Blogging always comes naturally to me when I have big life changes. Uprooting your life and moving across the country will definitely classify as such.
I’ve spent the first two years of my post-school working life in working as a Systems Engineer for LG in Detroit. I met a lot of interesting people, and got great experience working for a Tier one automotive supplier. I’ll try to describe my experiences without giving any major information about any of the companies away.
My customer was mostly FCA, although I dealt with Ford once or twice. Working in a Tier one gives you an interesting perspective because you get to deal with multiple companies; you can see differences in corporate culture.
My impression from working with FCA employees is: FCA can give you a lot of experience at once because the program timelines are generally very short; there is also less documentation and processes which can really slow engineering development; FCA is willing to take more risk and rely on their suppliers.
Ford has a more structured approach to engineering. Lots of gates, milestones, and design reviews. Program timing is more conservative, and they have a lower tolerance for risky new technologies; they don’t want to be the pioneers in EV technology. This may result in a more mature reliable product, but at a later date.
During my time at LG, we operated very much like a startup. When I started we only had two active programs. When I left, there were over five. When the programs were fewer, we were actively looking for business. This would involve coming up with custom solutions for customers, then trying to sell them. This was a lot of fun because it took a lot of creativity, without getting bogged down in the details. I also got to play around in the lab quite often, to build and test new prototypes; testing is fun because you get immediate results.
One of the highlights of the time working there was going on a ‘Hot Trip’ to support vehicle thermal development. It basically involved driving around in the desert, up mountains, and through the Las Vegas strip at about 45’C. This was done to thermally validate the vehicle and make sure subsystems (including batteries) did not overheat. These were long work days, performing data collection and occasionally repairing vehicles; however, I got to see a lot of the natural beauty in the USA. During the night we could relax for a few hours and check out Las Vegas :).
All in all I would say it was a great experience and I would do it again if I had the chance. I would have really enjoyed going to LG head office in Korea, but I’m sure there will be another chance; the battery industry is small.