As numerous international companies, like Google, Amazon, Zalando or Huawei, have decided in the last few years to make the move and expand their teams and offices to Lisbon, Volkswagen announced in 2018 their decision to do the same.
However, they had a different project in mind: to build a startup-like business within the global behemoth Volkswagen Group. This meant tremendous challenges when it comes to setting up the business, creating a culture that fits it and building a star team, especially of a very specific category of professionals — tech professionals.
I. Hi Marcel and Mark! Do you want to start by explaining your positions and responsibilities at Volkswagen Digital Solutions?
Hi, I am Marcel Bodensiek, Managing Director of Volkswagen Digital Solutions. My focus is on the development and implementation of our general strategy, Marketing, Communications, and our Service Delivery.
And I am Mark Jacobi, also Managing Director. I focus on Financial Management, HR and Recruiting. Additionally, I have the responsibility for Procurement, Facility Management and organizing the day to day communications of the company.
II. Can you describe the structure and the organization of Volkswagen Digital Solutions?
VWDS is organized in three tech units focusing on very specific topics and projects. They are SDC:LX, MAN Digital Hub, and AMS.
At SDC (Software Development Center) our UX/UI Designers, Product Managers, and Developers work together to build better products every day, using Extreme Programming & TDD practices. The tech teams have the freedom to choose the relevant tech stacks for the job.
MAN Digital Hub builds great digital products in the world of logistics, transportation, and commercial vehicles. Together with our MAN Truck & Bus colleagues all over the world we develop & operate products for various business areas of MAN Truck & Bus SE.
Application Management Services provides 24/7 support for the Volkswagen Financial Services subsidiaries around the world and is also currently expanding to support the Mobile Online Services that allow Volkswagen customers to have a seamlessly integrated experience with their vehicles.
III. What impact do you think the software being developed by the SDC:LX and MAN Digital Hub will have in everyday life and when do you think it’ll come to the streets?
The software developed by these teams will be in every Volkswagen and MAN vehicle in the future. At SDC:LX we are currently developing software that will impact each user of our new line of electric vehicles. Our MAN Digital Hub team is also developing software that will further enhance logistics and transportation. So it will impact everybody without people noticing it. Optimizing transportation or electrifying our fleets will reduce our CO2 footprint as Volkswagen Group. And we are proud to be a part of the Volkswagen Group journey into the digital world.
IV. What part does Culture take in the structure of the business and the way it’s run?
Culture is the main asset and main differentiator in attracting people and keeping them in any company. Simple things like joint meals or coffee breaks, retros, standups, and all hands meetings may sound trivial but they are the glue that sticks the people together. These moments provide a space where everyone is heard and seen and knows what’s going on. It’s also a space for getting to know each other better, talking about literally any subject. These rituals are very important in our daily routine and strengthen the company culture. Transparency and clear communication are pillars that support the organization so we make the most of them. We focus on onboarding, not just the right skill but the right combination of technical and social skills. We absolutely believe in equal pay and equal opportunities.
V. Why was Portugal the choice to host your tech hubs?
For a variety of reasons. First of all, the Portuguese are open-minded people and we find a rare combination of technical, language and social skills in our employees. Lisbon has developed into a tech hub and has a very tech-friendly government. We have felt and still feel very welcome here in Portugal.
VI. And 12 months after officially opening doors, what are the first conclusions you can draw from the experience?
The biggest challenge has been building a unique culture. Because our 3 Tech Hubs have very different work methodologies (for example, at MAN Digital Hub we use Scrum and at SDC we use Extreme Programming!), we need to have a culture where everybody feels they are part of the same company and are proud to work together.
We have a startup atmosphere and mindset and we will keep this while still being part of the Volkswagen Group. As a tech person, this would be the place where I would want to work. By getting rid of traditional ways of top-down management and creating a culture where transparency rules and where our people’s needs and ideas are heard we create this company together.
VII. Regarding the future, what plans do you have for the Volkswagen Digital Solutions tech hubs?
Obviously we want to grow the tech hubs. Our long term vision is to stay here, grow a Portuguese company with its own culture and possibly reach out into different parts of Portugal. So there is more to come.
We want to thank Marcel and Mark for sharing with us their unique view on the presence of Volkswagen Digital Solutions in Portugal. You can find more details regarding their current opportunities here.
Aim for more,
Business Developer PT @ Landing.jobs