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A Globetrotter with a Polo for Company

Burkhard Zockoll has been working for Volkswagen for 35 years and has spent over half  
of this time abroad.

When Burkhard Zockoll had the chance to transfer from the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg to Seat in the Spanish city of Martorell back in 1993, he didn’t have to think about it twice. “I said yes in a heartbeat,” recalls the trained patternmaker. But what he couldn’t have known back then was that Spain would be the first of countless international roles he would go on to hold. In almost 35 years with Volkswagen, Zockoll has “seen almost half the world,” as he himself puts it. Born in Wolfsburg to parents who also worked at Volkswagen, he has also spent a number of years in countries including Portugal, India and Malaysia.

From 2012 to 2014, his official place of work may well have been Wolfsburg, but his role as an auditor meant he spent a great deal of time in Brazil, China, Mexico and Argentina. “I have always had an insatiable sense of wanderlust. I just think it’s incredibly exciting to experience foreign languages and cultures,” explains the 52-year-old, who encourages his younger colleagues to take a similar route. “It really does enrich your life.” That said, he also advises that this lifestyle is only ideal for people who make a concerted choice to work away from home. “If you’re only working abroad to further your career, it won’t make you happy.” By his own admission, his path was far from a conventional academic on, and he actually picked up his skills by working his way from the bottom up. After training as a patternmaker, he continued to refine his skills as a master craftsman in plastic and rubber before ultimately qualifying as a technical specialist. “My technical insight is what has helped me along throughout my professional career,” explains Zockoll.

"I have always had an insatiable sense of wanderlust"

He currently runs the pilot hall at the Pamplona plant in Spain, a site that is apparently very close to his heart. “This place has effectively become my second home,” he says. After all, he had already worked at Volkswagen Navarra at the start of the 1990s. This was back in the days when the third-generation Polo was still rolling off the production line. In fact, the Polo has been a recurring feature throughout Zockoll’s career: fFrom India to Malaysia, “I have pretty much always been involved with the Polo wherever I’ve been based,” he notes. When asked whether he might have liked to work with a different Volkswagen model at some point in all that time, the answer was a resounding no. “For me, the Polo is like a child that I have brought up. People love them and like to keep hold of them once they have one.”

Zockoll and his 65 employees in the Pamplona pilot hall have been working meticulously to prepare for the launch of the T-Cross. “It is our job to make sure that the SUV is up to the required quality standards and has the perfect dimensions when it hits the road,” explains Zockoll, who will have been with Volkswagen for 35 years on September 1. But he’s still a long way from considering retirement, and if there’s one thing he’s sure of, it’s that “there’s still plenty more around the corner.” The only question is where in the world might that be?

"For me, the Polo is like a child that I have brought up"