Friday, August 31, 2012

GM Vehicle No. 3

Besides the ride and drives where we have a vehicle for a short period of time on a prescribed route, GM has a program, which I have already taken advantage of, where you can rent vehicles either for a week or a weekend.  This is how I got the back CTS station wagon in June and the Volt over the July 4th shutdown week.  My third vehicle for the internship, which I will also have for a week, is a silver Camaro Coupe (the 2LT version with the RS trim package - aka the V6 with all the spiffy features).

Here's looking at you
To continue my method of picking a single feature or two to highlight, my favorite feature of this car has got to be the heads up display.  It makes you feel like you're driving something from the future and is easy to see both during the day and at night.  I was slightly bummed to get a silver version of a car that actually comes in a lot of bright, flashy colors, but the heads up display and all the extra features made up for it.  Besides the sweet display, the radio/bluetooth/center console system was, amazingly, much easier than I expected to set up.  I had my phone synced, the date corrected (it shows you the date), radio presets changed and some XM preferences set all without much effort at all.  Yay!

That's right
I drove the buggy down to to the airport to drop my friend back off at the airport on Monday and on Wednesday I drove out one of our plants on Ohio.  On Saturday, I will be driving it about eight hours to Pennsylvania for labor day weekend.  In the trips I've taken so far, the driving position and seat have been comfortable for long trips and having a USB port built into the car to rock out to tunes on my iPod has been fun.

So, labor day plans put me on the road.  Hopefully traffic and construction won't be too horrendous.  Leaving early on Saturday should help, though.  Finally...the reward for going back to work next week?  I think it might finally be Dunkin Donuts pumpkin spice flavor time again.  I might not want fall to come, but it does taste really good.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Opportunities in the form of challenges

Within the first week or so of my time at GM, specifically at the JumpStart anniversary event, we had an opportunity to do even more for the company.  In partnership with MTV Scratch, GM sponsored an innovation challenge.  This challenge, which had six categories that teams could tackle, was a seven week endeavor that, for me, ended in the semi-finals two and a half weeks ago.  The reason for the delay on the post if that I wanted to see if GM or MTV had issues with it.  It seems as if it's good to go.

Image from:

To rewind a little though, I was lucky enough to be selected for a team to begin with.  Happily, there was lots of interest in the competition and, so, actually many more interns and new hires were interested in the challenge than were able to be on the three teams per category GM wanted.  I made it onto one of the three PR challenge teams (PR being Public Relations).  I ended up working with three guys and one other girl who sat at three different GM sites.  Our challenge was to choose influencers and come up with a strategy for how they could promote Chevy's small cars to millennials (basically teenagers though age 30).

At first the team wasn't gelling together.  Sometimes emails were replied to, sometimes people could make it to the workshops MTV held for us, but I actually was able to use tools that I learned about at Sloan to help make some early decisions.  I used Darwinator for us to come up with a team name (we used at school in our product design and development class to decide on which product design concepts would go forward), we used a couple of times (used this lots for scheduling group assignment meetings for Sloan classes during term) and overall I tried to be open to team ideas and willing to let other people take the reins.  I was the designated leader because I had come up with an early good idea and spoken with the organizers the most, but I really worked at being a guide rather than a ruler.  I knew that, beyond the internship, this would be a really good way to work on the 'Leaders' part of LGO.

Even though I was the team leader, the final influencer group we chose to promote Chevy small cars was not a group I had proposed; I used that as a way to have the team be more invested in our choice.  I was invested in the team no matter what, but if I could have another ally to champion the topic they had thought of, then I figured it would be even better.

We didn't all meet in person until more than half way into the seven weeks of the challenge (I had met some of my team members in person, but not all of them before that).  However, once we had that all hands in-person meeting, it became easier to schedule phone calls, share ideas and work on our presentation.  The team really did come together at the end which made me really happy.

Almost three weeks ago was the semi-final round of the challenge where we competed with only the other PR teams.  The winner of this round would go on to compete against the winners of the other categories, pitching for GM execs from each category as well as the president of North America to see who would get the grand prize.  During the semi-finals, I appreciated finally getting to see the other PR team ideas since, until then, we had worked pretty much in isolation.  However, when the results were announced, our idea was not the one chosen to go to the finals.

While it was disappointing in the moment, it was a little bit of a relief to not have to work on this extra side project any more.  I must say though that I enjoyed this as an additional way to meet people who were my age, to work with MTV Scratch (nice people!) and to get some more practice in a skill outside of engineering by, this time, applying marketing and communications classes to the real world.  I even learned a little bit about making videos with Windows Movie Maker.  I'm very glad that I participated in the Innovation Challenge and would be happy to do it again if I had the opportunity.

