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26Th May 2021

From Trainee program to project management of the new FABIA

Every ŠKODA employee probably watched the new FABIA premiere with high expectation. We had the chance to interview the person who takes care of the whole project. Petr Novosad is a project manager and former trainee – in our interview he thought back to the Trainee program that he experienced 15 years ago and he also described the details of his current job.

 
Why did you choose the ŠKODA Trainee program?

I decided to do it whilst still at university – in 2005 during the Job fair at BUT campus in Brno. From all the potential employers only people from ŠKODA AUTO were able to specifically answer my questions, what the Trainee program is going to look like, what is the concept of it and they were not afraid of salary questions as well – they told me immediately and exactly how much money I will make. 😊 They had clear answer for everything. Other potential employers beat around the bush. So, the straight approach interested me the most. Finally there was an option of accommodation at the ŠKODA dormitory in Mladá Boleslav – that was also one of the deciding factors.

Petr Novosad

Petr Novosad

Project manager of the FABIA car – Technical leadership of the project (Baureihe Small)

He studied at Mendel university in Brno and in 2004 participated in a study exchange in German Rostock. A year later he joined ŠKODA AUTO as a trainee. During his rotations in the Trainee program he worked in different departments, from purchasing through logistics, package development and production to HR. He spent his overseas trainee rotation at Volkswagen Wolfsburg and at Audi in Ingolstadt. He spends his free time cycling, running and walking but also on dragonboats, reading and is interested in technology.
How do you remember living together with other trainees?

I have great memories with lot of great experience from this period. I spent almost 7 years at the dormitory in total. There were many other trainees at that time and sometimes (especially at the beginning) it reminded more of university dorms. We planned common events, from movie projections over trips to cooking together. Since 2008 my work moved to the dormitory as well for some time, to the new offices in the ground floor of the first section. Therefore, I could theoretically go to work in my slippers. 😊 Of course, with respect to the formal dress code it only worked during the weekends – sometimes that happened as well.

During the Trainee program there were many events back then that we, current trainees, know only from stories because of the pandemic. Is that so?

Yes. I am sorry that you can’t experience the Trainee program with all the events like we did back then. On the other hand: today’s regular and traditional events – like Trainee Ball – were not running that time. Back then we were meeting each other more spontaneously. But the willingness of all the trainees to meet was big. In 2008 I organized a trainee reunion and about 80 people came in the end. It was in the big room of U Šmaku pub in Kosmonosy. It was great event, at the end we repeated it for next two years and afterwards it evolved to the idea to organize Trainee Ball. It was great opportunity for new trainees to try organization, cooperation, and management of an event this size, from room booking, program preparation and moderating the whole event to ticket distribution. It is big added value for trainees – as well as teambuilding and organization skills training.

What events did you enjoy the most during the Trainee program?

The most attractive were definitely the external educational events – communication training in Horní Mísečky, teambuilding in Krkonoše or Konzern Trainee Treffen in Ingolstadt by Audi. The training in Horní Mísečky then evolved to regular New Year’s celebrations at „Lom“ cottage in Horní Mísečky – together with other many extrainees. There were many other trips and vacations together– from visiting wine cellars in Morava to road trips in Europe. These were great events with cool people and with fantastic memories. Definitely worth it.

Meeting of VW GROUP trainees in Ingolstadt, 2006

How do you evaluate educational events? Do you dedicate yourself to active personal development?

Educational events in the Trainee program were great benefit. Especially for student that until then went to school by train or old bus and had not many options to pay some expensive excursion abroad. As a trainee I suddenly didn’t go on excursion by bus, but I went by plane – that made big impression. During the external educational events there were trainings during the day and in the evening we could have beer together or go to the sauna, do cross-country skiing or go on trips during the weekend – we all remember this until now I think. The advantage of today is that there are many trainings to choose from even though they are only happening online. If there is something interesting for me and I have time for that, I am happy to use this opportunity to develop myself.

Does ŠKODA AUTO support self-development?

