Monday, June 15, 2009

Suburbia, Driving, and Honda

This past weekend Emma and I had some serious adventures in Suburbia, and confirmed our love...of living in the city. In case you forgot, we're staying just northwest of the city in a town called Dublin. It's certainly not the smallest town I've ever been in, but the little things all add up. For example! One thing we like to do on weekends is walk to get some coffee and/or breakfast. In JP this was a snap. We could throw a rock and hit a few coffee shops, and at least one breakfast place (yes, I really threw a rock to see if I could hit any of them. I have a deceptively strong pitching arm.). Out here, not so easy. One of the appealing things about our new place is that we are within walking distance of things like coffee, breakfast, and a bookstore (Emma assures me the bookstore thing is totally a coincidence. Totally.).
So this weekend we realized there was a Panera near our current apartment. Great! It's better than the gas station coffee, and they have breakfast sandwiches too! We head out and walk to Panera on a nice Sunday morning. First issue: Panera is in a mall. Ok, not everything can be nice storefront space as is more common in Boston. Second issue: Panera, in the mall, is on the other side of the highway. Third issue: there is no sidewalk on the bridge over the highway, making for a very uncomfortable walk. Fourth issue: our bikes are still packed in storage, so we can't ride to Panera. But we're determined to not be beaten! Plus, we're hungry and by this point we are drooling for a fried egg on a bagel. (Note: we did not have bagels at home, otherwise we would have had a solid Plan B). So we decided that a 1/2 mile walk in the middle of traffic was not a nice Sunday morning activity. So we walked home, got in the car, drove the 1/2 mile to the mall, parked, went in Panera only to find that they stop serving breakfast food at 11:00. I know! Have they never heard of brunch? So we have lunch-type food, and at least we stopped being hungry, although we both still wanted eggs.
We are both excited to be closer to things by foot and bike. And for getting our bikes out of storage. We should also just get some bagels and make eggs at home I guess.
And now onto Honda. I've been there about a week now, which means of course that I am an expert on the place. So let me tell you: it's not too shabby. The first week was a lot of the standard paperwork and orientation kind of stuff. The last half of the week I got to work with some of the test engineers. We ran some transmissions on the dynomometers and then tore them apart to see what kind of things happened on the inside. Honda automatic transmissions are different than what I have seen before, so it was good to get to see them all opened up. The mechanic in me was also extremely jealous of the facilities that the test engineers get to work in. It sure makes a job fun and easy when you have all the fancy tools you need, an arm's length away, and everything is clean and kept in good shape, and you have all the space you need.

My second day on the job there was a "managers meeting." This is where all the group managers (about 60 of them) get together to go over what's going on in the company. And they make the new employees stand up in front of the group and introduce themselves. So I end up being first to go. My boss introduces me to the group, and I walk up to the front and give my little speech about how I just graduated, excited to be on board, I like long walks on the beach, etc. As I'm talking, the guy leading the meeting asks me to move closer to the microphone, because this is a teleconference meeting. With Japan. And then I noticed the woman at the front, translating everything into Japanese. I admit, when you are talking and it is being translated into another language, it makes you sound important. Or at least, it makes you hope that you are not making a fool of yourself in front of 2 continents worth of Honda engineers. I haven't heard back from Japan yet.

Security is pretty tight at the facility. No cameras whatsoever, ever. So during orientation I asked what about my cell phone, since it's kinda handy and I would like to have it and not have to leave it in my car every day. No problem, I'm told by the orientation leader. I'm going to give you your company cell phone in a few hours. Sweet. Next to having my words translated, getting issued a cell phone made me feel pretty important too. And there were business cards too. I admit, I'm easy to please.

This week is all CAD training on CATIA V5 (engineering design software). It's a week long training class, with a big thick book of tutorials. It's an entirely different software package than SolidWorks or Pro/Engineer, which I have used at other jobs. CATIA is handier in some ways, and not so handy in other ways, which is about what I expected. But no matter what the software, when you see an entire car as an assembly, with everything from the body panels down to the valve springs, it's impressive.

I work in the transmission design group. This is a pretty small group compared to other groups; there are only about 8 of us who are design engineers, and then we have our managers. By comparison, the biggest group has about 100 engineers. My boss is my age, and the other engineers range from about 24 to early 30s. Everyone seems to get along well, and seems to have a good personality. It seems to be a low-stress environment, but everyone is getting plenty of work done. Maybe I'm just overlooking the stress, since I am not assigned to any projects yet. Our workspace is a big, open design floor that is about as long as 2 football fields. We sort of have cubicles, but the walls are only about waist high. So I feel like I have my own space, but I don't feel closed in, and I feel like I have easy access to the other engineers. Somehow I figure that Honda planned it that way.

Oh, I just found out today that in the next few months I'll be taking the Honda driver training class, which will give me a license to drive test cars on the test track. This includes the high speed test track (zoom!), the skidpad, and a bunch of specially designed roads and tracks to put the car through some of those gruelling tests you might have heard about.

I guess that's about it for Week 1. So far, so good. I think I'll stay for a bit. And for those of you wondering, the commute is currently about 35 minutes, and I don't find it that bad. There's no traffic, so I just set the cruise control and go to sleep listen to NPR.


  1. It sounds to me that they (at Honda) are treating you well, as they should, and as you deserve. I am sure the license to test drive is a perk you are very happy with. Please post the Japanese translation of your intro speech---just kidding!

  2. Jealous.

    Sounds like a super awesome setup, my man. I can't believe they're giving you driving lessons and that you have a frigg'n test track there. That's ridinculous.

    Good stuff.

  3. I will totally swap you business cards. I like to think of this as Magic: The Gathering (M:TG, for if you are hip to that sort of thing), but for grown ups. And you can't tap me for mana. I don't think.