An additional note on working (and connecting with people):

Before many of us went off on our internships, we received words of wisdom from the off-cycles which were to be aware of and make use of "espresso breaks" and the water cooler as a way of meeting people and getting to know what's really going on.  Since people at my office seem less enamored of coffee, one thing I have found that does wonders at forming deeper bonds with them is going on a road trip (or plane trip), in my case, riding with others when we go to plants.  I've been very happy to have ridden with the people I have so far and feel like we both have come to a much better understanding of each other from having shared that experience.

Near the beginning of my internship I tried sending out a lunch invite so I could meet people more casually and not eat alone.  Turns out, from that cold email I had one lunch "meeting" with three people in my group and not much else happened.  Perhaps I asked too many people at once, perhaps there are that many people for whom having lunch with someone they don't know very well is rather uncomfortable and perhaps it was too early on in the internship for people to jump at the offer.  Either way, while you can miss a lunch, it's pretty hard to miss a car ride.  You've got to talk for at least some of the time.  That's been my equivalent of an extended "espresso/water cooler break" and I've been pleased with the results.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Ride and Drive right here

Rather than having to go somewhere else, I was very happy that, today, our office in Pontiac was host to an all-employee ride and drive and that I got a chance to drive some vehicles for the first time.

Today, I drove three and those were:
The CTS-V Coupe
The Chevy Spark
The Buick Regal GS
I usually have my own photos, but since I had left my smartphone at my desk, these will have to do.

The horsepower on these vehicles ranged from <100 to >500 so I ran the gamut.  We drove on roads around our facility and so, even though at one point I was sitting behind >500 HP, I only hit 45 MPH.  GM's OnStar system is an extra deterrent from going crazy during the test drive - they can basically know where you are and what's going on with the car all the time - you can't hide!

Of the three vehicles my favorite feature of all the cars was a button knob/system just ahead of the center armrest in the Regal, so you could navigate the center console screen without having to lean forward and touch it.  This worked on the audio screen, the navigation screen and for the hands free calling system.  I could navigate though the menus while sitting basically a normal driving position.  Additionally, within, say, the radio menu, it could show you stations that were present in your area as a list (rather than just having to press scan over and over and see what you get).  As possibly old fashioned as it is, I still like to listen to the radio and so thought that all of those features were spiffy.  This is also available for the XM stations as well.

While the CTS-V does have an amazing engine, except for the sportier bucket seats, the inside of the vehicle appeared pretty much the same as the CTS Wagon I rented earlier in the summer.  Not as much change as I would have expected.  I enjoyed how it started to go just from a light touch on the gas, but, again, it was frustrating not to be able to take it out on the highway and try and merge from an on ramp to see more of what the acceleration can do.

Finally, even though I had sat in it before, today was the first day I drove a Spark.  I got to drive a green one, like I had taken a picture of in one of the earlier posts.  If I were to get one myself, though, I might go for the silvery light pink.  While the CTS-V purred along during the test drive (since it couldn't show off due to the speed limits), the Spark was, in it's own way, satisfying because even at these lower speeds its engine was working more and so it sounded like you were doing more.  I'm sure on a highway, this test drive would have felt very different.  The spark felt quite roomy for a small car and it has a touchscreen console.  While the touchscreen worked pretty well the button to shut off that screen/system which was like a "button" on a smart phone - an icon that's flush with the surface but still does something when you touch it - didn't always respond when I pressed it which was frustrating.

So, with getting to talk to people while waiting in line and getting out in the sunshine to drive some more of GM's offerings, Thursday turned out to be a better day than I anticipated.  Tomorrow night I have a guest coming and then it's the weekend.  Yay!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Los viajes en México

The second half of last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico for my first time ever.

This trip was through GM to visit another plant down there, working on similar tasks to the ones I tackled when I visited plants in the mid-west.  I was able to ressurect some of my 6th grade Spanish and at least make people feel acknowledged and appreciated down here by saying hello and good day/afternoon/evening.  I found out how to say check as well as what the peso:dollar conversion rate is - currently around 13:1.  It's funny to see most prices be in triple digits.

I have to say that the people at the plant down here were wonderful hosts and the food was amazing.  Everything from the hotel breakfasts to the plant cafeteria to the Argentinian inspired restaurants we went to for dinner was wonderful.  For breakfast, I would have a mix of a Mexican and a United States meal - a slice of french toast or a pancake with maple syrup, plus two enchiladas and some fruit.  I had seen blue corn chips in the states, but not tortillas.  At our second dinner, they were mixed in with the flour and regular corn ones that were brought to the table.
Dinner from the second night - roast pig with chimichurri sauce and grilled vegetables
Got to try some guacamole!
There's also a beer that's a namesake of mine.  I wish I could have grabbed the glass.
Also here, I got my first taste of higher elevations.  The plant is located in a mesa surrounded by mountains, so even though it looks like it's in a plain it's still around 9,000 feet in elevation.  Every once in a while I would find it harder to breathe than I thought it should be and that was when I was reminded that we were relatively high up (at least for US, especially east coast US standards).
Even around our mesa there were mountains
Roadside stores and restaurants
One thing that's definitely different is the colors.  Buildings and signs, especially the older ones, are all kinds of pastel colors from yellows to purples.  Cars are a mix of old and new, most are small.  I saw tons of old VW beetles as well as cars with a Chevy logo outline surrounded by a circle.  I think this was explained to me as being a joint Chevy/Opel international model (Opel's logo is a circle with a sideways lightning bolt through it).

