Having a job interview at Daimler is already exciting enough. But if the CEO conducts your job interview personally, that’s definitely a thrilling experience!
I found out about the Job Seekers’ Day in Stuttgart when I attended the “Women in Technology” career fair in Munich. There I met a human resources representative from Daimler. I told him that I’m studying electrical engineering and am mainly interested in the area of autonomous driving. “Then you absolutely have to come to our Job Seekers’ Day. In this field, Daimler is looking for people just like you!” he said. So I applied — and I was invited to attend. If I had only known back then who would be driving me through my job interview!
The first point on the agenda: Start the engine!
8:20 a.m., Böblingen
We met in a hotel, where all of the participants received a warm welcome. After that, we had the opportunity to get to know each other and have some interesting conversations. The mood within our group of job seekers was charged with energy. All of us were highly motivated and excited about the program ahead of us.
A warm-up welcome in the wind tunnel
9:00 a.m., Sindelfingen
Next stop: The wind tunnel in Sindelfingen. The head of the automated driving unit made an interesting presentation about the latest developments in this area. Daimler is one of the pioneers in the field of autonomous driving. All over the world, Daimler research vehicles are being put through their paces on test tracks on five continents. The test results flow into the development of systems that are also suitable for scenarios in dense traffic.
This will be made possible by assistance systems that are already very advanced and powerful and are continuously further developed. But this doen’t go without saying that safety always has absolute top priority in the development process.
During the coffee break I had the opportunity to talk to the unit manager. My first thought was, “Oh no, it’s the unit manager! I have to make a good impression on him!” But the conversation was very relaxed. We talked about my career goals and his field of work. It was really a pleasant surprise to find out how approachable even the top managers at Daimler are.
A simulated driving experience
9:45 a.m., Sindelfingen
Next stop: The driving simulator in Sindelfingen. We were taken to see one of the world’s biggest driving simulators, and we were even allowed to “drive” it ourselves. In the simulator, you’re sitting in a virtual S-Class car and you can test the active safety systems that are already standard equipment in Daimler production vehicles today.
During the virtual test drive in 3D we could experience present-day assistance systems in various scenarios in a direct and interactive way. I was fascinated to see how well developed the technical potential already is today! These experiences further strengthened my wish to tinker with this technology myself in the future.
A startup or really Daimler? The Inno workshop
This was followed by a stop that was the next highlight for me: a visit to the Inno workshop in Böblingen. The people who work here in a big hall develop hundreds of crazy ideas every single day. We were divided into small teams, and we had the opportunity to work on an issue related to automated driving and then to pitch our ideas in two-minute presentations.
My team’s question was: “How could V2X communication be used to improve self-driving cars? In V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communication, the car receives information about road conditions, congestion, accidents, hazards, and other possible obstructions through signals from other vehicles, intelligent roadside stations (IRSs), and radio beacons. Every team dealt with a different scenario, such as city versus country driving, commuting to work, or driving to a leisure activity. Our team presented ideas for the following situation: “a businessman driving in the city.”
After that, we saw a live demonstration of how precise and safe automated parking can be with the help of a mobile phone on the basis of the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage example. The driver, who is standing near the car, identifies himself or herself via mobile phone, connects with the car, and starts the parking process. The parking lot has been equipped with scanners that observe the driving route and its surroundings and send control signals to the vehicle. The sensors also register where the car is standing and where its assigned parking space is located, and they send parking instructions to the vehicle.
In addition to the technology, I was really impressed by the working atmosphere at the Inno workshop. It was dynamic and creative, more like that of a startup than that of a major company. People were on a first-name basis as a matter of course. At first I thought this was a bit odd, but I felt comfortable with it very soon.
This aspect in particular made it increasingly clear to me how much I would like to be part of this company. Next, I was asked if I knew Daimler’s CEO. Laughing, I answered, “Not personally. But it would be an honor to know him.” In fact, I thought to myself that probably not even long-standing employees had direct contact with him.
A CARPool interview with Dieter Zetsche
In my case, I only had to wait a few hours rather than years before meeting Dieter Zetsche. I was told I would have a job interview while sitting in a partly automated S-Class, but I had absolutely no idea WHO would conduct this interview. I did find it odd that two photographers were sitting in the car in front of us, but in my mind I was concentrating completely on the upcoming job interview.
So I opened the door on the passenger side, turned my head so that I could politely greet the driver, who would also be my interviewer, and then — gasp! Instead of an anonymous interviewer, Dr. Dieter Zetsche in person was sitting behind the steering wheel. I could barely believe my eyes, but fortunately (thank God!) I immediately knew who he was because of his white mustache.
Putting on my best poker face and trying to keep my cool, I stretched out my hand and introduced myself. Our conversation than developed as follows:
Dr. Z: Hello, nice to meet you!
I (still somewhat shocked): Hello… My name is Molka Elleuch.
Dr. Z: Dieter Zetsche
I: It’s nice to meet you!
Dr. Z (smiling): May I call you Molka?
Dr. Z.: Wonderful, I’m Dieter, and you’re Molka.
Wonderful?! At that moment, a thousand questions flashed through my mind! Was I on a candid-camera show? Was Daimler playing a joke on me? What was Dieter Zetsche doing there? And what was I doing there? What kind of job would require the CEO to personally interview me? This video shows how our conversation continued:
Unfortunately, what you can’t see in the video is that Dr. Dieter Zetsche also allowed me to ask him some personal questions, but in this situation I wasn’t really confident enough to do so. Today I regret that, because I can think of many questions I could have asked him: What does he still want to accomplish in his position? What are the factors that have kept him committed to Daimler for 40 years? Where does he think Daimler will be in five years from now?
My first impression of him was confirmed in the course of our conversation. In my opinion, he is very appealing, open-minded, and humorous. He’s simply a great role model! What I remember best is the last thing he said. I had told him that I would like to own an autonomously driving Mercedes someday. Dr. Zetsche replied, “Or you could help us develop one.” I answered, “Of course that would be even more exciting!” I will never forget this 30-minute drive with him. It was awesome!
In Munich, a few days later
Surely I told my family, my friends, and my flatmates about my adventure. In the beginning, nobody believed me. But this blog entry should clear up all the doubts. I look forward to seeing what working at Daimler will be like in the future — and whether I’ll have another opportunity to ask my unanswered questions to Dieter Zetsche.
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