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22Nd June 2021

An Informal Interview in Shorts and a T-shirt Directed me to Human Resources

We catch Vlasta when his head is full of preparations. In two weeks, he is going to fly to China for a three-year international assignment. Nevertheless, he decides to make time for us and together – although still online – we remember his experience with the Trainee program that started his career in ŠKODA ten years ago. From funny topics, when he tells us about completing a key job interview in shorts and a T-shirt, we come to more serious topics related to human resources. We learn not only how hard the coronavirus pandemic has affected the area of ​​human resources in ŠKODA but also why human resources can no longer be perceived as a purely female field.

 
Hello Mr. Koudelka, can we see each other, can we hear each other?

Yes, everything seems to be fine.

We can see that you are working from your office today. How did your work rhythm change during the pandemic?

In our department, everyone worked at least partially from home. However, human resources as such requires a presence in the workplace, so someone always had to be in the office.

How do you handle working from home?

For myself, I have to say that I prefer working in the office. I prefer when my work environment does not mix with my private life.

Could you tell us how does your normal day look like? What have you already done today, what else is waiting for you?

First, I had a meeting with the design manager regarding the development of his employees. At the next meeting, my colleague and I discussed the whole personal strategy for our company. I will also have a team meeting, followed by a regular meeting with the tool shop regarding the staff. Then I have a meeting with an employee on a trip abroad. I am definitely not bored today.

Let us talk about your career. How did you get to ŠKODA?

After graduating from university, I was about the same as many other graduates. I wanted to find a job that would entertain and fulfill me. Unfortunately, I did not know exactly what it should be. I studied in Ostrava, but I knew that in the case of an interesting job offer, it would not be a problem for me to move anywhere. I decided to enroll in several programs for graduates, including the ŠKODA Trainee program.

Vlastimil Koudelka

Vlastimil Koudelka

Before HR Business Partner; Now Head of Cooperation and Special Projects Management in China

He studied at the Faculty of Economics at the Technical University of Ostrava and participated in a study exchange in South Korea. In 2011, he joined the ŠKODA Trainee program, during which he worked in various departments within HR. He gradually worked his way up to being an HR Business Partner and since June 2021 he has been working in Beijing, where he coordinates HR projects, CSR activities and cooperation with institutions for ŠKODA.
What did you find interesting about the Trainee program?

I was attracted by the opportunity to see more departments under the hood, a wide range of courses and the opportunity to go on an international internship. I succeeded in the selection procedure in ŠKODA and in another banking institution. The decision was not hard. ŠKODA was a clear choice.

Why?

Because of the brand name, which it has historically had here. It is a stable and well-established company. On the other hand, banks come and go in various ways, and I did not just perceive such certainty in them. I also heard positive feedback from people around me and friend of mine who completed the ŠKODA Trainee program before me.

What was your best experience in the Trainee program?

It is difficult to choose just one. The whole period was full of work and non-work experiences. For example, a meeting of trainees from all over the concern in Spain was something I remember even after years. Not only did we meet colleagues from Trainee programs of other brands, but it also really united our ŠKODA community.

In addition, thanks to the Trainee program, you met your wife. We even wrote about it before.

Yes, thanks to the Trainee program, I also met my wife, which is definitely something that the Trainee program has fundamentally and positively affected my life.

Vlastimil Koudelka

The program is mainly about making contacts. Are you still using yours today?

I am not in contact with colleagues from Trainee programs of other brands, but I communicate with my colleagues from the ŠKODA program very often. In every area, I know someone I can turn to for help or advice, and I know that they will not reject me. We go to lunch with some former trainees or meet after work. In addition, I have a close group of really best friends from the Trainee program. We see each other regularly; we even went to each other's weddings.

Did you have any experience with area of human resources before the Trainee program?

I was already interested in the topic of the labor market and human resources while studying at university. From the beginning of the Trainee program, however, I completed interviews only for economically oriented positions that did not attract me in any way. Then I accidentally got involved in a discussion in the hallway and someone suggested that a trainee would be useful for them in the human resources department. I had the interview the same day, right after the medical examination. So I could not even prepare for it properly and I came to the manager's office in shorts and a T-shirt…

What did he say?