Opel Chevy on the left and an ancient Dodge Dart on the right
In Mexico City we drove by buildings of the other big three:

Being driven around in a nicely equipped Suburban made me feel like I was in the mafia or something.  Neither the airport we flew into or the city we ended up in had any warnings from the US government about safety, but we still were driven around the entire time.  This was mostly because traffic was nuts.  If we had had rental cars, I'm not sure when and how we would have made it to the hotel or the plant.
Signs heading to the plant, this traffic wasn't bad
This was more like it most of the way
When we made it to the airport for our trip home, we had some lunch, checked out the duty free shops (the price on vanilla was fantastic!) and then headed to our plane.
The airport terminal vaguely reminds me of MIT's Simmons Hall, almost the whole terminal was constructed like this - concrete with lots and lots of holes

Monday, August 20, 2012

Had to put this up

We've got the laziest Canada Geese out there...

Canada is, literally 25-35 miles away, depending on which way the goose flies.
Yep, Pontiac to Canada is that close...Canada is even south of Detroit!
They barely crossed the border for this one.  It just makes me laugh.  I guess getting home again won't be that bad for them :-P

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Besides the call for leadership...

There is also the call for democracy!

Especially this year, in a presidential election year, doing one of the most American things you can do and voting is important.  Many of us have changed addresses recently for internships and so I wanted to remind people now (since you have to register often a month in advance of elections and usually by mail if not in person), to find out if you can vote absentee from your old address and, if not, how to register at your new one (and possibly vote absentee there if need be).

It had actually been a little lost in my head to register and vote, until I went to a concert this summer where the performers, quite nicely and non-partisanly called for people to remember to go to the polls.  They didn't care how people voted, just that they let their voice be heard.  Certainly as regular citizens, but especially citizens who are focused (at least somewhat) on leadership, this is something that should be important.  I've registered here in Michigan, but am applying for an absentee ballot for the presidential election since I'm not sure if I'll still be in MA for recruiting then or not.

There are a number of national sites like and which will send you to the right state office or page to get things underway.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Cool clouds I saw while walking into work recently
Through JumpStart and awesome employees, I was able to go on two different tours of the Milford Proving Ground, GM's primary vehicle test facilities last week.  Some of the facts about this place are amazing:

  • They use 2.5 Million gallons of fuel (all kinds of different blends) per year (and spend about 7 Million $ on it)
  • Highest speed clocked at the facility: 205.2 MPH
  • Crash test sensors are rated up to 100G (yes, G force units)
  • The "black lake" part of the facility is a continuous, paved asphalt test surface with an area of more than 59 football fields

During the lunch break between my two tours, a few other interns and I checked out downtown Milford, MI.  Since I couldn't take photos on the GM campus, I took some photos here.  Most of the stores we standard clothes/home/artisan type stuff, but there was this unusual framing store that also offered collectibles for sale.

Star Wars sign...the first hint that something is different
Glenn - you should come to Michigan - first generation transformer toys!
Additional toys and collectibles from the past four decades
Back at the proving grounds, we saw lots of various disguised cars around the facility since lots of tests are done on upcoming model year vehicles.  Besides the proving grounds, I'll get to check out the On-Star Command Center and a windtunnel and some other super cool places in the company later this summer.

Other than that fun stuff, I've been humming along, but I'm amazed at how fast the summer's going.  I'm somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3rd done and it's closer than I'd like to admit to that 33% mark.  Now that I've been at GM for a bit, I had a visit from my two academic advisers.  They finally met my project champion in person, got to share some of their research at MIT and then I made a presentation, too.  The rest of the time was spent catching up, reviewing things in more detail and then making sure I had direction and priorities heading forward.  The beginning part of the project, in Sloan terms, is "sensemaking" (in other people's terms "making sense of things").  I originally had a number of ideas but wasn't sure exactly which ones would be most I was partially following many of them and making only slow progress.  Now I've got a map of sorts and am feeling better.

This helped me feel better, too - a chocolate shake so thick it didn't sink down the straw
Today I woke up extra early and rode with a coworker down to our casting plant in Ohio.  When we returned to where I had parked my car this afternoon, another Grand Prix was across from it.  There wasn't much unusual about the car, just about how many things were around the rear view mirror.
How much smell are you trying to cover up?!?!?
Oh silly world...
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