Chief technology officer,
Elaphe Propulsion Technologies
Family:Partner, Mojca; daughter, Mila, 6 months
Born: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Languages: English, German, Slovenian, Croat, Serbian, a little Chinese
Education: Doctorate in electrical engineering, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana Slovenia; bachelor's degree in mathematical physics, University of Ljubljana
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
Initially, I didn't consider a career in the automotive industry. When I started working at Elaphe the company had only been around for about a year, but the founders had a grand vision that got me interested in electric vehicles and the automotive industry in general. The fact that our work can change the everyday lives of people while still being fun, exciting and different really got to me.
Your greatest achievement?
Overseeing the company's organizational growth has been both challening and rewarding. In recent years, Elaphe has had the opportunity to double its staff three times. Most of the growth has been in r&d and production to cover the ever increasing needs of our projects as they advance from prototypes toward an industrialized automotive product. Through the years we have also strategically widened the scope of our work from in-wheel motors to the whole in-wheel electric powertrain system, which meant the diversification of the team and an increase in content so the development process needed to get more standardized. All this growth meant we needed to establish departments with motivated leaders, define guidelines and project management structures and invest time in figuring out the automotive development and production processes.
What was your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
In 2010, I joined Elaphe CEO Gorazd Lampic on a fundraising trip to Silicon Valley. We had high hopes, prepared well and were enthusiastic. Unfortunately, we didn't get more than general interest and positive words. At the time, we thought this was a big failure. However, when we critically evaluated the feedback we received we found that we learned a lot. This experience helped us realize we needed to be more proactive. Explaining the technology and showing graphs and theories was not enough. We needed to make a car with our technology so that people could experience it for themselves. This helped steer our internal development projects and influenced how we prioritized customer requests to bring us to where we are today.
What is your current challenge at work?
We are transforming a startup company into an automotive supplier. This brings many organizational challenges such as team development and properly managing the style of development for different product stages. Fast growth and organizational changes make it more difficult to maintain and cultivate the company culture and vision, which is something we are trying to preserve.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
Every day I see how incredibly efficient this industry is at producing and how much we can improve by following the rules. At the same time, it seems to me that overall r&d is incredibly inefficient. Especially when you compare it with r&d within small motivated groups like ours. Maybemotivation is the key word here.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Decisions in the automotive world are made by people not companies. Address people as individuals and show interest in their experiences, expectations and feelings so that they feel passion for your product. To do this, it is important to demonstrate your product, so they can feel it and compare it with something they already know. This is why every detail is a part of the story, even if it is not important for the overall technical performance.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Don't do it, it is stressful! I'm joking, of course. It's hard for me to give advice because I have been working at an unconventional automotive company from the start. I would say make sure you find ways to keep learning about the things that are not in your everyday focus to have a wide perspective.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
If I can't be the galactic president, I would want to be chief technology officer at a company much like Elaphe: innovative, open and motivated.
What do you do to relax?
Whenever I have time I like to spend it with my family and friends. I tend to fill my schedule though, so I have to work on that in the future. I also like to play sports. Not long ago I played water polo in the national league and I am seriously considering a return to the sport. Recently, I've been reading a lot of parenting books and, more importantly, implementing what I have learned on my 6-month-old daughter.
What is your pet peeve?
I don't like it when people complain but don't take any action. Complaining a little is fine, I am guilty of doing it too, but if you don't like something then find a way to change it.
What was your first car?
A Rover Metro. My brother and I called it the Red Arrow. While it was red, it had no literal or metaphorical similarities with an arrow.
A Saab 9-3 Aero. I know, I am so embarrassed, considering what we do. That being said, I also try to drive one of our road legal electric vehicles with Elaphe in-wheel powertrains as much as possible.
If you were a car, which one would you be?
I don't think that my spiritual car has been built yet. I guess I am still young and searching for who I really am, but I have a vision that in a couple of years, I'll be able to tell you which car represents me best. Hint: it will drive itself and have in-wheel motors.
2016-present: Board of directors member, APG-Elaphe Propulsion Technologies JV, Hangzhou, China
2010-present: Chief technology officer, Elaphe Propulsion Technologies, Ljubljana, Slovenia
2008-2010: Motor design specialist, Elaphe Propulsion Technologies, Ljubljana