from a very hierarchical society, I vividly remember being surprised to find that even the professors, many of whom were industry experts, were down to earth, accommodating and most importantly, made time for their students. I felt they genuinely cared about our success.
NJIT: How do engineers play a key role in the Internet of Things?
MP: For me, being an engineer and technologist by trade, the real value in IoT lies in real-time actionable insights from the data, to better solve problems. For our customers at Honeywell, mere IoT deployment is no longer a competitive advantage. Their market position can only be maintained and/or advanced if they understand the implications of IoT-generated insights and use them. What does this look like? It could be anything from improving safety, to productivity savings, to operational efficiency and convenience. Here’s where engineers come in. Engineers combine their analytical skills, domain knowledge and insights to deploy information into predictive analytics to improve products and solve customer problems faster – problems that impact people’s lives every day … whether at home, at work, in a plant, in your car or on an airplane.
NJIT: How does this help customers?
MP: IoT-generated insights are at work everywhere. Today, like never before, we can see how our customers are engaging with their products in real-time and key-in to their behavior patterns. What we learn from this behavior is used to enhance their experience in terms of their interactions with devices, to drive prescriptive actions, strengthen long-term profitability, speed up the time to market of products and open new business models.
NJIT: What advice would you give students and alumni who are interested in this field?
MP: As devices around us get connected, the Internet of Things opens several opportunities for a software engineer. My advice is to recognize that we’re moving into an era of the Insights of Things. It is no longer enough that the things we create simply connect for convenience; they must solve problems in new ways. Engineers today are expected to have an intense focus on domain knowledge that is both broad and deep, be insanely curious and learn to recognize patterns from the perspective of an intimate understanding of your customers’ needs.