Meet Ane Tendo (Mechatronic Systems Engineering, '15)

October 12, 2015

Ane Tendo (B.Sc. in Mechatronic Systems Engineering, '15) grew up in Cameroon, where from a young age he was known as the “computer guy,” tinkering with household appliances and lending a hand to hook up TVs.

After completing a physics degree in his home country, Tendo moved to Canada and, following a stint as a pharmacy assistant, enrolled in SFU’s mechatronic systems engineering program.  He graduated this fall, and was recently hired as a controls engineer for Tesla Motors at the pioneering electric car manufacturer’s plant in Fremont, CA.

Why did you choose SFU’s mechatronics systems engineering program?

When I first moved to Canada, I actually had my mind set on nanotechnology. I was looking at the SFU website, and stumbled upon information about the mechatronics program. I always remember my father telling me, “Son, you have to always maintain a broad base and not limit your options.” It seemed like mechatronics provided that broad base, so I was excited when I discovered it.

My dad, who sadly passed away, was a pharmacist and an entrepreneur – from a young age, he trained me to think in that way. He had his own pharmacy and a wholesale business that he ran in Cameroon. My mom is a lecturer and teaches material sciences at university in Cameroon, my sister a obstetrician and gynaecologist in the UK and my other two sisters, who live here in Canada, are both going to be doctors. I have a very smart family; it’s quite intimidating!

What have been your most memorable experiences at SFU?

I was part of a really strong team for my final-year capstone project. We created a medical management solution called Epione through the Technology Entrepreneurship @SFU program. The system reminds people to take their medicine via customized blister packs, an automatic dispenser and a smartphone app.

Our goal was to address the problem of medical nonadherence: 125,000 people die unnecessarily in Canada each year because they’re not taking their medicine properly. We created our first prototype for the capstone, and we hope to secure funding to take it forward with a second prototype.

I always have this race against time in my head: I finished my degree in only three-and-a-half years, and during my final semester I took 28 credits (about eight classes). I am very fortunate to have made the right friends in Canada who made me realize that being anxious doesn’t do anything. I keep calm, work out a lot and keep my energy levels high.

Was there a particular course at SFU that really captured your imagination? If so, why? 

Sometimes it’s not the class, but the person who’s teaching you. If you’re serious about mechatronics, there are lots of lecturers out there who are willing to spend extra time with you and point you towards really useful resources. That is the one big piece of advice I would give to new students – take advantage of your lecturers. They’re phenomenal and you’ll be amazed how much they help. You never know, their smartness could rub off on you!

What advice would you give to new students? 

Be serious about your education: you’re only going to be here for four years, and you’ll be surprised how fast that goes by. I’ve learned that in life it’s not just about working hard; it’s also about working smart. There are resources I wish I’d taken advantage of in my first year, like, which is free to all SFU students and you can use to teach yourself new skills.

It’s also very important to network with other students and make friends – you can learn a lot from just talking to people. Somebody else might have a resource or tip that you didn’t know about. Sometimes, I just randomly chat to people to people in the AQ. Even on the bus today, I chatted to this lady the whole way to campus – why would I sit by myself? It’s a challenge to do these things, but I am always pushing to better myself.

What has been your most memorable experience at SFU?

I’m always going to miss being a student and the SFU community. There’s something unique about working on a project with your friends, even until 2 a.m. You know you’re not alone, and you can still laugh and make jokes. They are like your brothers and sisters in battle, and when you achieve your goal, you feel like a Spartan! I’ve made lifelong friends at SFU. That’s what I’m going to miss most: working with people and knowing you’ll go all the way, even when the rewards are not financial.

Who or what inspires you? 

Every individual has weaknesses. I think the best strategy to be your best self is to have a whole range of role models. I listen to people’s stories: what they have endured, and how they have overcome challenges. One of the greatest lessons I learned at SFU is the power of questions: both the questions you ask other people, and the ones you ask yourself. If you ask the right questions – you have unlimited possibilities. Ask open questions that don’t limit you because they will open doors. You want to go into every day consciously and deliberately.

What are your plans after graduation? 

I am delighted to say that I will be starting work at Tesla Motors in a few weeks as an associate controls engineer. I want to stay true to the mechatronics culture combining electrical and mechanical components. In the long term, I want to continue to gain knowledge and succeed in life. When I meet someone who is successful, the first thing I ask is “What was that one thing – a book or idea – that you attribute to your success?” There is always one thing that helped them make that huge leap.

In 10 years, I want to start an entrepreneurial endeavor in engineering. I spent 20 years in Cameroon; it’s a place that is close to my heart. I think there is probably a lot that I can do to help foster change in that country.