Palisek: People of Today Should Always Ask Why

Interview with one of the best-known top managers and economic experts in the Czech Republic Eduard Palisek.

Eduard Palisek has worked in several divisions of Siemens since 1996 and in 2010 was made head of the company in the Czech Republic. Palisek is clearly loved by the press and the younger generation for his openness and conciseness.

On the other hand, he is not so fondly received by his peers due to his courage to have and express his own, unique point of view.

Palisek has not only a wealth of industrial experience behind him, but also several degrees. He holds an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, received his master’s in business administration in 2001, and in 2008 a PhD in management and economics.

On “uneducated” graduates

The current market situation demands that students not remain locked in their narrow specialisations. They should find a way out of the confines of their academic majors in order to gain wide knowledge in various specialisations and spheres to enable them to react to market changes quickly. This is very important. Perhaps I do not hold the most widespread view on this issue.

Now, representatives of many large companies are saying that university graduates should be narrowly specialised. There are complaints that many young workers cannot be put to work immediately. I do not think so and I think this is not quite the right approach.

On the contrary, it is beneficial if graduates possess more knowledge – the more, the better because they will adapt to sudden changes in the firms they work in.

Graduates should not be locked into their professions and during their studies they should have the opportunity to dedicate study time to other subjects as well.

I repeat, I do not share the widespread complaints about today’s youth. Those who are dissatisfied with this generation often forget what they themselves knew in their youth and whether they were prepared for life after graduating. It is easy to judge a graduate if you have got a background of 30 years’ experience. T

oday’s young people are not at all worse than we were. Not by any means. On the contrary, I think that they know more than we knew. It is very mistaken and limited to compare what we did then with what is happening today and draw conclusions. Higher education graduates, in my opinion, essentially possess a good base for entering a firm and starting to work.

At companies where managers understand that they will not be able to hire ready-made specialists but will have to create good conditions for graduates to grow and develop, they will find good employees.

The path to education

I possess three academic titles. First, I graduated from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. The content of my course then corresponded to the times.

Logically, I then wanted to broaden my horizons and gain new and up-to-date knowledge. I received a master’s in business administration and had the opportunity to compare the experience I had with practice and new skills.

Next, I completed a doctorate dedicated to economic management. This was the result of my management experience because that is what I was directly engaged in at work. This was more of a hobby and private interest; I did not do it just to graduate from yet another university. I wanted to find out something more, to move further on, because a person who has gotten stuck in time and is left with out-of-date knowledge is precisely the person who can be accused of possessing insufficient range.

Those who find themselves in a situation where they feel they need some kind of additional skill or that they have some kind of gap in their knowledge must take some kind of step forward, disregarding all the difficulties that may come with it. You may have to study on the weekends, in the evening or even late at night.

We all have 24 hours in our day. It is only a question of what you choose to dedicate your time to. I decided to continue my education and I do not regret it because it has broadened my outlook.

In the debate about which approach to education is better – classical or modern, with new techniques… – I can tell you it is an important combination. The question lies in which subject is being discussed, because there are many specialisations where interactivity is essential.

This dialogue should not only take place with teachers but with other students as well so that they can inspire and motivate each other to come up with all sorts of thoughts and ideas. This cannot be achieved with just a computer.

I have taken my own path. It took an economic direction and I became the head of the strategic department. I travelled for work in China, Japan and Brazil and I spent many years on business trips. These are things which gradually enrich us.

Here we are in the Faculty of Economics and Administration. If an economist for example, wanted to study something connected with engineering or agriculture, he or she would need to understand these specialisations, what the trends are, the research, the figures.

Also, how to interpret them correctly. There is a whole range of computer programmes that can analyse them, but to understand what the figures are saying, to get to the heart of them – that is what makes the difference between a regular economist and a good economist.

On authorities

These days, the tendency amongst the young towards education is to neglect natural history and the technology fields a little. This is natural because today technical specialisations have lost authority.

In my youth, when I was thinking about where to go to study and I said I was going to be a mechanical engineer, that was something. Now, I do not even know how society reacts to a statement like this from a young person today.

In my day, the authorities were not show business celebrities but were people who could design things. They did not do things of a political character, in contrast to those who are held up to young people as examples today.

You are only as old as you feel. The grown-up generation should acutely feel the views and problems of the younger generation and always try to be on the same wavelength as the young. Then there would not be any problems in understanding each other.

The issue here is in the desire to see reality from another point of view. Generally young people, to be honest, do not possess a different view of the present. It is the same view that we had but we, in adult life, try to forget it.

In my day, it was difficult to find an authority among the official faces of the state. It is also difficult now because the people who speak to young people in the media are, frankly speaking, not suited to be authorities. We therefore cannot find new heroes at the moment.

Now, we are not seeing or hearing from those who worked hard and achieved something, but instead those who during privatisation sat in the right seats and received things which in other situations they would not have received.

On people of today

In my opinion, the people of today should not be completely satisfied with themselves or their lives. They should always have the need to learn and ask “why,” but the most important thing is to try and get answers to their questions.

If motivated individuals want to make everything better for the future, then they should not lock themselves into one specialisation. Today, everything is changing and will change faster. We grown-ups perceive the present as changing very fast, you young people see it as a normal process, but when you get to my age you will also think that everything is changing too fast.

No one is going to paint the path you must take, and no one can say where you will be in five years. You must decide that yourselves.

Photo: From the archive of Eduard Palisek

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