Another ŠKODA AUTO employee who revealed his career path as well as the joys and duties of his current job to us is Tomáš Smilek. His task is to follow the process of creating a new car design and technical concept. In the following interview he shared with us what it entails.
Mr.Smilek, to start with, can you tell us about university studies? How did you choose your programme?
Since I was little I would spend a lot of time in my father’s workshop, where I became fond of all things technical, especially cars. Because I did not want to merely repair cars, but develop them, my future career was clear. After secondary technical school I enrolled for the automobile and transport engineering programme at Technical University in Brno.
Did you work during your studies already? What was your first job after graduation? How did your career path continue after that?
Already during my studies I was looking for ways to get to ŠKODA AUTO’s development department. One of them was an internship, including the possibility to write my diploma thesis in cooperation with the company. I started gaining experience at the department concerned with finite element method calculations (FEM), more specifically side impact simulation, and in 2010 I successfully defended my diploma thesis. That same year I joined the concept development department at ŠKODA AUTO.
You now work as a ‘Rear end dimension development’. Please could you describe your job to us?
In the concept and design stage I am responsible for the whole rear end of the car, the interior and exterior. The result must always fulfill the functions expected by our customers, or rather, exceed their expectations. We also aim to design technical solutions that will enable an attractive design. Functional requirements include, among others, volume of the boot space and access to it, rear fender concept, where we want to avoid damage to the tailgate in case of an impact, or the entire geometry of the rear end, where we put emphasis on aerodynamics, thus enabling higher fuel-efficiency for the customer. Interesting examples of concepts include electrically closing boot lid at the Superb liftback, third row of seats at the Kodiaq or the all new concept of covering the tailgate at Yeti’s successor, which will be launched later this year.
What does your day at work usually look like?
I normally get to work before 8 a.m. First of all, I go through my mail. Then I move on to my current tasks. These may include writing a presentation for the management or making an evaluation of a design model from technical viewpoint. When I am not at my computer I attend meetings. The interesting ones include discussions over the very design model, where we go over various topics right on the spot. I ensure and oversee project team organization across departments not only in concept development but also design. I usually leave work between 4 and 5 p.m., so I still have some time to do sports. In the evening, I usually go running, swimming or to the gym.
Which ŠKODA models were you here for? On average, how long does it take to develop a car from a concept to a series roll-out?
When I joined the company after my studies, I started with the Rapid Spaceback. For this particular project we were working on an interesting concept of the tailgate, which was produced in two versions, with a short or long rear window. Our challenge was reaching a compromise that would enable us to keep as many identical parts in both versions as possible. Afterwards, I participated on the third generation ŠKODA Superb (both liftback and estate), and my last project is the Yeti successor. I am looking forward to that one in particular. Our department is active mainly in the first two years of the development, at which point we make a sort of an ‘unfashioned’ design of the car. Then we pass the project on to our colleagues from the design department to elaborate on it for the prototype and later series production.
What do you like the most about your job?
As we join each project at its very beginning, one can see how the car is created from the first blueprints. Personally, I enjoy having the all-round view, where one influences the creation of and creates himself a large part of the car, takes care of everything to come together, function and, finally, create a unified harmony. I also like the opportunity for personal development that we have at ŠKODA AUTO. For example, a few months ago I completed a 1.5 year job-rotation in another department, which brought me new experience and a different perspective.
How many members are there in your team? How would you describe the atmosphere at your team and cooperation with your colleagues?
Our department has around 30 members. We are divided into four groups focusing on different parts of the car, including the front-end, cabin, rear end and the cockpit. Together with other departments from the concept development area (surface planes, aerodynamics and package/ergonomics) we bear responsibility for a complete concept and design stage including project management. This means collecting information, preparing materials for decision-making, scheduling joint meetings where we look for and propose solutions of technical issues across other departments, and many other activities. The atmosphere in our team has been very friendly from day one, when I started working here. I really appreciated the opportunity to learn from senior colleagues with many years of experience.
One intriguing question to conclude with. How do you feel when you get up for work on Monday morning?
I am lucky to do a job which I enjoy and which fulfills me. It’s easy to get up in the morning when you are in a situation like mine. This is also thanks to the fact that I always knew which direction I want to go. Having opportunities is the key. And that’s ŠKODA’s great advantage. Moreover, I spent weekends doing my hobbies, and so I can go to work all relaxed and with a clear mind on Monday.
Do you want to work for ŠKODA AUTO? To start with check out the list of current vacancies.