smart lab instead of startup: How Daimler recruits great young talent

Daimler does much more than just develop and build cars. The entire company is being transformed and increasingly becoming a provider of mobility services. This also makes Daimler appealing for employees who don’t come from the automotive sector as such. I’m one of them!

I’ve been working at the smart lab since March 2017. The smart lab is an agile development platform for connected car services. In other words, we develop automobile-related services that help simplify urban life. To do so, I disbanded my one-man startup company. Why did I do that? Let me explain:

I studied technical journalism at Aalen University from 2012 to 2017. This course of study is extremely versatile, and I learned everything from mechatronics engineering and programming languages such as JavaScript to 3D animation. I therefore studied a broad range of useful subjects. This promoted the kind of crossover thinking that is expected nowadays from almost all graduates.

I did my last exam in mid-2016, but it still took me a while to complete my bachelor’s thesis. Unlike the other students, I decided to take it slow because I didn’t need to complete my degree immediately. Instead, I wanted to pick up useful skills along the way.

As a result, I took the knowledge I gained during my studies, added one or more autodidactic courses, and decided to see if I could run a small business until I found the right topic for my bachelor’s thesis. My business idea was as simple as it was logical. Why should I waste my talent by working as a kitchen help or a gas station attendant if I had the skills to do something creative? And that’s why I became a kind of media designer and advisor. Moreover, I also became a business consultant, a cameraman, a cutter, an expert for e-tutorials, and a 3D designer. My clients were generally business people, who probably had more experience than I could ever gain over the next 20 years. However, I had a clear motto: nothing is impossible as long as you start doing it.

The nudge in the right direction

After I had established myself as a startup entrepreneur and found my niche in life, I suddenly encountered the name “Daimler.” And, as is generally the case with beautiful events, they mostly occur unexpectedly when we are enjoying a glass of red wine on a friend’s terrace. The friend told me that I would be a great match for a team, which he knew from one of his previous projects.

I had more than enough work to do at the time, and I wasn’t even considering an internship. My one-man startup was providing me with a good livelihood, after all, and the people with whom I worked together valued my opinion. Should I again start from scratch and have to prove myself to others? Should I show them that I wasn’t some ignorant intern who had just graduated from college and was now being thrown into the “lion’s den” for the first time? It was an uncomfortable situation.

One of my top priorities is to always learn new things, even if it’s done in difficult circumstances. It wasn’t just because my graduation was steadily getting closer that I was thinking about getting a job at Daimler. I therefore decided to take Action.

Demonstrate your enthusiasm

In the same way as Mario Götze slept on FC Bayern bedsheets when he was a little boy, it had been my childhood dream to some day work at the very center of Daimler. I wanted to be part of a company that sets the pace for the entire automotive industry. And because my mini startup now provided enough work for five people, I knew that I could always return to my old business if things with Daimler didn’t work out.

Shortly before I started at the smart lab, I nevertheless asked my friend for some advice concerning the work at such a big company. His reply has been a kind of mantra for me to the present day:

 When you feel like doing a project, you must express your demands; ask as many questions as you can, and then just do it! Show everyone that you are enthusiastic about doing it.

This isn’t a problem for the team where I now work, because it has more than enough projects and topics it can address. The talent there is “young” — not necessarily with regard to their age in years, but certainly with respect to their attitudes. They are a bunch of people who work enthusiastically and passionately to change things. I don’t have to worry about any of our team members’ work-life balance. We love what we do. Everything goes hand in hand and there is no need for the traditional Division.

After my experiences as a self-employed person, I would have never thought that the time that I have spent since then at a big company would be so exciting. But during my first ten months at the smart lab, I’ve had one spectacular week after another. When I tell my former class-mates and friends about all the things that I’ve done and that I’ve experienced, I can barely believe it myself.

Looking back, I certainly had a wild ride as I went from being a user interface designer of our “ready to” app to becoming an integral part of the lab. This ride had it’s ups and downs, but I wouldn’t want to miss a single second of it. In the end, it was probably a mixture of good luck and hard work that caused this ride to end in a permanent job contract for myself. A permanent job contract may not sound very sexy nowadays. But is there anything more exciting than to work together with great people in shaping the future?

My year just began with the smart lab’s international kickoff at the CES in Las Vegas. There, the smart labs from the USA, China, and Germany were united at the large smart booth, where they worked together with colleagues from Mercedes Benz in order to make life easier in the city. It provided us with an ideal opportunity to present our “ready to” services to an expert audience during the entire CES.

During my return trip from the CES I was able to take the time to give you a glimpse of my path to the smart lab — and to show you that Daimler is also an appealing employer for talented young people.

If you are interested in the smart lab and would like to learn more, you’ll be pleased to hear that we will tell you more about our projects in the coming months here at the Daimler blog!

Until then, I’d like to thank you for reading my brief story.


This text was written by Tom Jetter, a self-proclaimed researcher and adventurer who works on future-oriented technologies. Since March 2017, he has been working at Daimler in the portfolio and product strategy unit of smart. Although he originally devoted himself to the study of engineering, aesthetics is the real leitmotif of his life. As a young go-getter, his primary goal is to creatively push the envelope. After focusing on the production of digital media, he is now concentrating on connected car services and neurosciences. It’s an exciting mixture of his work at Aalen University, where he develops brain-computer interfaces for coma patients and holds lectures about man-machine interaction, and his work in the smart lab at Daimler AG.