From taking on a graduate position in 2010 at PACCAR Australia, Bill Rakis is now among the key engineers helping to shape the future of trucks for the company’s Kenworth and DAF brands.
Rakis has held the role of assistant chief engineer – embedded systems for around two years. “Embedded systems are everything to do with software on the trucks. It is a growing list, as more and more components are electronically controlled,” he said.
Rakis’ embedded team of seven is part of the PACCAR embedded team of over 300 embedded engineers, “My team works across the timezones integrating and developing software for Australian Kenworth and DAF products. Australia has unique demands when compared to the rest of the world and therefore we have a local engineering team to develop products and solutions unique to PACCAR Australia.”
Rakis says the opportunities afforded to him through PACCAR have been incredible. “I started off in a graduate program and was pretty quickly able to transition into other roles. Before joining PACCAR, I worked in Germany for a year. While it was really good and at the top of the automotive chain, the scope was quite narrow. When I came to PACCAR, it only took six months to really start realising the amount of opportunity available to pitch an idea or a proposal and get your idea off the ground. That’s definitely been the main highlight and was really important to me too.
“When I came into the business in May 2010, that was the year they were transitioning from the previous ADR emissions to the new. I came in as a product release writer. As everything at Kenworth is customised and made to order, there’s about 6500 options over 13 models.
“The job of a product release writer is converting a customer order into corresponding parts to make sure it goes together in the plant. “Kenworth at its core is a custom vehicle manufacturer, which creates a lot of complexity, so we created new automated systems to manage the complexity whilst keeping the customisation for our customers.”
From there, Rakis moved into the role of sales engineer, working with dealers and customers; then into IT as a business analyst, which also brought an opportunity to travel overseas; his next foray was as IT administration manager where he was tasked with looking after all of the operating and IT systems at the company; engine manager was the next step; followed by R&D manager; before moving into his current role.
“It’s been quite a journey,” said Rakis.
For those considering a career in engineering, his advice is, “What I’ve found is that although you learn a lot in university, it’s just the start of the path. Look for a place that will allow you to explore what you’re good at and what you want to do – I think PACCAR is really good with that.
“I’ve always found that as an engineer, I really liked processing and dealing with information, I was always interested in how things come together, and that included people, opportunities and business proposals. That’s where I liked focusing my energy – and I’m glad I went somewhere that has allowed me to do that and really contribute to the business as well.”