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3Rd May 2019

Re>Connect: Tomáš Dlabaja – From Trainee to Mentor

By now, a lot of people have gone through Trainee journey, and it’s hard to stay in touch with everyone, but you can reconnect! Follow us while we go through the unique journey of our old Trainees. Let’s listen to their advice.

For this first edition of Re>Connect, we are having a chat with engineer Tomáš Dlabaja, PhD – currently a coordinator in the department “Technical Service of Assembly”. With him, we’ll focus on one of the greatest aspects of the Programme: The Mentoring system. Tomáš is a mentor for new Trainees: the Programme goes full circle!


Hello Tomas, thanks for the interview! Let’s start with an easy question. What’s your background?

I was a top-level sportsman for almost ten years. I did athletics and orienteering, which is running with a compass and a map in the forest. That was my big love and hobby that I combined with university studies. I travelled a lot all over the world and ended up studying for two years in Scandinavia.

At the age of 29, I finished my PhD in Mechanical Engineering, but not just that – I won a World Championship as well. Although my previous goals were to live/work as a professional sportsman or a university teacher, I decided to do something completely different. I chose a “different world” to restart my life, as a Trainee in the VW GROUP.


Do you think mentoring is a key element in one’s career development?

For me it definitely is. I constantly learn from more experienced colleagues or chiefs. I always believe in taking a lesson from all the good and bad situations happening around me, and who else other than more experienced people can give you advise?


That’s true! Actually, as a mentor, what do you look for in your protégé?

I prefer to know my undertaking Trainee’s desire. Otherwise, my effort would be a waste of time. Later, I can help them with the ups and downs of the job, explaining to them what happens during meetings and what is not visible to newcomers. I also want to understand their possible personal and career development in the Volkswagen concern.


During your Trainee Programme, were there any difficult moments where you would have needed the support of a mentor?

Luckily for me, most of the time my chief or other chiefs during rotations behaved like mentors. But, as a newcomer, you don’t know what to see or experience for 12 months, and you are very dependent on the approach of your chief. With a mentor, there are at least two persons who are “there for you”. Due to this, the end of the Trainee Programme can be quite challenging, because you lose one of these two support figures and it can feel like you’re just a water droplet in the Group’s ocean.



Do you think your career would have had a different path if you had a mentor from the beginning of the Trainee Programme?

I think so. I had no idea about career development in the company. For me, the Trainee Programme represented a way to find out what I like and what I am good at. However, this is only the starting point, and it would have been great to know what I wanted and expected from my career in the following years. Personally, I did not know.

Nevertheless, both highs and lows are important in life. The mentor will be there for you, but he or she won’t be the one who can get you to the finish. They represent the coach in your run towards the finish line. After all, the Trainees should be the ones who run.


Tomáš started as a Trainee in November 2013, and after five years working on two different positions, he now works as the Coordinator in the department “Technical Service of Assembly”.

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