I immediately apologized to him, but the boss is a passionate athlete, so he understood. Therefore, quite possibly our informal meeting contributed to the fact that I finally got the position.

Your first department was also the final department after the Trainee program.

I also had other rotations in human resources – recruitment, operational human resources and staff planning. During the program, however, I realized that my initial department, where I was mainly in charge of new HR projects and employee benefits, is the right thing for me.

Where did your next steps lead?

After four years spent in the human resources planning department, through the position of HR junior business partner, in 2019 I got to my current position of HR business partner for non-production departments in the field of production. And now I'm going for an international assignment to China.

What does an HR partner do?

My main task is to take care of tariff employees in non-production areas of production, i.e. people employed in, for example, logistics or production planning. We mainly deal with operational issues related to staff, from recruitment and onboarding of new employees through the care of talents to the termination of employment.

So, your workload is really diverse.

Yes, it is. As an HR business partner, I also act as a link between managers and other HR departments, such as recruitment, staff planning, training and remuneration. Of course, I don’t do it alone. I have five experienced HR professionals in the team, whom I can rely on to solve everyday tasks. In addition, I have great colleagues and superiors, whom I can always turn to for advice or help.

What do you enjoy the most about your current job?

I have to say that I really enjoy managing a team and solving all topics we come across. Developing people, taking care of them and motivating them makes me feel really happy. Passing this philosophy on to the departments and the leaders we work with should also be one of my main tasks. Explaining them that it’s not only important to meet the deadlines and achieve targets, but also to take care of the development of the people around you.

How did the coronavirus pandemic affect Human Resources Management in ŠKODA?

During the pandemic emerged situations that we were not previously prepared for. For example, there was a high risk that a large number of people would not come to work. Whether because they are at home sick with covid or because they are commuting from another district or even a different country. Particularly in our plant in Kvasiny we have a large part of employees that commute every day from Poland. So, we had to carefully monitor the situation regarding border closures, quarantine and cross-border commuting and examine what the current rules are.

Vlastimil Koudelka

The HR profession is a female dominated field with up to 75% of human resources positions filled by women. What is the situation like in ŠKODA?

Human resources are certainly not just a women's discipline. Here at ŠKODA we have several, especially younger colleagues, in different HR positions. We also had couple of male interns. On the other hand, the ratio of women to men is still really significant in this field.

How is that?

It’s probably due to the historical perception of this field. HR is usually perceived as a routine administrative work similar to accounting, where there is also a predominance of women. Some people don't even see the difference between human resources and accounting. In short, it is someone who takes care of people and their wages.

Is this perception of HR changing?

Yes, I would say that it is gradually changing and the number of men in this field is increasing. But the concept of human resources is also changing. Now we use more data analysis, and even various IT tools. So, the male world is probably more penetrating to HR through these disciplines.

Vlastimil Koudelka

We found you right in the middle of preparing for your international assignment in China. When are you leaving?

I have been preparing for my abroad assignment in Beijing and have been looking forward to it for almost a year. Unfortunately, my departure was several times postponed due to the covid pandemic. But right now, everything seems to be on the right track again and I should leave soon.

What will you be in charge of in China?

I will be responsible for ŠKODA's CSR activities in China, event management, cooperation with the embassy or cooperation with schools.

ŠKODA is involved in a number of socially responsible activities in the Czech Republic – for example, for every car sold in the Czech Republic, it plants trees, or helps with traffic education. What projects does ŠKODA support in China?

ŠKODA already has in China some well-established activities. For example, we organize ice-skating camps for children with autism, which goes hand in hand with our long-term support of ice-hockey. Tree planting is also taking place there, which is, as you correctly mentioned, one of the activities we do in the Czech Republic. So that’s something we will certainly continue to do so in China.

And one last question at the end. What are you most looking forward to in China?

I definitely look forward to new topics that are diametrically opposed to the current ones, and to working with new colleagues. In addition to my work duties, I am, of course, looking forward to everything new – culture, food, sights… And last but not least, I hope that there will be a chance to see the Olympics, which should take place in Beijing in 2022.

Interviewers:

Michala Mizerová – trainee, current rotation: Communication Strategy and Content

Štěpán Pance – trainee, current rotation: Engine Development
 

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