Dylan Sheppard is living proof of the value of doing an internship while you are at uni. He was awarded QUT’s first six-month design internship with the BMW Group in Germany – and went on to convert that chance of a lifetime into a dream design job with the global car giant.
Dylan, 24, is an industrial designer at BMW Group’s headquarters in Munich where he works on innovation projects in digital design, 3D simulation and extended reality (XR) within production logistics.
He completed his six-month paid internship in the BMW Innovation Lab in July 2016 and impressed them so much that he received a job offer to return to Munich shortly after graduating with his QUT industrial design degree in 2017.
Dylan’s internship was the start of QUT’s five-year design collaboration with BMW, which has seen 23 students accepted for internships at the Munich headquarters.
“Throughout my internship, and now as a BMW employee, I have been fortunate to work on some great projects with diverse, talented teams,” he said.
“My work now stretches across the whole BMW Group.
“I drive projects in our central team in Munich, working alongside our colleagues in our Motorrad team in Berlin to plan their future motorcycle factories, and supporting Rolls Royce (a BMW subsidiary) in the United Kingdom to digitise their production workflows.
“Working for the BMW Group, for me, is fast-paced and challenging – and we have fun as well.
“My dream BMW is not actually a car. My favourite product is the R nineT motorcycle and it’s a modern take on a classic design which I think really speaks to me.”
Dylan’s role is very much focused on logistics and industry 4.0 – the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ that is using smart technology to transform traditional manufacturing – and introducing AI robots to the factory floor.
He leads a young team of international designers and students who brainstorm ideas and deliver outcomes including interface designs for web and mobile apps and using XR to model more efficient factory production processes.
“The best part of my job is working in an office environment surrounded by bright young professionals, students and interns from all over the world,” he said.
Having lived in Germany for almost three years, Dylan now speaks some German but English is the operational language for his international team.
“A lot of my meetings are in German, and I know enough to get around," he said.
"But we speak English in the office and, with such an international team, I’m learning a lot of Lebanese too.”
Dylan has also done a lot of travelling the past three years and enjoys the German culture.
“I love to spend a sunny afternoon in the local beer garden – summer in Munich is awesome, beautiful long days and a great Bavarian culture, lots of afternoons in parks and lakes,” he said.
“There’s great hiking in the German Alps less than one hour from work. In winter we’ve actually gone snowboarding after work.
“In normal times Munich is a great hub to European travel, and I’ve certainly made the most of cheap and short flights around Europe.”
Dylan chose to study industrial design at QUT because he’d always had a passion for working collaboratively to solve problems.
It was also a natural follow-on from the International Baccalaureate Diploma he had studied at Queensland Academies (next door to QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus), where he specialised in design technology and visual arts.
“My whole childhood I had my heart set on studying architecture but I pivoted my QTAC preference to industrial design at the very last minute – and I haven’t looked back since,” he said.
Dylan was named the Design Institute of Australia’s Queensland Graduate of the Year in 2017 and believes his QUT degree prepared him well for working at BMW.
“QUT’s approach of encouraging a broad base of knowledge helped me become an agile and flexible designer,” he said.
“It meant I had skills ranging from traditional industrial design to digital design talents. And that enabled me to position myself as a designer who could adapt to the changing demands of a research-and-development focused workplace and apply myself to a wide range of projects and areas.”
Dylan did several internships and integrated workplace learning experiences while at uni.
“Then in my third year of studies I was awarded QUT’s first industrial design internship with BMW and I moved to Munich to spend six months with their Innovation Lab,” he said.
Being the first QUT design intern at the BMW Group came with the challenge of having to work out his role and how he could add value.
“I really had to forge my own path and develop my own projects to leverage the skills that I’d learnt at university and add benefit for the teams around me,” he said.
“Over those six months I worked with machine learning experts, computer scientists, app designers and data analysts.
“Having this experience as a young designer helped form my career path. After returning to Australia to complete my degree, I spent some time working in local design consultancies and tutoring at QUT, then an opportunity came up to return to Germany and to BMW.”
QUT and the BMW Group in Munich have been collaborating since 2016, with the arrangement formalised in 2019 with the BMW+QUT Design partnership.
QUT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Sheil visited the German headquarters in 2019 to sign a memorandum of understanding between QUT and BMW, which included the design partnership and the opportunity for students to intern at two new labs for autonomous systems and robotics.
In 2020 the bond was strengthened with the launch of the BMW Group + QUT Design Academy.
Dylan’s partner is German and lives in Munich, while the rest of his family are still in Brisbane.
“This past year I was fortunate enough to do some travel in Australia with my girlfriend, spend Christmas with my family, return to Germany, then came back to Brisbane for the design academy launch event,” he said.
“I try to get back to Brisbane every year and it’s always nice to touch base with my friends from university.
“I travelled a lot growing up overseas and although I miss home and family, it’s very exciting to be living and working aboard.
“BMW Group has given me an unlimited (lifetime) contract so I feel very fortunate that the company has backed me with this.”
** The QUT Virtual Open Day will be held online on August 29 and 30 to provide prospective students with information about studying at QUT next year. Register online here for your chance to win a MacBook Air.
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