From my point of view definitely yes. Always when there was an option to take part in some training, my superiors always supported me. Your boss sees you in a different way than you do yourself, he can direct you somewhere. When you need to develop presentation skills, he will recommend you a training. In general, there are more and more trainings, besides other things on soft skills as well and that is great. You can learn a lot of things there, but of course it is not enough. You must really practice it a lot. Because you can have millions of trainings but when you stand up in front of the board during the meeting it is completely different thing. This practical experience is simply something else than just sitting behind the table or on Skype and listening to the lecturer. It is more intense and you can take valuable experience from it for your future work.

Is the company culture the same in ŠKODA AUTO as it was 15 years ago or has something changed?

Absolutely. From a directive way of managing to a more open way, where discussion of the issue is a substantial part. It is no longer so important who figures out the problem but what matters is only the final result. So this is definitely a good direction. In any case you need enlightened and accessible leaders and I am happy that I have been and still am lucky in this regard.

Yes, in the end leader has to make the final decision and he must accept it with all its risks. Of course it is his responsibility. The important thing is an explanation of the task and its added value to everyone who is part of the task.

Earlier we were also more focused on the technical side of a car. But now, besides the „hardware“ we focus more on other fields related to mobility. For example, connectivity and electromobility. The company constantly works on innovations, looking for where to add value for the customer and the effort is obvious. It is really interesting and inspiring. And those new employees coming from the outside, they are no longer only from the automotive field but also have different experiences from other fields. I am amazed how much one can still learn. Everything is developing and when you want to, you have a lot of opportunities to educate and evolve your personality. You can join ŠKODA for example in purchasing and after a while you can rotate to logistics, production or development. This is not possible in other companies. The diversity is much bigger thanks to ŠKODA.

What was your journey from Trainee program to your current position?

After finishing the Trainee program, I started work in logistics planning. After two years I moved to the new department of foreign projects, where I had responsibility for Ukraine, Kazakhstan and later for Russia, where I moved for 3 years in 2012. After I returned from Russia, I still worked on a Russian project for two years. Since 2017 I have been part of Baureihe Small, which is basically a technical coordination of project class A0 where we current work on follower of FABIA.

In Russia you cooperated with the car manufacturer GAZ. What experience did it give to you?

It was very interesting and of course difficult at the beginning. It was the first project which was birthed in VW concern as a “brownfield” in an existing factory in the North Novgorod which had already been operating for 70 years. That meant that we had to integrate our modern production lines into those in the GAZ factory, where Volhas were manufactured before. There were also no offices, we worked from the hotel every day, often till morning and the atmosphere was very intense but it was worth it. We were very good team of people and that’s why I still meet those people today. We were like pioneers there. For many guys it overlapped into their personal lives, because they found girlfriends there, some of them even wives. 😊

First anniversary of CKD production in Nizhnij Novgorod, 2013

Visit of Vladimir Remek, Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Russia in GAZ/Volkswagen Group Rus plant, 2014

Does the experience you gained during the Trainee program fit today?

By far the biggest benefit for me was not only to get to know the structure of the company and have a slower transition from study to work – but mainly it was an opportunity to meet a great group of people where I still have excellent friends across the factory – from design and development through quality to logistics and sales. At the same time, I had the opportunity – for example, during numerous discussions at our joint events or even in the Sport Pub – to see one problem from different sides and from the perspective of different departments. For example, that not everything can be realized in production for reasonable money (and vice versa – not every idea for optimization in production is design acceptable, etc.). It's always about finding the right path together.

Last but not least, the Trainees were a group of people with very interesting experiences and a good education. It was greatly rewarding and I had the opportunity to always be learning something new – from knowledge to adrenaline sports. To this day, the contacts and general awareness of the company are intertwined. You have an overview of where to turn and who does what.

This is probably useful for your current work, where you work with other departments in the company.

It is true. As a development representative I go to product teams where I meet everyone who works on a current project – production, logistics, product management and more. Together we solve the project from the beginning to the end.

Anyway, it is all teamwork and I must say that we have an excellent team. Not only at the level of the development team led by Radim Havlišta, but also in the product team, led by Ondra Mikoláš. So thanks goes not only to both of them, but to all SET representatives and others for the success of the Fabia project and its response.

