Programming, connectivity and driving things forward.
His job requires formal training and is still new in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio: Tobias Wirth is part of the second training year of IT specialists for digital connectivity at the training center in Stuttgart. The dual vocational education and training takes a total of three years. His job is to optimize IT systems and digital networks at Mercedes-Benz so that humans and machines can work together smoothly. His scope of tasks ranges from agile project management via cloud computing and IoT platforms through to connected production systems. In his interview, Tobias talks about the training, and what surprised him the most so far, how he experiences the company as an employer, and what he would like to do in the future.
Hello Tobias. You are an IT specialist for digital connectivity in your first year of training. When did you realize that you wanted to pursue this career?
In October 2021, I really enjoyed the topic computer science when I did a short work internship for pupils in the IT department of the Mercedes-Benz training workshop in Esslingen-Bruehl. HTML and the development of user interfaces particularly caught my interest then. I like to creatively plan a project and work on it. My instructor told me that I could apply for the 2022 vocational training programme. I actually wanted to complete my final secondary-school examinations first, but when the opportunity came up to obtain the advanced technical certificate during the vocational training, it was clear to me: I want to start working in IT at Mercedes-Benz!
Can you explain your job to us in two sentences?
I only need one! I am responsible for the connectivity of digital systems in vehicle software in the context of Industry 4.0.
Have you always been interested in IT?
Not straight away. At school, I did not have any points of contact with this subject, and I didn't do any programming in my free time either. But I have always been into technology. During the training, I still enjoy taking a closer look at how vehicles work, for example.
So you have been a fan of vehicles for quite some time?
Yes, you can definitely say that. Since my work placement at Mercedes-Benz, I have really been trying to take in as much as I can about the brand. I love configuring a Mercedes-Benz model or watching vehicle videos. The fact that I can now experience the vehicles up close is fantastic! I am now even a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz.
Which of your skills can you use particularly in your job?
At school, I was the best student in English in my class; it was one of my favourite subjects. In IT, almost everything is in English. The fact that I speak English very well is a big help to me. My communication skills have also been an advantage to date. I am a complete "newbie" when it comes to programming; sometimes I still find it difficult. But then I ask for help when something does not work. This is how I succeed in understanding a topic and solving problems myself.
And what have you enjoyed the most so far?
I am really enjoying the practical learning units. We currently have so-called Funduino Cubes, which we use to programme small light pulses and sounds. These cubes are part of a digital learning platform and need special software. Each cube is equipped with LED lights, a NeoPixel strip, and a small display. By means of online tutorials, you can use it to practice doing things like making an LED flash. You can thus work your way through the levels, with each one becoming more difficult. I also enjoyed assembling computers. I do not just enjoy the theoretical side of writing lines of code in a programme, I also like trying these out in a practical setting – as I can then understand how things work together much better.
Is there any training content that surprised you?
A positive surprise in the vocational training school is that we also do a lot of economics and social topics. We have subjects like social studies and business administration, which I like and am good at. Business administration is in fact an important part of the IT training. This surprised me at first.
Why did you decide to do the vocational training programme at Mercedes-Benz?
I felt “at home” here from day one. Everyone was really kind to me when I inquired about a work internship for school. The application process for the vocational training programme was not complicated and, above all, fast. I was quickly convinced that I wanted to work here by what I experienced during my school work internship. I do not regret the decision. I also like the innovative corporate strategy. I am looking forward to the transformation in the future and I am proud to be part of this.
And how do you get on with the instructors?
We all get on really well with each other – the trainees among themselves, but also with the instructors. Everything is very informal and we have a lot of fun doing the work. We help each other and always receive support if someone has questions or needs help with a task.
How is the programme at the vocational training school and training center structured?
We are taught in blocks according to the topics covered. This means that we have two weeks of face-to-face teaching at the vocational training school. Then it depends on the topic whether we are on site at the training center or if we work from home. We are currently working on the topic of PC assembly, which means we need to be at the training center. But we have also had a 2-week online course that we completed entirely from home. I went home to Thuringia (Germany) for part of the time while doing this and worked from there. In February, we will go and work in specialist units for the first time.
Do you already know which specialist unit you will be working in?
Yes, I will spend six months at a subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz Tech Innovation, at the Vaihingen site in Stuttgart. I am going to learn about cyber security and find out what Mercedes-Benz does to protect itself from cyberattacks. My instructor suggested this area to me. In our feedback meeting, we assessed my strengths and weaknesses. Since I am still short of practice in programming, for example, he looked for a suitable position that will allow me to intensify my knowledge in this area. Our assignments to specialist units for practical training are all about getting to know a lot of different areas. The aim is for us to learn as much as possible and then know where we want to go in the long term.
And how do you find Mercedes-Benz as an employer?
It's fantastic. Mercedes-Benz is a modern, innovative employer – there is never a dull moment here! On the one hand, you are surrounded by innovations and modern technologies here; on the other hand, as the inventor of the automobile, Mercedes-Benz is an employer with so much history. I can think here in an innovative manner and put my ideas forward.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
The training will be finished in three years. I can imagine doing an integrated degree programme in five years' time. We have the possibility to do a degree while working part time or to be released from work with a guarantee of being hired again afterwards. So, in five years' time I will either be studying automotive engineering or business administration, or will be in a specialist unit, ideally in Development or at Mercedes-Benz Tech Innovation. I'll have to see how things unfold over the course of the specialist placements during the training.
After completing his intermediate school examination in Suhl, Tobias Wirth moved to Esslingen-Bruehl to start his training at Mercedes-Benz. The vehicle that he most associates with his employer is the C-Class, which he at least already owns as a model car! But Tobias, who was born in Weimar, is also a big fan of the EQE. It is therefore no surprise that the budding IT specialist for digital connectivity has also become a Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador in the meantime and is actively promoting the training that the company offers. When he is not back home in Thuringia (Germany), Tobias likes to spend his evenings in Esslingen-Bruehl with VR glasses on or streaming. Some of these are of course Mercedes-Benz videos.