Interview of Stanislav, Software Manager at Valeo
Juggling his time between laser testing and people management, Stanislav works on the sensors that are moving the world towards fully autonomous vehicles. A true team, he says the best thing about his role are the new challenges that arrive on his desk every day.
Stanislav, tell us where you’re from and how long you’ve been at Valeo.
Stanislav – I’m from the Slovak Republic where I studied robotics and I joined Valeo right out of university. The job was based here in Prague and I knew Valeo had testing centers all over Europe, so I would have the chance to work in different countries. I joined as a software engineer and I’ve been here for nine years.
What does an average day look like for you?
S. – There really isn’t such a thing as an average day! Every day is different, but in general it’s a mix of people management and working to solve new challenges with the LiDAR scanner laser systems Valeo builds. LiDAR scanner lasers are key to creating safer vehicles and ultimately creating autonomous vehicles. There are two teams that I manage, or one large team made up of two parts – one that sets up and runs laser testing and another that creates the software tools to manage all the data gathered by the lasers.
My day could involve working with either team to come up with solutions and innovations, or it could be preparing reports for our clients about the progress we’re making and doing some people management to ensure the teams are motivated and moving in the right direction.
How does a LiDAR scanner laser make a car safer?
S. – The scanner lasers act as sensors. The one we’re working on now is a forward sensor able to “see” up to 150 meters in front of the vehicle, regardless of the weather and light conditions. This gathers data about other cars on the road, pedestrians, motorbikes, bicycles or other road users. That data is used to make a decision such as whether the car needs to brake or slow down. The ultimate goal of everything we do is to make vehicles as safe as possible for the driver and passengers, but also, crucially, for all other road users.
This is a core aspect of the role – the care that we must show at all times to everyone in and around our vehicles. Better sensors allow the vehicle to make better decisions – and much faster than a human can react. Recent tests by some of my colleagues showed that by the time a driver sees an obstacle and decides they have to apply the brake, our vehicles have already started to slow down.
What do you love about working here?
S. – It’s the challenges that come from working at the cutting edge. This is such a fascinating and relevant field to be in right now. This is an emerging field, so there are new things to think about and learn every day.
Tell us about some of the people you work with.
S. – It’s a mix of hard work and team work. There’s mentorship and support, too. One of my colleagues who joined Valeo at the same time went to a Valeo site in Ireland to work on a project there. When he was facing tough technical challenges he would call me and we’d try to solve them together. Eventually I was able to go over to Ireland to work directly with his team for a while.
Now he’s the General Manager of the Valeo Detection Center here in Prague. He’s really helped me become a better leader and manager. That’s the track he was on and as I’ve progressed through roles at Valeo and become a team leader, he’s helped me to acquire new soft skills to go with the technical skills I’ve learned along the way.
What’s the work-life balance like in this role and at Valeo more generally?
S. – I’ve had my hands full with parenting for the past couple of years, but the work-life balance has worked really well. It’s up to us – if you want to work more, you can. If you need more time for your personal life, then that’s supported. At the end of the day, we’re a team and we’re all here to work together, learn and solve problems for the safety of everyone.