The great thing about my work is that I can actually see its effect on the final product, says Baptiste Gross.

Mr. Baptiste Gross works at ZF Engineering Pilsen as a Calibration engineer. He moved to Pilsen in 2021 to take the offer of a position which was the most suitable for him, although he has applied also for work in different countries around the world. Despite the fact that he changed his job during the Covid 19 pandemic when traveling was not an easy task, he loves his job and talks very high about the Czech Republic and Pilsen, his new home.
Place for life

Where did you work prior to your current job? What made you to move and live in Pilsen?

Let me start with a little bit of information on ZF Engineering which is developing automotive transmissions. At my previous job, I was taking the technical internship for the master's degree for the engineering diploma. And I was working at GETRAG company, which is one of the main competitors of my current employer. They are making the dual clutch transmission in the Black Forest in Germany.

There was COVID 19 and everything connected with the pandemic, so I was not able to stay there, but it gave me the opportunity to look basically everywhere else because I was looking really for the same kind of position that I had at that company. I was more looking for the position than the location. So when applying, I was looking at the US, Germany, the Czech Republic, China or Japan. Literally the whole world. And the offer and the person communicating with me here from Pilsen, was just the best and exactly what I was looking for. So I took this offer and when I first came to the Czech Republic, everyone was asking me - why did you move to the Czech Republic? My default answer is basically - why not! Do you think it's worse than anywhere else? Because I don't think so!

ZF Engineering

How was it to move here during the Covid 19 restrictions?

I moved here in 2021. I think it was in May or June, I do know remember exactly. So it was still quite difficult to travel. You needed the PCR test not older than 48 hours and everything was very strict including to fly anywhere. So my future employer offered me to come for a visit before I take the job, but because of the COVID-19, I wasn't really able to do that. So I just said, it's fine, I will take it. If you're not telling me, that it's worse than anywhere else, it's not really an issue. I'm not really looking for a location in particular. I'm looking for a position and have absolutely no negative prejudice against the Czech Republic. So even I was before I came here closest to Pilsen only in Munich, I just moved here without prior seeing the place where I will work and live.


So it was really your first visit to the Czech Republic?

Yes, I first landed at the Prague airport with all my luggage. That was the first time I was in Czech Republic ever. Came just with about 50 kilo of my stuff.


How did you find it to arrange everything you needed for moving to Pilsen? Did the company help you? Or anyone else?

Since both countries are the members of the European Union, I did not need any particular working permits or visa. It's just as far as paperwork is concerned, basically the same as if I was going to work somewhere else in France. So from that point of view, it was really easy. Then the accommodation was a bit more difficult because without being able to take a look around here in advance, it's quite difficult to say, what neighbourhood is better, where the living would be nice. But yet the HR company representative helped me a lot with that and I'm really thankful with the amount of care he provided. Then the surprising part would be the health insurance where the company helped to secure this also and I'm glad they did that for me. Because the first day I came here, my knowledge of Czech was absolutely zero. My ability to speak the Czech language was basically limited to 5 words.. And I am not joking. So I'm really happy the company was able to help me through this process of starting a new job here.


Was there anything else besides the health insurance and housing that you had to sort out at the beginning and you found either easy or difficult when you were coming here?

The accounting. The fact that the Czech Republic is not using Euro was a bit of a struggle. I had to go to the ATM and withdraw everything with like 5% fee that I was paying for the first month. So it was kind of strange that it is not the same currency.

Apart from that, it's still quite difficult to find doctors who can speak English or German. I don't expect any doctor to speak French, for sure, but with the closeness to Germany and English being international language, I would expect more doctors to speak either English or German. I would say this is one of the main drawbacks, and the difficulties that I've had overall. 


ZF Babtista

We have mentioned that briefly at the beginning, but what is the main field of business in ZF Engineering Pilsen and your position within the company?

I am doing the transmission calibration, which is basically on the automatic transmissions. They are controlled by computers now. And my job is once the software is in place to control it, to set it up how it behaves. So for example, different cars will behave differently, will require different characteristics of the behaviour of the transmission. And my job is to set up the gearbox and change the value of the parameters so that it's behaving properly to the expectation of the customer. We also work here within the company in different fields - electronic control unit development, so the computer itself that we are developing. There is also the software integration and testing. So the integration is more like integrating it together because one person doesn't build the whole software at once. There's more - like several blocks that are put together and integrated together and then it's tested on some simulators also here in Pilsen, as far as I know. There are also some rapid prototyping units, but there should be a couple of other departments, but that's the main ones, I would say.


How would you describe the approach of ZF Engineering in the field of research and innovations? How would you describe the tools and the possibilities you have here?

