TERKA Navrátilová

Interview: Tereza Navrátilová (ŠKODA AUTO a.s.): Cars can’t be manufactured without advanced IT

6. 1. 2021

Who has the most powerful corporate computer in the Czech Republic? You might not be surprised to find out that it belongs to ŠKODA AUTO, which takes the latest technologies very seriously. Development takes place in close cooperation with Czech and Slovak universities, and a number of ambitious projects have already seen the light of day.

ŠKODA AUTO’s doors are wide open to students and graduates, confirms Tereza Navrátilová, who is in charge of cooperation with IT faculties. Anyone who is interested in an internship or training program can find a custom-made position at the company. As she says, knowledge is important, but so are enthusiasm and a desire to learn new things—and students definitely have both.

 

IT SPY: You definitely have plenty of experience with students and graduates. How capable do you think Czech and Slovak IT students are? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

The IT students here and in Slovakia are of very high quality. We would recommend that students work on their foreign language skills more. We still come across students who don’t know the languages well enough to communicate fluently on the job.

IT SPY: Do Czech and Slovak universities sufficiently prepare their students for work in the real world, or do you think it is necessary for them to get an internship, part-time job or regular job while they are studying?

Of course, getting work experience while studying is very beneficial from several perspectives. What we value is the acquisition of actual work habits—students can even acquire these at the university when working on projects. However, even for us, the most important thing is definitely that the students properly complete their studies, and we always support them in that as much as possible when agreeing on how we will work together.

IT SPY: If I, as a student, am interested in ŠKODA AUTO while still studying, what should I do? Can the university establish a program with you and send me out to work on your projects and even for things like instruction, academic projects and Bachelor’s and Master’s theses?

We cooperate very closely with the academic sphere. All the things you have mentioned can be done here at ŠKODA AUTO—from projects directly at the university to final thesis consultations connected to an internship. One of the advantages of working with a company our size is that we can really find students custom-made positions with the option to rotate to another department with a different focus.

IT SPY: How has your experience cooperating with universities been? How is it going, and do you have any interesting projects that are worth mentioning?

We have only had the best experiences. We have a number of projects running. I can mention, for example, the latest concept for new assistance systems that is part of the joint project we are doing with VŠB (the Technical University of Ostrava) called “Follow the Vehicle”. The principle of this technology is that a vehicle travelling alone without a driver is controlled by the driver of the car in front of it. Some other examples are support of the development of a humanoid robot at the University of Hradec Králové and the processing of big data on employee illnesses at the Czech Technical University in Prague. And once again, we would like to thank everyone on campus who has been working with us.

IT SPY: What all does ŠKODA AUTO do in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and what kind of jobs can IT graduates find at your company? I would imagine that you do not just manufacture cars but also do things like develop new technologies.

That’s right. Everyone thinks of car manufacturing when they think of ŠKODA AUTO, but today that wouldn’t be possible without IT. Our technology portfolio is gigantic—from car development, which even includes things like creating virtual models, to line planning, management of administrative processes and the very important field of cybersecurity. The most powerful corporate supercomputer in the Czech Republic helps us with all this. Of course, we also touch on topics such as IoT and Industry 4.0, and we have people who specialize in AI, machine learning, the use of drones and much more. Employees always have access to the latest technology to do their work.

IT SPY: Is there a technological idea or invention that would be purely “Czechoslovak” (whether it be from students or graduates or even from a team of long-term employees) and be used by everyone working for ŠKODA AUTO, not to mention for the entire Volkswagen Group?

A unique Czechoslovak idea patented in the 1920s, which is still in use not only in the Volkswagen Group but throughout the entire automotive industry, is the production of engine blocks by die-casting aluminium. ŠKODA AUTO started to do it in 1964 to make the engine for the ŠKODA 1000 MB. Prior to that, molten aluminium had to be poured into a mould and then processed, which was quite uneconomical.

IT SPY: I’m a student who is thinking about the future and I’m interested in a future with ŠKODA AUTO. What fields should I be getting into now that will still be relevant when I finish university?

For IT graduates, it is important to be able to program, that is, to know the logic of programming languages, to understand what development looks like. The cloud is also becoming more important for us. Yes, and what is definitely useful is familiarity with SAP ERP. The SAP Competence Center, now based in Prague, was already established in 2012 and is constantly expanding. The IT specialists here develop digital tools and solutions with a focus on finance and logistics processes and they provide support to customers across the entire Volkswagen Group.

IT SPY: Do you expect the advent of “fields of the future”, which haven’t gained traction yet but in five or ten years will be indispensable to the automotive industry? For example, in connection with emerging electromobility?

Definitely. And not only in connection with electromobility. ŠKODA AUTO is becoming more and more of a technology company, and it is combining manufacturing with the latest knowledge from the world of IT.

IT SPY: What predisposes a person to be able to work (on development) for you?

The most important things for us are still enthusiasm and drive and the desire to learn new things. On top of that, knowledge of programming, a comprehensive overview of IT—whether from study or work experience. A very important factor is the ability to work on projects. ŠKODA AUTO also requires communication, not only within the team but also across the company. The rewards are huge opportunities to use the latest technologies, to meet people who are leaders in their fields and to work not only for the company but for the entire Volkswagen Group.