From practising Japanese in Salzburg to working in Tokyo
Secure storage for racing bikes, showers to freshen up and flexible working hours: The ideal conditions for ambitious athletes like Franz. This year, he’s training for the Ötztal Cycle Marathon.
While others sit in cars on their way to work, Franz mounts his bicycle—especially now, of course, as it is getting warm out and the cycling season begins. But inclement weather is no deterrent—he only does without his training sessions during torrential rains or snowfall, and when the temperature drops below zero. “Last year, I didn’t drive 10,000 kilometers with a car,” he says, “but I rode 15,000 kilometers by bike.” His normal route to work from Piding to the SKIDATA headquarters in Grödig is just under 20 kilometers and not particularly challenging. Still, when the weather and his training plan allow it, Franz takes a detour up Rossfeld, which is around 1,500 meters high. “That’s a great feeling,” he says, “when you sit at a desk after having already spent your morning on the mountain.”
Franz is Senior Project Manager Hardware R&D. The Salzburg native has been at SKIDATA for more than 25 years—with several interruptions. He finished his apprenticeship as a communication electronics technician here in 1985, then joined as a foreman in industrial electronics. At first, he worked as an electronics CAD specialist, then rose to the team leader for electronics CAD. After that, he spent a few years working for other companies, including two short, unpleasant guest appearances, as he calls them. He returned to SKIDATA in 2013 for an interesting project manager role in device development. As a project manager, he drafts project plans, monitors compliance with the plans and adjusts them in coordination with the developers. “I am responsible for ensuring that the devices are functional on the market at the right time,” Franz explains.
Like other SKIDATA employees, Franz enjoys the flexibility of his working hours. “I really appreciate it,” he says. When it’s not quite light out early during the transitional seasons, he occasionally clocks into work at 9 a.m. after a morning tour with his racing bike. “As long as I keep my meetings and appointments, it’s perfectly fine” Franz explains. “The results must check out. For me, it would be inconceivable to work in a company that doesn’t offer flexible working hours.” At SKIDATA, he sometimes even gets on his bike for a lunchtime training session when the weather is good. “I have complete freedom,” he says.
In addition to the flexible working hours, Franz appreciates the open communication he shares with his SKIDATA colleagues, as well as the company’s familial environment where everyone is on a first-name basis. “I like to work with others to find intelligent solutions and bring them to life,” he says. He also appreciates how “so many clever, motivated, very young people work in device development alongside the older and established team members—that makes a perfect mix.”
But those who occasionally ride 60 kilometers or more before work needs more than flexible working hours. “At the headquarters, we have a storage room where I safely lock up my high-quality sports equipment, because the room is secured with the SKIDATA access system,” Franz says. He can also keep fresh change of clothes in the closet at his workplace, and use one of the new showers that are available to the many athletically ambitious employees at SKIDATA.
Anyone on Strava can catch up on the routes that Franz completes with his racing bike, or on his mountain bike. Strava is a social media platform where athletes can track their activities, like running or cycling. “On Strava, you can show people what you can do,” says Franz, adding: “Racing cyclists always want to compete with others.” And Franz does, too.
In 2021, Franz is training once more for the Ötzal Cycle Marathon, in which he first participated in 2014. He’d actually wanted to ride in 2020, but the bike marathon was canceled due to COVID restrictions. This year, Franz hopes that the race will take place at the end of August as planned: 238 kilometers in a circular route from Sölden, over four Alpine passes–Kühtaisattel, Brennerpass, Jaufenpass and Timmelsjoch–to Südtirol and back again—5,500 meters above sea level. Franz has already secured one of the 4,000 coveted starting spots. His goal: To complete the route in eight hours—an hour faster than his ride in 2014.