Could you share a specific issue that your department is working on?

For example we worked on how to cover the assembly openings used to fix the spoiler on the rear door. We evaluated that it’s more effective to use 4 small covers than one large cover. One solution is better from a design point of view, the other from the point of view of cost – and of course it’s necessary to consider, for instance, appropriate ergonomics for the assembly line worker, etc. Basically, every – even seemingly insignificant – part has its consequences. Financial, ergonomical, qualitative or other. If you decide wrongly, then you can (in this case) waste just a fraction of a euro on each car – though when you sell a million of them during the span of its production, then we’re suddenly talking about hundreds of euros. And if you have dozens of such details for each car, then it adds up to millions. Which means that every detail plays a part, and that’s exactly why it’s important to approach this responsibly.

Is there any phase of the project, when the discussion around the project becomes heated?

Not normally. We usually have instructions, some definition of the future product, on the basis of which the car’s design is suggested, so no-one will accidentally draft something that can’t be produced. Technologies such as digital simulation, visualization and so on are a big advantage. So you know the car in pretty good detail before you even get to see it physically. And thanks to previous models you know where the tricky places are that might require more attention. If you remember the second generation SUPERBA, it was a particular challenge to bring into serial production the Twin Door, which allows one to independently open the trunk or the whole rear door. Only ŠKODA employed this technology, so of course the realization of such a thing was a big challenge for our colleagues in production – but in the end they managed everything well.

What goes through your mind, when after long years of development serial production finally kicks off?

I’m glad that customers will finally be able to appreciate the new FABIA because it’s a beautiful car. I also hope that everything runs smoothly. Of course, the closer the car’s launch, the more different things you have to manage, but that’s the same with every project. It’s indeed a difficult time, but on the other hand, it’s a good school and one can learn a lot, which can be carried into future projects.

New FABIA, 2021

What follows the start of serial production? Are you still involved in model care?

Yes, in parallel with the launch of the short FABIA we’re focusing on the Combi and are beginning to work on its facelift. Every year we then usually launch various special models which contain some specific feature – from mudguard plaques to new seat covers or combinations of kit. On top of this there’s the model care and other projects. And so effectively we accompany the project until the end of its production. Our department however has the most work during the development phase.

Every new model comes with innovative Simply Clever features. For example the ENYAQ came with a cleaning system for the charging cable or a drinks holder for an arbitrary large bottle. Can you tell us now, what the new FABIA will surprise us with?

What’s new is, for example, the removable cup holder, which is located in the center panel between the front seats. Further, there will be for example a new storage pocket for the back row of seats, a removable sun shield for the panoramic roof, a flexible compartment for small items in the luggage area, protection of the edges of the luggage area (so that you don’t get dirty when you lean into the trunk) and much more. For the FABIA the Simply Clever components are particularly important because it’s the entry model of our model pallet, a wide portfolio of customers use it – from small families to fleet customers through to seniors. Hence the emphasis on convenience for customers is particularly important.

Until now all the FABIAs have been closely tied with Motorsport. Will the fourth generation continue in the same line?

I hope so, but at the moment I can’t exactly confirm how it will be with Motorsport and the FABIA. Momentarily it works perfectly. We were invited to the motorsport facilities two years ago and it was a fantastic experience. It’s well worth seeing how they put together the racing variants. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, make sure you don’t miss it. It’s well worthwhile.

And finally a question about the future. Volkswagen is planning to be selling 70% electric vehicles by 2030, does in mean then, that the next generation of FABIA models will be electric?

I don’t have such a good crystal ball right now. 😊 It depends what the available technology will be, whether this technology will be available for the platform and of course also what the customer demand would be. Technologically everything is developing extremely quickly and already the FABIA is gaining lots of elements of higher-class cars, such as, for example, the heated steering wheel and heated windscreen, travel assistant etc. In any case I think we have a lot to look forward to.


Interviewers:

Tereza Lukůvková – trainee, current rotation: Customer management & Rollout

Marek Šikola – trainee, current rotation: Assembly planning car electronic

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