Well, for comparison, I can only speak from experiences at my previous position. The tools that we are using, it's basically industry standards, so it's the same. There is literally two companies which are making the software that we use for setting up the computers inside of the car. And from these two companies, there is one which is used by most of the manufacturers. And for being able to work properly with the manufacturers, you have to use the same tools as them. So it's not really a choice, but it is industry standard, so there is not really much of a difference between the two softwares. It's mostly about compatibility. Then I would like to explain more about the product. I think the product that ZF is providing is a bit more upmarket. Zf is mostly working with more prestigious powertrains (higher power engines, with 6 or 8 cylinders), as well as the more common 4 cylinder engines. Since the product is quite robust, it can be adapted to a wide range of applications with quite high torque and power outputs. These products also allow for a flexible integration of next generation mobility such as electric and hybrid powertrain components. But the previous company had completely different products lineups, whereas ZF is more integrated into one. I would say into one.



What do you like the most about your job here in Pilsen? Does it fulfill your expectations? What is the scope of your work?

Well, the job itself, the best way I could describe it - it is for me one of the best jobs you could have in the whole industry or maybe even in the world. For the simple fact that when we get the product, it's behaving really badly because it's not set up. And once the setup is done, it's basically working as the client desires. It is like for example driving with the handbrake on, and we are releasing the handbrake. We release the potential of the product. And what's great about it is, that you can really see the influence of your job on the final product. Which means also, that if something doesn't work, it might also be part of your responsibility to find a solution.

ZF Babtista

If you compare the company or the environment in the company that you worked previously and here, what are the main differences?

Well, it's kind of funny because a couple of the colleagues who are Czech that were working in the previous company with me are also in the same team. And what is different? Well, I don't know, to be honest. Not much I would say, because with most of the colleagues in my team, we can speak either English or German, which was the same before. Since we are working a lot with the German companies, it's kind of necessary to either speak English or German. So that kind of works well for me. The difference, I would say, is that in Germany people would be living much further away from the factory or the office. So it's more difficult outside of the work to meet up and do things together. That would be the main difference for me.


Do you have an idea how many foreigners are working in ZF in Pilsen right now? Do you know approximately how many people from abroad are here?

I would say it's quite a lot. Last time I checked, there was about 850 people working on this site. So it might be more, might be less, but I would expect something like at least 60 foreigners. There are colleagues from India, France, and many other countries. So quite a big community of people from different countries.

How do you find the approach of Pilsen towards foreigners? Do you find the people and overall environment friendly here?

I would say people here are quite welcoming and helpful in general. Sometimes it's still difficult because for me at least, the Czech as Slavic language which is not even in the same language family with other languages I speak. So the language barrier makes things a bit more difficult, but it's not really an issue because almost everyone that I met was always willing to help, even if they were not able to speak any other language. And we are lucky that in general, in the Czech Republic, you have quite good internet and there is always the translation app close by.


Do you know if ZF engineering as a company has any programmes for university students or is there any cooperation with the students? Do you have, for example, in the project teams in the company, some students that would be applying for work here after they finished studies?

Yes, I there is a partnership with the University of West Bohemia and other programs. The partnerships cover several activities, for example we support teams of Formula students, some of our colleagues provide teaching at universities etc. And I know that in my department there was a student, I think he was from Ostrava originally, although I am not sure from where exactly. Nevertheless, he just graduated recently and he was with us approximately for a year as an intern. He has the possibility to work here as a full time employee.


Since you came here by yourself, what do you do in your free time?

Well, in general, I brought the motorcycle, so when the weather is not bad, I like to ride it  around the countryside. In the summer, I do roller blading too. Yes, and also going for a beer with either the colleagues or friends is on our regular list.


Do you have a favourite place in Pilsen or Pilsen region, for example when you go on your motorcycle?

I went to Český Krumlov. It was really nice, but it's a bit too far to go on a regular basis. Šumava and Český les are the places I really like, because I am originally from the region of Geneva, so I like the mountains. And for the motorcycle, if there is a bit of mountains or hills, it's also much more interesting to ride.


And at the end, let me ask you - are you happy you made the decision to move here?

Yes, definitely. For example, if you look at the news right now, it's comforting me even more from not staying in France. You might have not heard about it, but in my hometown Annecy today, there was a man that attacked several children with a knife, who are in the hospital in a critical condition. I heard there were at least four police officers within 50 metre and it took them a while to react...


What are your plans for the future? I guess you are planning to stay here for some time, but do you have some longer vision of what you would like to do?

I don’t have an exact path or plans in mind yet, I would like to develop and take more responsibility within my position for midterm outlook with a target to work in a technical lead ,project management or something similar. Just now, I am happy with my current position and I am basically looking at what could be the next steps forward, but there is no rush as I like what I am doing here.


Is there anything else you would like to say or mention that we didn't talk about?

I still don't understand why the people in the Czech Republic always say, why do you come to Czech Republic and it's always a surprise for them. Your country is great and there is nothing to envy about France from my point of view to be honest.