Ulrich Häusl is the group leader for HMI platform development at Telemotive. In an interview, Ulrich reveals how he came to Telemotive, the roles that exist on the SCRUM team, and who has a good chance of finding a career at Telemotive.
What three things spring to mind when you think about Telemotive?
Ulrich: Teamwork, moving things forwards and an exciting environment.
Thanks. But first, let's focus on you: What was it that led you to Telemotive?
Ulrich: I grew up in a small town in the Bavarian Alps, but I’ve been living in Munich since 1998, where I studied mathematics, physics and informatics to become a high school teacher. But even before I had started my student teacher training, it was clear to me that I would rather work in a team. So, I ended up at a company in the field of satellite navigation technology. I worked there for four years developing software for signal generators that can be used to simulate Galileo, GPS and other satellite navigation systems. I then started at Telemotive in 2010, actually to help out in the GENIVI area to get LINUX into cars.
And that’s when the nasty surprise happened?
Ulrich: Surprise yes, nasty no. Because after a brief project at the beginning, I quickly came across the area of instrument cluster HMI, which was totally unfamiliar to me at the time, but incredibly exciting.
Which specific positions have you held at Telemotive?
Ulrich: I started out as a software developer, which is quite normal around here. Then I became a software project leader and after that a team leader for 3D software. I am now a group leader for HMI platform development and have 15 people in my team. Things can move fast at Telemotive...
What are your main tasks?
Ulrich: Right now? Writing way too many emails and going to way too many meetings to acquire new projects and continuously progressing every possible aspect of the actual project work. One thing, however, is most important: Making sure my team can work in the best possible manner.
Have you ever regretted joining Telemotive?
Ulrich: No. You never get bored here. There are constant new challenges. There’s always something moving forwards...
What makes Telemotive what it is? What would you rather not go without?
Ulrich: It’s just great being able to create things yourself and get actively involved in ongoing developments, whether they are processes, contents or results. This opportunity runs right through the entire company. Everyone is allowed to put their ideas on the table, and if they’re good, they’re implemented. No matter where they come from.
Is there a big difference from classic corporations or competitors?
Ulrich: Luckily, we don't have the classic corporation hierarchy – the one where something is decided at the top which is then announced “top-down”, with the employees right down at the bottom of the chain of command. Telemotive still feels like a start-up: With us, communication works in both directions. With us, everyone can speak completely openly about everything with each level. Almost all of our executives sit in direct proximity to the teams and keep close tabs on everyday business for that fact alone.
Are you all on familiar terms?
Ulrich: Of course - anything else just wouldn’t suit us. We’re even on familiar terms with the directors. That brings people closer together, which is a good thing.
How do newcomers react to the Telemotive culture to begin with?
Ulrich: Well, many of them have already been with us before their first day of work. After the job interview, we very often also organize a get-to-know-you event in our department. Attending this gives the applicants the opportunity to get to know the team, where we work and our projects from up-close. That’s when the applicants get enthusiastic about us – for example, when they see how tangible our developments are, even though we write embedded software for a control unit, and when they get a sense of the working atmosphere. After just two to four hours, they go home with a really detailed picture of their future working environment: it’s the best prerequisite for a successful future together! During their studies, many of our employees also worked with us as interns or working students. In addition, we also train our specialized computer scientists ourselves. And to ensure that the induction period runs smoothly after they start, we assign each new employee a mentor who looks after them and is on hand to answer their questions.
Let’s move in specifically to your area, HMI platform development. What do you all do in this area?
Ulrich: We develop the software components the driver sees when he looks at one of the displays in the vehicle. Software with a high proportion of graphics and extremely complex functional logic, but, because of the limited hardware, still embedded software, which also has to satisfy the safety requirements of ISO 26262 to some extent. The development tasks alone are super diverse: Software creation in C and C++, graphics development, state machine modeling, software integration, safeguarding... and those are just some of the areas. Then there’s a whole bunch of organizational and coordination topics with clients and interface partners. Our projects are usually real long-runners: two years from start of development to the first use in series production and a further four years with continuous expansion of the functionalities is extremely commonplace for us.
What does the classic career of your employees look like?
Ulrich: I can’t say in general terms. A person’s career progression usually happens quite automatically, depending on their personality. We work according to the agile project organization method called SCRUM; this means it is the team’s responsibility to perform all the tasks necessary for the project to be a success and to build up and pass on the skills required for this. The continuous accrual of knowledge is also a part of everyday life in the team. Some members gradually develop themselves into experts for a particular topic, others poke about in all task areas and become all-rounders, ideally multi-talents. Those who put their lifeblood into constantly improving the processes in the team often become Scrum Masters, and those who keep a constant eye on the overall success of the project and get actively involved in planning sooner or later become Product Owners. In any event, everyone has a realistic chance of finding their dream job if their attitude and dedication are in sync. At Telemotive, everyone can earn their rewards – nothing is simply hung around their necks at random. We also pay very close attention to appointing each applicant to a position, which is right for him or her. And so far, we’ve found something suitable to match every good applicant...
“With us, everyone can earn their rewards – nothing is simply hung around their necks at random.”
What mostly motivates your employees? Working on the big vision for mobility?
Ulrich: I would say it tends to be the smaller success stories, which really motivate us. And being able to support a project from start to finish and then have a super result makes us really proud. From my own experience as a software developer, I can tell you how great it feels to personally experience the instrument cluster you have developed in a vehicle for the very first time! And a good cup of coffee or a quick game of table football for creative break times never hurt anybody.
Imagine you could bake the perfect applicant – what would he or she be like?
Ulrich: When we’re convinced that somebody is inquisitive and can work independently, they will always be given a chance. Even if they come from a completely different background, or maybe don’t even have any educational qualifications. We’re happy to take a broader view. After all, experience shows that the people who are bursting to want to improve something often really blossom with us! Obviously, we are really interested in information scientists and electrical engineers – especially those with a focus on software; but people who also have a qualification in mathematics or physics will have the best prerequisites to start working with us. As we develop graphics-oriented software, a lot of the graduates we take on come from the media sector and media informatics. In any event, the applicant should like working in a team – that’s very important. Those who aren’t so keen on personal contact will find our teams hard going because we all work very closely together. But we also have projects in other departments where the tasks mean that people tend to work on their own, which better suits people who are more solitary in nature. It’s also important to have a kind of natural drive to want to make things better – a certain kind of curiosity. That’s much more important than the applicant bringing everything they need to know with them for the work they do with us.
“The people who are bursting to want to improve something often really blossom with us!”
What else do you look for in candidates?
Ulrich: I’m a visual type and I also pay attention to how the application documents are prepared. What matters in the end, however, are the facts, which is why I naturally also invite candidates who aren’t professional designers. Of course, the supporting letter will tell me a lot – for example, the candidate’s basic approach to dealing with the topic of software development and what is important to them. In a personal chat, I then try to dig a bit deeper into how somebody thinks about software development; how they start, what they pay attention to, what is more and less important to them... That ultimately provides a complete picture. I also pay attention to whether somebody fits into the team well and whether they have a certain amount of curiosity. A little bit of humility also makes a graduate likable.
What has been the best experience for you personally during your time at Telemotive?
Ulrich: My first parental leave. OK, that's not directly related to my work, but those were the two best months in my life so far, and Telemotive made them possible for me - easy and straightforward. In my job, I’m delighted to have mastered every single one of the requirements, and to have built up one of the most important competency areas at Telemotive with my colleagues.