I have a private mailing-list with my closest childhood friends which we use to keep in touch now that we’re spread all around the world. One of them, who recently finished an MBA at Waseda and has yet to jump into the business world, started a thread asking all of us to describe our jobs objectively and in simple terms, not using all the cryptic buzzwords that we might use in our LinkedIn profiles.
I found the exercise very interesting which is why I will copy my reply in here. Be prepared, it’s a bit lengthy.
What is it I do?
I work for Valeo in the Compressor Branch. We make compressors for automobile air conditioning systems: for those who remember their physics lessons and the first law of thermodynamics, the decompression of a fluid lowers its temperature. This is why A/C systems use what we call an A/C loop where we compress/condense a gas on one side before decompressing/evaporating it in a heat exchanger to cool the air coming in your car (then that gas goes back into the compressor for another round in the closed loop). The technology is rather cool and I love looking at CAD models, manipulating the prototypes and talking with our designers to understand how every little part of our product works.
Back to me. So Valeo is this big automotive parts company which is organized into branches by product family: Compressors, Transmissions, Wipers (don’t under-estimate, windshield wipers are high technology items), Lighting Systems, etc. Under each branch there is a division for each country of production. I work for the Compressor branch and therefore give services to all the divisions of my branch in multiple countries: Japan, Thailand, South Korea, China, Czech Republic and USA.
The Compressor branch is a bit special by the fact that it is the only one whose HQ is not around Paris but in Tokyo. The activity was bought back from a Japanese company as a joint-venture with Bosch, then 100% by Valeo 4 years ago. It is therefore a Japanese company whose whole top management (except for R&D) was replaced by French expatriates after acquisition…
I work in a team that manages the information systems (computers and software) of the whole R&D service: 80% in Japan, 20% and growing in the other divisions I listed above. I work mainly on the the PLM system (Product Lifecycle Management) – a kind of big software system that handles all the product design activity from start to finish:
- design new technology prototypes
- management of projects to adapt, manufacture and sell this product to new clients
- design of all the parts included in the compressor and storage of all 3D models and 2D drawings
- approval process for these designs
- life of the product with continuous updates to lower production costs and improve margin
I’m the main-guy on this rather big-big-system. I’m the expert. I train the users, I solve their problems be it technical (buggy server) or functional (software not used in the right way), but mainly I observe all the processes linked to the system – spanning all domains of the company except finance/accounting) – and try to modify the software (by writing specifications that will be written in code by offshore developer in India) or the way that we use it to improve the efficiency of these processes. See Kaizen.
What I like in my job:
- I gravitate around the R&D service but I get to touch all domains of the business which is very interesting.
- I get to travel quite a bit, at least when the company has money (cf. last point of what I don’t like in my job).
- I can play around with servers, make mini-projects on the side to code and build useful tools for my team and I, but I do not spend my whole time coding: I code what I want (i.e. what I like) and pay other people to write the big boring 100.000s lines of code for me.
What I don’t like in my job:
- It’s complicated to work in Japan for my manager in France and users all over the world to satisfy imperatives from Group Headquarter in France who seems to always forget that I am the only bastard with a time difference of +7h (don’t I love it when I get asked why I wasn’t there for the meeting at 4PM Paris time…).
- It’s not easy to quantify my ROI (return on investment – how much money I saved for the company compared to how much I cost) at the end of the year.
- The location: my office is in a factory in the middle of nowhere, 1h of train away from Tokyo plus 20min of bus from the closest train station.
- Right now, the automobile business is not the funniest place to be at: budget cuts, canceled projects, travel and hiring freezes, restructuration plans. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns…