Unfold your career
Christian Mentin has been making a name for himself at SAL since 2018 as one of our first employees before there was any talk of SAL as a research center as we know it today: as a Scientist for Hardware Design and first employee of the Power Electronics team in Villach, project leader of the successful Tiny Power Box and recently as Head of a new Research Unit within our Power Electronics Division, which he helped build up from scratch. For the past two years he has also been active in teaching and passes on his knowledge at the FH Kärnten in the courses “Industrial Power Electronics” and “Systems Design”. If Christian is not working, he is tinkering with electronic systems, or you can find him cycling or passionately playing the drums in his brass band.
PS: No Tiny Power Boxes were harmed in the making of this picture :-)
Dear Christian, as one of our first and long-term employees, you’ve been through quite the rollercoaster on the SAL journey with us. Can you tell us a little bit about your start at SAL and how you evolved within your Division?
I started as a Scientist with a focus on hardware design for Power Electronics in 2018 – at the “Silicon Austria Errichtungs-GmbH, as we were called back then. And just like that I was the first employee in our Power Electronics team in Villach. We then started to talk to potential partners about a joint Power Electronics project pretty much immediately after I arrived. We wanted a topic that would bring research and the industry together, that would be relevant for the future and that would show great development potential in applications; with the aim of finishing the project with an actual demonstrator which we could use to present our capabilities to other companies. Thus, we chose the topic of on-board charging, and our successful Tiny Power Box was born!
In addition to being project leader of the Tiny Power Box, I also took over the Power Electronics team in Villach, which as of 2021 consisted of three people. Besides research, my new responsibilities as team leader and project manager alone could’ve filled a full-time job, and three exhausting but interesting years followed. Now, in 2023, I got promoted from team leader to Research Unit Head for Packaging and Multiphysics. This way, I am responsible for ten direct employees and approximately twenty people within the framework of the Tiny Power Box. However, not too much has changed for me apart from the new official title since I was already so involved in the tasks before.
To get back to this big first Power Electronics project once more: What is the Tiny Power Box all about? Its development seems to be closely linked to your career at SAL.
Well, everything started with just two tables and a few laptops! (laughs) It is incredible how far we have come in the past years if you look at where we started: with two offices in Graz and Villach, without a lab or equipment, but with a vision. Now we have a gigantic project with 400 square meters of dedicated lab space and we are getting noticed not only in Austria, but also in Germany, winning important awards. And, of course, we got the finished demonstrator right here – that’s something we can really be proud of!
Without a doubt! Something else: You said you more or less “slipped into” your position as Unit Head. What would you tell interested people that want to actively apply for our other open Unit Head positions?
It’s important to know what tasks lie ahead of you. Depending on how well a team is already established, it can take years before all the organizational details are settled; and in those years your own research takes a back seat. I’d say that our Unit Head positions consist of at least 50 % management and leadership tasks and you are actively involved in lab planning and strategic orientation of the respective Research Unit. It’s a very diverse workload for sure, you just have to be aware of it. After all, SAL is no cut and dried business – or as we say in dialect “no mowed lawn” – and we still have a lot we want to do and achieve, and the effort in our industry-oriented, project-based research is not comparable to that in small research groups at universities.
What was your highlight in your career at SAL up to now?
I think my team would agree with me when I say we are currently living the highlight. After having won several awards in Austria, the Tiny Power Box was nominated for the German SEMIKRON innovation award, which we received on March 28. This prize is just the tip of the iceberg of long and hard work, but the fact that we are now being noticed beyond the borders of Austria is unique and great feedback for us
You want to start your success story at SAL? Are you looking for a new challenge? If you want to actively shape the technologies of the future and enjoy working in an international team, then you've come to the right place.