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22Nd July 2021

From mechanical engineering to electromobility

The era of electromobility is beginning. That’s why ŠKODA AUTO has created a new graduate program focused on e-mobility. We had the privilege of in terviewing Jakub Ryška, who’s been a part of the programme since January.

 
Jakub, you’re a renowned walker and enjoy hiking in the mountains. However you come from Jihlava, there aren’t many mountains there. Where did this passion come from?

From my parents, my father is a passionate athletic mountain climber, since my childhood we used to go for trips to the mountains (Pyrenees, Alps) and we often travel to Austria to go climbing. What I love most about the mountains is their almost terrifying majesty combined with that unbelievable silence, which almost doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s amazing to go for a multiple-day hike, spending the night “up there” in a tent, a bivouac or under the stars, and it’s something I always look forward to. I also really enjoy winter sports, downhill and cross-country skiing, or for instance ice climbing.

Ice climbing sounds like a fairly extreme sport, what is it like?

It’s like classical climbing just with the difference that you use ice axes and you’re surrounded by icicles, so the entertainment side of things is taken care of. However, in the Czech Republic there’s only a few places where you can go ice climbing. You have to climb on artificial ice walls.

Do you make use of any experiences from these sports during your work?

I don’t think so, they are completely separate things. Adrenaline from work is a completely different kind than the one I feel from sports, because there it’s connected to resting and when I’m doing sports I relax.

You worked as a lifeguard. How did that come about?

Once again through my family. My father and uncle used to swim in competitions. My uncle stuck at swimming and worked as a professional trainer in Jihlava. When I was young I also swam in competitions. We’re plugged in to the swimming community, so when I was 18 and looking for a summer job the option to become a life-guard just offered itself. After passing the necessary tests, I worked the whole summer at the water park in Jihlava and continued working there on the side for the rest of high-school and briefly as a university student.

Jakub Ryška

Jakub Ryška

Tech-trainee, currently in the smart quality department

He graduated from the Mechanical Engineering faculty of CTU (Czech Technical University) with a specialisation in motorised vehicles. In January 2021 he joined the Tech-Trainee program of ŠKODA AUTO, which is aimed at young tech graduates with an interest in modern technology. So far he’s been working in departments which develop car electronics and check their quality. He’s now working in the smart quality department – testing the functionality of the driver assistance systems from the point of view of customer testing. In his free time he loves to head off to the mountains, where he indulges in multiple-day mountain treks, climbing or winter sports including ice climbing.
Let’s come back to your career. How was it studying at CTU?

I wish I could respond to this question in the words of our deacon prof. Valášek: “Studying at CTU is very challenging, but also fun. You won’t experience this much fun anywhere else”. Studying was difficult, but there’s not much to be said about the fun aspect. During the semester I was stretched to capacity and so didn’t get much chance to enjoy the student life. It’s joked that students at the Mechanical Faculty look forward to exam time, because they only have to focus on studying without all the extra work on top. But for me the exam season was always dreadful. I really studied hard for exams and it took lots of time, not to mention the psychological load. Thankfully I always managed to pass all my exams on the first try, so at least I was quickly through it and got to enjoy longer summer holidays. I can still remember what a great feeling it was to leave the university after the last June exam, excited about the start of summer.

Was Mechanical Engineering always an obvious choice for you?

Since the beginning of primary school I was always good at physics and my grandfather happened to teach the subject. So I was never far from engineering. I had to decide between civil and mechanical engineering, either at the Brno University of Technology or Czech Technical University. Mech eng won because of cars, I liked the idea of studying vehicles and in the future designing them. And in the end I decided to study in Prague because I liked the metro and both my parents studied at the CTU’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

You say that studying at the Mechanical engineering faculty was difficult; did you manage to fit in an internship with some company from the field?

During my Bachelor’s studies I only did a summer internship at BOSCH in Jihlava, because I wanted to focus primarily on studying, then later on work. Afterwards, during my Master’s I did an internship at Porsche Engineering, where I wrote my Thesis.

When you look back to your studies, is there something you would do differently?

If I had study again, I would approach my studies more pragmatically. I would either focus more on cooperating with partners from industry and participating in student groups or I would do more sports and travel. Because now I realize that it is not so easy to travel and enjoy the freedom of student life as before.

You chose Automotive engineering as your field of study. School must have prepared you well to work in automotive. What area of automotive was your “dream job”?

Definitely testing. I would like to test cars in extreme conditions, in extreme cold and heat. The best part is the travelling to USA or to Sweden, because you need to test these conditions in real life, so you can go to very interesting places all around the world. That would be a dream job for me, because you are not in the office all day, but it is full of variety. If someone’s interested and proactive, they can find themselves involved in very interesting projects.

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What’s the purpose of the Trainee Programme?

The ŠKODA AUTO Trainee Programme is attended by talented university graduates looking to start their careers at ŠKODA AUTO. For a year, they rotate across the company's departments where they develop their abilities under the guidance of experienced mentors. As a result, they get a close look at how the company works. Trainees come from all around the world and they form a talent pool from various fields and cultures. The programme also includes experience in production and in our dealer network, or an internship abroad.

As a trainee, do you have an opportunity to see projects before revealing them to the public?

Sure. I had the opportunity to look under the hood of some “secret” projects. It was super cool because I had opportunity to see the new FABIA, the new ENYAQ Coupe and the facelift of KODIAQ before their release. I always got excited when ŠKODA revealed a new car to the public and as a trainee I get to be a part of it before its unveiling.

