Spotlights on CERN Alumni: The Importance of Role-Models in Science

Hashim Syed enjoying Geneva old town

 

CERN Alumnus: Syed Hashim Gillani
At CERN: Technical student from 2018 to 2019 in IR-ECO-TSP
Today: Computer Vision & Embedded Systems Enginener at Leica Geosystems part of Hexagon

 

Syed Hashim Gillani , CERN Alumnus became fascinated by science at the age of 12 when learning about the Nobel Prize Winner in Physics i.e., Dr. Muhammad Abdus Salam from his home country, Pakistan.

Since then, he has gone on to fulfil his childhood dream of coming to work at CERN and has subsequently continued to build his career in embedded systems engineering.

“I did my bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering in Pakistan and then I came to Germany to study Robotics and Embedded Systems Engineering at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences.

I always had the desire to extend my knowledge and to see how the world, time and the space around us work. When I was around 12, Dr. Muhammad Abdus Salam won the Nobel Prize for Physics; he was working on the unification of universal forces. That inspired me a lot to learn and study physics, dark matter, black holes and learn about inspiring people like Einstein, and that’s also what motivated me to come to CERN one day.

Pakistan is really far away from Switzerland and there is a common perception among kids and among professionals that it’s not very easy to come to CERN, which might be true, but it is not impossible.”

CERN offers various internship opportunities to university students for a placement during their studies and one of them is the Technical Student Programme, which is exactly how Hashim made his way to the Laboratory and was given the opportunity to contribute to several very interesting projects.

“I first came to CERN in September 2017 and worked there for 14 months. I was a Technical Student for 4 teams, S’Cool Lab, Beamline for Schools, Teachers Programme, High School Students Programme and also as a Master Thesis Student to create a pixel detector platform using silicon technologies being developed at CERN i.e., on the Medipix and Timepix. The thesis is supposed to be hosted at CERN and it’s going to be used to cultivate kids’ interest in physics and STEM fields.

It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Extracting the best from my experience

“Working at CERN brought me one step closer to my ultimate goal, which is to inspire kids, and to make them excited and interested in STEM.

CERN gave me a full spectrum of wonderful experiences ranging from working with amazing supervisors, inspiring school kids, having fascinating conversations in the CERN cafeteria, to contemplating the perceptions of my colleagues from all over the world. I would say I tried to pick up different customs from my colleagues. For instance, my German colleagues gave me the impetus for accurate time keeping.

Prior to coming to CERN, I found it difficult to communicate and express excitement about my work. CERN transformed me from an introvert to an extrovert - not as an introvert person, but as an introvert professional. The enthusiasm demonstrated by people at CERN is contagious so I found myself even more excited to share my work with others.

After working at CERN I was able to express myself more professionally and to convey messages to my managers better. I was inspired by people at CERN and specifically the School lab team, which in turn motivated me to emulate them; It’s like a domino effect but in a positive sense. For instance, at CERN I realised that if I had any questions, it was OK to knock on my colleague’s office door, send an email or even discuss them over a coffee. Such conversations lifted my spirit and gave me increased confidence. That ultimately leads you to give better presentations, better workshops, and encouraging others to give the best of themselves.”

Hashim at the CERN Open Days

 We were wondering whether there is something that Hashim didn’t like about his time spent at CERN, and we have a feeling that his reply will resonate with many of our readers.

“There was nothing I particularly didn’t like…although maybe the bus from St Genis Pouilly, because it was always late arriving at CERN.”

As Hashim mentioned, his greatest goal is to inspire as many children as possible to develop an interest in physics, science, and the world around us so we wanted to know his advice for high school students who would like to follow in his steps.

“Follow your passion. If you follow your passion and put in effort, even if you fail, you learn from those experiences, you build up your CV and yourself as a professional. Don’t give up but keep striving for the specific goal you have in mind. Never have the mindset that you are perfect at any given time, but always strive for improvement. Learning is a part of life, and you should continue learning till you are sane enough to learn.”

The perks of networking with purpose

Through his network at CERN, Hashim received a multitude of tips on how to write his thesis, how to improve his communication skills, both written and oral.  He also attended sessions organised by CERN HR and other services related to job interview preparation all of which he put to excellent use in job applications when his contract was about to finish.

“When you work at CERN you have the opportunity to socialise and develop network with many different people. For instance, via Young@CERN, and of course Alumni.cern.  It’s great to see the number of jobs posted on the platform as well as the numerous startups that were developed at CERN, this was incredibly useful, I also found my job thanks to that.

Because the selection process at CERN is highly selective, having CERN on your CV is a huge plus. Recruiters are aware of the competition and high caliber of candidates. Incidentally, coming from CERN sparks friendly interview conversation as well."

Fortunately for him, three months before finishing his master’s thesis and his adventure at CERN, Hashim leveraged everything he learnt at CERN about interfacing of sensors, embedded computing and website creation and landed a job at Leica Geosystems as an Embedded and Computer Vision System Engineer.

Farewell at CERN Restaurant 1

 

Boost your job-hunting strategy with the perfect CV

“In order to write a CV and cover letter, you need to be honest. You don’t have to be 100% perfectly aligned with the job, but you need to convey that you are ready to learn and grow, I think that’s what HR cares about. Also your documents should be really neat, otherwise it doesn’t send out the message that you are a good professional.

Once I created my CV, I prepared 2-3 versions which I sent out to my team and supervisor. They all reviewed what was good and not so good about each one of them and then I combined them into one. The next thing to include is a reference letter – a reference from CERN works wonders and should be used in the application process. It’s all about sending out a good word about yourself.”

Looking to the future

“I am currently working as a Computer Vision and Embedded Systems Engineer and together with my team am implementing algorithms to make more effective and eco-friendly mining and construction techniques to improve all the related processes at Leica geosystems.

My goal for the future is to be more proactive as a CERN ambassador, for instance to go to schools in Pakistan, and encourage them to apply at CERN and convey the message that CERN has opportunities for students and for people of all ages.

And I’m starting a new project for an NGO in Pakistan, using Medipix and technologies learnt at CERN to create a health booth in Pakistan. For many people, sometimes the closest doctor is 30 km away, so you can install those booths that can measure blood pressure, your vitals and you have a doctor online who can give you prescription.”

And we couldn’t finish this interview without asking our favorite question – why do you think the CERN Alumni Network is worth joining and what does it bring to you as an Alum?

 “The value of the Alumni Network is to be able to share your experience and ideas, the positive impact of working at CERN, also access to job sharing opportunities on the Alumni platform, mentoring opportunities

As a previous technical student myself, I’d like to influence new tech students who will read this article and he or she might improve the things I have done the wrong way.”

 

Would you like to connect with Hashim and find out more about his career journey and/or about his current projects?
Connect with him via the Community tab in the CERN Alumni Platform.

Are you also a CERN Alum and would like to share your story with us?
We would be thrilled to shine a spotlight on your career, please contact us at alumni.relations@cern.ch

 

Author: Simona Kriva

Other news