In a premier contribution to our new series titled ‘Talking with Partners’, we bring you an insightful and comprehensive conversation with Alexander Eisl, the head of IT at Škoda Auto. Discussing the future of 42 Prague’s founding partner, we delve into the company's strategic vision for the next five years, focusing on IT's role in automotive innovations, challenges in electric and autonomous vehicle technology, cybersecurity, and collaboration with 42 Prague.
Q: As Škoda Auto looks five years ahead, what exciting breakthroughs or innovations do you foresee in the automotive industry that will heavily rely on IT?
“When looking towards the future, we're focusing on several key areas at Škoda IT. The concept of connected cars is one of our main topics. The connected car is a very important asset for us, not just in terms of infotainment systems used while driving but also in the broader digital services ecosystem surrounding the car. For instance, our MyŠkoda app represents a significant value addition beyond the car's hardware.
Moreover, analysing vehicle data and usage patterns is another area we are deeply invested in. Understanding how our cars are used during driving and in other scenarios helps us optimise workshop processes and offer predictive maintenance, leading up to online updates and repairs. This entire process hinges on digital components within the car and a strong IT backend.
Electromobility is paramount in our strategy, involving detailed analysis of battery behaviour and adapting to changes in battery environments. It's also about intelligent charging solutions. Additionally, the shift towards mobility as a service is reshaping our focus. It’s no longer just about the car itself, but about the broader concept of mobility, where IT plays a significant and ever-growing role."
Q: With electric and autonomous vehicles gaining traction, how will Škoda’s IT department adapt to these technologies, and what role will IT play in shaping the driving experience of the future?
"As I have mentioned, our adaptation to these emerging technologies centres around the concept of connectivity. Collecting and analysing data from vehicles that influence driving behaviour is essential, which is especially important for both electromobility and autonomous driving. We need to digitally understand driving first in order to optimise it. This involves simulating driving behaviour to replace some aspects of the driver, which requires understanding how our cars have been driven.
This is a cross-functional effort, and we are working closely with our IT departments, engineers from technical development, and digital experts. We are already using modern data technologies and AI to prepare for these upcoming challenges in the automotive sector. It's all about being prepared with emerging technologies, which we are actively doing."
Q: Considering the rise of connected vehicles, what proactive measures is Škoda IT taking to safeguard customer data and ensure resilience against cyberattacks?
"As you correctly pointed out, cybersecurity is one of the priorities for both our customers and employees. We must ensure that our products and services, along with the data, are always safe. This is an increasing challenge because connecting more of our systems and products deepens cybersecurity's complexity and relevance.
We strongly focus on the qualifications of our employees and ensure that cybersecurity is an integral part of their work. Practically, this means conducting certifications, internal and external audits, penetration testing, managing vulnerabilities, and many more activities to keep our data and products secure. Cybersecurity is our priority and will require increasing investments in the future."
Q: How does Škoda and its IT department actively engage with 42 Prague, and what future initiatives are planned?
"Personally, IT is a way to enrich your job, your career. This is why we are very happy and proud of our partnership with 42 Prague. The collaboration is a chance for people to develop further skills in IT, which is a future-proof decision. And as we are continually increasing our investments in these areas, we always need more talented individuals.
We aim to interact with students in as many formats as possible. For example, we invite students to our events, participate in their events, and show them how the industry — automotive and IT — works. Furthermore, we also provide them with unique opportunities at Škoda. Apart from exclusive job listings, we also have mentorship programs for the students, which benefit both the students and our employees. It's an exchange of guidance, technical advice, and insights into the IT job landscape and personal development. I’m pleased to say that because of the high demand, we're looking for more mentors to support more students. Finally, we're proud to showcase our working environment in Prague and Mladá Boleslav."
Q: As we address the shortage of IT specialists, particularly in the Czech Republic, does Škoda provide training programs or internships for people entering junior-level positions?
"The shortage of IT specialists is indeed a complex challenge. Attracting new talents is critical for retaining our competitive advantage and accelerating growth. We aim to tackle this in several ways. Besides 42 Prague, we offer a variety of internal training programs and cooperate with universities. Our internships provide practical experience in various IT fields, contributing to significant projects like the MyŠkoda app. We're committed to nurturing talent and integrating them into our teams. We're also proud to be recognized as a top IT employer in the Czech market, reflecting our focus on being an attractive employer and active in cooperation with universities."
Q: Mr. Eisl, thank you for your time. Do you have any closing thoughts you'd like to share as we conclude this interview?
"I'm very pleased to have had this discussion. Hopefully, it marks the start of a long and fruitful series of 'Talking with Škoda', as I am excited to do this again in several months’ time when we’ll have the first students finishing their internships at Škoda Auto.
We're excited about the future of IT in the automotive industry and look forward to continuing our collaboration with 42 Prague. This partnership significantly shapes the next generation of IT professionals, and we are thrilled to be at the forefront."