John Luo

The thrill of working at the edge

Picking a graduate program was a no-brainer for John Luo (BE(ECS)(Hons) 2005, BSc 2005). Passionate about cars and keen to engineer a brand sold worldwide, it made total sense for him to launch his career at Ford Motor Company. And that’s where you can still find him today.

Working for Ford has taken John around the world, from Australia to China to the United States. “I couldn’t resist the excitement of joining initiatives overseas,” he says. “In this way, I’ve been able to better support Ford’s transformation from an automotive company to an automotive and mobility services company. Always with an eye to connecting our Australia-based customers.”

Now Manager of Emerging Technology Integration & Wireless Connectivity, John leads a multidisciplinary research team in discovering new user experiences through wirelessly connected hardware – in other words, the Internet of Things. “I work at Ford Greenfield Labs in Silicon Valley, in the San Francisco Bay Area,” he explains. “As part of Ford Smart Mobility initiative, we’re the entrepreneurial, experimental, fast-paced, risk-taking side of an established global organisation.”

John also offers technical and automotive subject matter expertise to startups, helping them to plug into the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) ecosystem. He might advise them on refining the technology roadmap (the plan to reach short-term and long-term goals through technology solutions) or on framing technical relevance and product integration for automotive OEMs.

“I used to feel out of place representing what has traditionally been a mechanical engineering company in the software- and internet-centric environment of Silicon Valley,” he reveals. “To counter that, I actively participated in conferences and meetups. I also mentored at startup incubators/accelerators on scaling hardware technology and reverse pitching.” (In a reverse pitch, entrepreneurs ask large organisations like Ford to pitch the problems they want startup teams to solve.)

Over the course of his career, John has witnessed the exponential growth of the Internet of Things. “Lower cost and greater capability have made connected devices widespread across homes and businesses,” he maintains. “This has allowed the rapid introduction of new innovations through software. Artificial intelligence now enhances our lives with services such as digital assistants and real-time health monitoring.”

With the perspective of someone who has travelled a distance down his career path, John now wishes he’d more firmly embraced the technical curriculum at uni. He has come to realise that “technical ability gives you credibility as a leader.” And this has clearly motivated him to master essential skills and forge ahead.