With an open-plan office that offers separate meeting rooms and all the facilities required for digital meetings, as well as table football, a ping-pong table, and a separate area with a games console – at first glance, my workplace is reminiscent of a start-up. Here, at Av. Duque de Ávila 21in Lisbon, my team and I work on the development of operational software products in the MAN Digital Hub. Our goal is to improve internal processes within MAN, but also for our customers. This includes the data management of e-buses, for example. The software we develop can also be used to monitor battery charging processes.
The Hub was founded in the summer of 2018 as one of three tech units of the IT competence center Volkswagen Digital Solutions. Now, five years later, the MAN Digital Hub has outgrown its start-up phase and is so successful that colleagues from other locations and other brands are also interested in our work. This is a great development, and an example of how an open and creative atmosphere can be a booster for innovation. Around 210 colleagues from 17 nations currently work at the Hub, with two-thirds of them from Portugal. Every day, they take the opportunity to try things out, learn new approaches and develop new ideas. Naturally, this includes making mistakes and learning from them. What counts is the willingness to think outside the box – and to successfully drive a project forward together with the team. All being well, this attitude generates economic success and happy customers…
Learning from others and dealing with each other openly but respectfully is precisely the kind of cooperation that distinguishes the Hub. Every colleague has the feeling they’re part of something really big. What else sets us apart? We have a pronounced feedback culture. Feedback isn’t limited to annual 360-degree "Talent Management Process" sessions but happens virtually every day.
By the way, we’re currently introducing another modern organizational approach in the Hub – working with OKRs, which stands for "Objectives and Key Results". It aims to pursue the goal of reacting in flexible and agile ways to dynamic and highly complex changes. This process enables managers and employees to formulate the company's goals together. That’s why having work areas on the first, second and third floors arranged like a coworking space is just perfect: desks can be moved together or separated as needed.
For two years now, I’ve been living in a suburb west of Lisbon near the Atlantic Ocean with my wife and four children who are aged between 12 and three. My commute to the office takes between 30 and 60 minutes – depending on when I leave and the state of traffic. When I got the opportunity to work for MAN as an engineering manager and move to Portugal in 2020, we didn't hesitate for long and fully embraced the opportunity for a new adventure. In a way, it was a "blind date", because up to that point I knew almost nothing about the city or country, having only visited once previously for a 48-hour workshop.
In the meantime, Lisbon has become our second home. My wife works as a teacher at a German-language school, while our children also attend German-language schools and a Portuguese kindergarten. We feel very much at home in Portugal and enjoy living in the west of the Iberian Peninsula. We make regular excursions to the sea, and there we enjoy the pragmatic, easy-going Portuguese way of life as well as the delicious cuisine of maritime delicacies, such as grilled sea bream. My favourite food is Bacalhau à Brás, a fish dish based on the typical Portuguese codfish.
We all like life in Portugal so much that we can imagine staying here long-term. I’d like to refine my Portuguese language skills – I often generate giggles among my colleagues in the Hub when I try to express myself in Portuguese. Unfortunately, I'm still a long way from being able to talk about technical processes and contexts in Portuguese... but I am beginning to understand more and more. These familiar, friendly, and concentration-heavy conversations mainly take place in the large Hub kitchen. For us, the relaxed atmosphere of the kitchen is where all members of the team meet for a coffee or a snack and talk about our personal experiences. This can include how to brew Brazilian tea properly, how to tune a bicycle ahead of a ride on the beach, or how certain software-related problems can be solved. The atmosphere is as calm and constructive as at a fika, a Swedish coffee break.
We mainly keep in touch with our Germany-based friends and family via WhatsApp. My wife talks to her parents on the phone almost every day, while I speak to mine at least once a week. Our children usually join us for these calls. Things are a bit quieter when I train with my Taekwondo teacher in Germany via Teams (unfortunately I haven't found such a good trainer in Lisbon yet), as I usually practice alone in the garage. And when I feel like spending time with others, I head to the beach with my family or play a game of table tennis with my colleagues at Av. Duque de Ávila 21.
Cumprimentos, kind regards, mit besten Grüßen,