One way ticket: Roberto Miranda followed his passion for cars to China

Als Roberto Miranda vor sieben Jahren nach China kam, sprach er kein Wort Chinesisch. Der Ingenieur musste sich mit Zetteln durchschlagen, auf denen die gebräuchlichsten Wörter und Sätze in chinesischen Schriftzeichen notiert waren. Die zeigte der Brasilianer dann vor, wenn es nötig war, etwa beim Einkaufen im Supermarkt oder auf dem Weg zu Geschäftsterminen. Heute ist der Head of Research & Development von thyssenkrupp Engine Components China in Nanjing nicht nur perfekt in das chinesische Leben integriert, Roberto erhielt sogar eine Auszeichnung von der Kommunalverwaltung der Millionenmetropole.

Up until seven years ago, Roberto was Head of Product Engineering at the Campo Limpo plant, which was opened in 1961 as the first thyssenkrupp plant in South America. In 2013 the engineer received an offer to take on the position of Product Engineering Manager at the new plant in Nanjing. Roberto had already been closely involved in the construction of the plant in the metropolis in eastern China.

With the family from Brazil to China

“This assignment also presented me with the opportunity to uproot myself from the familiar conditions of Brazil to a completely new environment – full of challenges and personal opportunities too,” says Roberto. “And I have definitely been lucky enough to choose it not only for myself, but also to bring along my wife and sons.”

Familiarizing themselves with a foreign country and establishing a new life were a huge challenge for the Mirandas. Above all in a city with around 5.8 million inhabitants and rich in history and culture. The family received a lot of support from thyssenkrupp. “At that time there was a program in place called “Look and See” which gave my family the chance to visit the host country and experience the culture and how people live, as well as look for accommodation, children’s schools and health facilities,” says Roberto.

Cultural differences – but a lot in common too

“All that also required me to make changes too by learning about another culture and way of working,” Roberto continues. Yet despite the cultural differences, Roberto – who is now 47 – also identified many similarities. For example a strong willingness to learn and a positive attitude to trying something new. “I also noticed a strong sense of safety, work organization and production oriented to customer satisfaction,“ says the automotive specialist. “And I had to become more accepting of other people’s standpoints, which actually made me a more rounded person.”

Roberto’s career has always been grounded in product and process engineering. “When I decided to join thyssenkrupp I had already gathered experience in the aftermarket and automotive businesses,” he says. “But thyssenkrupp Metalurgica Campo Limpo presented a further perspective – the opportunity to work together with Sales and then directly approach the key automotive customers in the market. This desire to get deeper into automotive engineering has driven my steps since then…”

…and taken him half way around the world to Nanjing. Here, 300 kilometers west of Shanghai, around 300 employees at thyssenkrupp Engine Components China produce 120,000 crankshafts every year.

Wide-ranging responsibilities at thyssenkrupp Engine Components China

In 2018 Roberto was promoted to R&D Manager at thyssenkrupp Engine Components China. His key responsibilities cover all operations and manufacturing processes, including the management and coordination of daily activities to ensure the production of crankshafts for light-duty to heavy-duty applications.

But did Roberto ever dream of going to China at some point during his career? “Although I’ve actually put a great deal of effort and study hours into my development and do whatever I do with passion, I had never thought about going abroad, being in China, and being recognized as a talent by the local government there.”

But that’s exactly what happened in 2020: Roberto received an award as part of a program aimed at “bringing big personalities to Nanjing to create a promising future together”. The Brazilian was honored as a High-Level Talent by the Deputy Mayor of Nanjing. Roberto had truly arrived in China. “Having the recognition of the city of Nanjing as an important talent for the development of the region definitely makes me believe that the decisions I made were the right ones,” says Roberto happily.

He just needs to work on his Chinese a bit more. “Once, in a restaurant, I forced myself to use a few words I had recently learned in Chinese. This was at the end of a lunch long enough to allow the waitress to get to know that I am from Brazil and the spoken language there is Portuguese. Afterwards while saying goodbye to the waitress I decided to say thank you and wish her a nice weekend in Chinese. I said “xie xie” and “zhou mo kuai le”. She stared at me surprised and said – “what did you just say, was it Portuguese?” Then I noticed that I still have a long way to go in my Chinese lessons.”