Rumors often circulate around that ŠKODA AUTO almost does nothing and that all new ideas come from Volkswagen.

Certainly not. Here we’re responsible, for example, for all drum brakes, MPi engines and ESP units in the VW GROUP. ŠKODA has also taken over responsibility for the North Africa, Russia and India markets recently, because these markets that suit the brand.

Your first position was at the department of cars electronics. Now you are working at the department of smart quality where you are dealing with assistance systems.

JAs a graduate of mechanical engineering, I’ve always approached electrical disciplines with caution. However, my first experiences at the department of cars electronics changed my mind. My mentor Petr Kadleček taught me a lot about cars’ on-board network, communication through CAN and LIN buses and safety and driver assistance systems. It gave me a completely new perspective on an area which I hadn’t had much experience of, and it opened my eyes to the fact that a car is not just an engine, transmission and chassis.

You mentioned testing assistance systems. Is it dangerous? Are they tested in a real traffic?

At my first department, driver assistances were tested on HiL stations, which are shelves with connected control units and their sensors. At these stations it is then possible to simulate real traffic on the road using various electrical signals. You can also connect to Virtual Reality and test collision systems.

So you can’t test these collision systems in the real traffic.

No, these systems are tested on a special track, where necessary safety can be guaranteed. At my current department of smart quality, we test driver assistance systems in normal traffic. For example, once the park assist function is released to development because it meets all safety requirements, then at smart quality we test it in real traffic and after a specific number of tests without an accident, we can release it to the customers. All tests must be carried out in the conditions laid out in the car’s manual.

You graduated from mechanical engineering, but you are currently working with car electronics. Isn’t it a different discipline?

I would say that mechanical engineer should learn some basics of car electronics so he would use this knowledge when developing an electric car. My studies taught me to deal with obstacles and how to learn new things in a reasonable time.

Are both of the fields so linked together that you can build an electric car using knowledge of a mechanical engineer?

Yes and no. From the point of view of propulsion, these are different disciplines, but from the point of view of electronics and control units, it is the same as with a conventional car.

So when you begin at a new department, do you have to learn about a whole new issue?

Zase bych nepřeháněl s postavením, ale rozhodně bych se měl naučit principy fungování elektroniky ve voze, abych s těmi vědomostmi poté dokázal pracovat a pomoci při vývoji. Je to podobné jako při studiu, které dalo člověku základ, přehled, ale ve výsledku ho hlavně naučilo, jak si poradit s překážkami a jak se naučit novým věcem v rozumně krátké době (myšleno noc před zkouškou).

Konkrétní problematiku se tedy naučíš až přímo na oddělení?

Exactly. I can’t be a specialist in every field. It is important to have a mind-set of learning and deepening my knowledge in specific fields.

Why there is rivality between mechanical and electrical engineers?

Hard to say. My both parents are electrical engineers and sometimes my father and I argue. He doesn’t understand my technical drawings and I don’t know much about his electricity. On the other hand, we make a good team together

Perhaps you could establish a family company for building electric cars. You could build the chassis and you parents would take care of the drivetrain. ☺

This would be great but we would need a purchasing and finance department. ☺

Are new ŠKODAs computers with wheels?

Sure. We’ve been building cars for 125 years and we learned to make them perfectly from the mechanical point of view. However, as regards the software in the car, legislation is more and more demanding and the cars’ complexity is increasing exponentially whilst the number of employees stays the same. Which is why we’re here, us Tech-trainees, to have a looks at the issue from a different perspective and figure out solutions.

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What is the Trainee program?

It is a unique way to start your career. The program lasts a year and is intended for university graduates who will get to work at various company departments through a system of rotations. The program has two branches.

Business Trainee program – A great choice for those who have studied economics or business at university. You’ll get a close-up look at the department of Marketing, HR, Strategy, Purchasing or After-sales. Experienced mentors will help you along the way. “We appreciate, among other things, good communication skills, team spirit and the ability to assert oneself – but always with humility,” says program leader Bětka Budinská.

Tech Trainee program – It is intended for graduates of technical universities. You will be part of teams in Development, Quality and Production, and will work under the guidance of top experts on projects such as electromobility. This is exactly where ŠKODA AUTO sees the future of the automotive industry. “Great communication skills do not play such a role in technically oriented trainees, we rather evaluate the interest in the field, expertise and desire to work in a team during the admission procedure,” adds Bětka.

Have you driven the new ENYAQ iV?

Sure. I attended the product training and also got to test the assistance systems. I’ve driven it a bit and I think it is pretty decent to drive.

What is your favourite ŠKODA car?

I really like the new OCTAVIA RS, I would choose a red one with black details and nice big wheels.

Do you have any advice for those, who would like to try the Trainee program.

I would recommend them to be active during their studies, in student societies and cooperate with industrial partners for example. Writing your Master’s thesis in a company is also a great idea. That way one can gain really necessary experience in industry, which looks good on your CV. Working or studying abroad is great for the candidate, but trainees also need to work on their soft skills. ŠKODA can turn you into a specialist, but nobody will want to work with you if you don’t have some soft skills. It is important to have a good atmosphere in the office.

Interview by trainees:

Marek Šikola – current department: Implementation of product into production

Ondřej Pavlíček – current department: Planning of component production

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