VAIVA Head of department Hendrik in portrait: The 38-year-old tells us what has shaped him so far, what he is passionate about and why safety plays such an important role in his life.
There are three syllables. A noun that starts with a sharp consonant and closes in an abstract term. Safety. A term that shapes an invisible protective shield as word, wards off the dangers and protects what is important to us: our lives and those of others. “If you feel safe, then you are freer. Safety creates freedom,” explains Hendrik. As a little boy, it was not the dream jobs of many children – such as firefighters or police officers – that thrilled him – he simply had a great wish: to create safety for his family, friends and everyone around him. “Safety” is an important part of Hendrik’s professional life. Today, the engineer leads the “ADAS & Safety Features” department at VAIVA with around 65 employees: here, too, everything revolves around safety.
Hendrik, a dark-haired man with glasses and a three-day beard, sits at his desk on the third floor: his office is pragmatically furnished, the desk is tidy, light gray color nuances give the room a clean, down-to-earth impression. A picture of Hendrik’s children in colorful jackets looks like a window out of the business world. From the outside, a vague shadow falls into the room from time to time, and a colleague quickly scurries by. A contrast to what the Head of Department radiates: clarity, reliability and tranquility.
“I want to know how something works, I want to understand connections,” Hendrik says, explaining what drives him every day. His curiosity and the will to understand had already guided him in the choice of his studies. He studied mechatronics at the TU Dresden: “The studies were wide-ranging and yet in-depth,” he recalls. He is still fascinated by technologies today – above all by automated driving: “I am always amazed at how much knowledge, how much work and technologies fit into such a small chip,” explains the 38-year-old and you can notice the sparkle in his eyes when he talks about something that he loves.
When Hendrik speaks, he is clear in expression, his gestures are accents – fine and well dosed. “Even now as a manager, my wish to understand is my credo. For example, I want to understand how complex it is to carry out a function adaptation.” This includes the parameterization of data sets for different markets with the respective requirements by law – these are, for example, the warning times and intervention times for assisted driving: How much distance does a moving car have to keep to the vehicle in front? What is the legal basis for this in the country in which the car is to be sold? It is the details that count – accuracy is essential for questions that will later affect millions of vehicles.
“Important to me, is also the value proposition,” he says, emphasizing the last word in the sentence. Sometimes Hendrik uses edgy, even bulky words, but then he emphasizes what he says and adds a warm anecdote – the difference reminds a bit of the contrast of his jeans and jogging shoes to his white button-down shirt. The value proposition was important, because it’s about questioning what it’s worth investing time in. In everyday working life, it is important to prioritize, to know what concerns you. But not everything is quantifiable – especially in the human sphere. Hendrik looks out of the window, blue sky and clouds slowly passing by are reflected in his dark framed glasses. He smiles, then rests his head on his hands.
20 years back, in a small town with about 15,000 inhabitants in the Ore Mountains: Hendrik has just finished his Abitur – advanced courses: maths and physics – when he starts his civilian service at a school for severely physically and mentally handicapped children. During this time, he experiences children who do not have it easy in their young lives. “Tension is in the families, burden – and if you were to meet the mother in the company – you might not even know what stress and tension she experiences privately.” It is a special experience that continues to shape Hendrik to this day: because you often don’t know what burden other people are carrying – sometimes hidden behind a smile or a dismissive behavior. The civilian service was a challenge for Hendrik, but here too he again encountered the topic of safety and especially on the basis of this experience he believes: “Everyone should be able to feel safe.” Not only in the context of his civilian service, but in general challenges have always appealed to him – and he also finds a topic in the Volkswagen Group that he is interested in particularly: dealing with complexity, which sometimes contradicts his affinity for wanting to understand everything. In the meantime, he has learned to accept that he does not have to know everything.
For him, constructive criticism is the basis for further development. Learning and the ability to deal with criticism is important to Hendrik not only for himself, but also for his employees: “In job interviews, team suitability and interdisciplinary competence are relevant to me,” explains the Head of department. Overall, authentic and value-based action is an important basis for him among his employees. “What fascinates me most about my current job in management, however, is to provide the right framework so that a large team pulls together.” On the same track for safety. What Hendrik has always wanted, he now implements every day when he sits in his office on the third floor of VAIVA: there in front of the screen, in discussions during virtual meetings or in many personal contacts. Through empathy and transparency, he manages to create an environment for his employees in which everyone has the freedom to create great things: namely, to make mobility and thus the world safer.