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.