What Makes a VISTA Champion?: An interview with Josef Mikula of Team Impact, Austria.

In June 2009, Josef Mikula and three of his work colleagues stood in front of the very best technicians and personnel in the whole Volvo Trucks’ and Volvo Buses’ global workforce, and were the envy of all. Together they formed Team Impact, and they had just won the VISTA 2009 World Championship: Volvo Trucks’ international competition for aftermarket personnel.

Josef Mikula and his three teams mates: Manifred Eibel, Ivica Milic and Andreas Redl, had just overcome 13,500 other competitors in 3500 teams, from 70 countries worldwide. The four men started their campaign in their home town Pucking in northern Austria, and finished it at the VISTA World Final in Gothenburg, Sweden; the home and global headquarters of Volvo.

“It was really an incredible feeling to win the VISTA World Final. For me personally it was a long held dream come true,” recalls Josef Mikula of that unforgettable night in Gothenburg. “Even after a year this victory is still incredible.”

The journey to world champion wasn’t an easy one, and for Josef it started thirty years ago when he took part in his first VISTA Championship in 1979. Over the years he went on to win the Austrian championship nine times, but it wasn’t until the establishment of a world final that he finally got the opportunity to compete against his colleagues on the international stage.

“For me the greatest benefit is the knowledge I have acquired in preparing for VISTA,” says Josef, who has never allowed his success to let him forget VISTA’s founding values. “VISTA is not about your ego and getting a Volvo jacket. What is much more important is the increased knowledge and self-esteem it gives you, and the increased confidence in your daily work.”

With Round One of VISTA 2011 already well underway, Josef Mikula has plenty of advice for participants looking to emulate his success. “The most important factor is team work and perfect coordination between team members. At Team Impact we had already been working together for a very long time. We knew each other’s capabilities and trusted each other. But that alone is not enough. You have to keep learning throughout the year. That means you have to constantly educate yourself and keep up-to-date with the latest information.”

For all teams the competition starts with three rounds of theoretical questions, with the best performing teams qualifying for regional semi finals. “My tip to people participating for the first time in VISTA is to begin work immediately, as soon as the questions are available – 14 days can be short lived. Make sure you read the questions accurately and in your answers you must be able to prove everything.”

From twelve semi finals held in nine locations worldwide, thirty teams are selected to take part in the World Final next summer in Gothenburg. The prospect of entering a global competition with over 13,000 competitors can be daunting, but entrants in VISTA 2011 should keep in mind that Team Impact started the same way back in 2008. “We knew we were a good team, but the possibility of victory was still just a hope,” recalls Josef. “One can never be sure whether you have done everything right, or whether the preparation you’ve done is enough to win.”

Team Impact are back for VISTA 2011, but this time Josef will not be taking part. Instead he will be acting as a mentor for VISTA apprentices in a team appropriately called Newcomers. “I hope that by participating with young people, I can promote interest in Volvo technology,” says Josef Mikula. ”It has been a lot of work but they’re full of interest and have already learned a lot about Impact just from the first round.”

Over 13,700 people will be taking part in VISTA 2011, a new record, with even more countries getting involved. And when we reach the World Final next summer, maybe it will be Josef’s Newcomers accepting the top prize?

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