December 2021 (2 years ago)

Interning at BMW

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9 min read (1712 words)
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In a nutshell

  • Improved German language skills
  • Completed a CS project to solidify my career foundations
  • Did an autocross racing experience
  • Took a week off to visit Italy and Germany
  • Worked on cooking skills, self-living skills, personal systems and structure

Improved German Language Skills

Working at a German company gave me the benefit of having weekly classes and doing language exchanges with international interns. Classes were useful because we gradually introduced more and more grammar concepts, but the language exchanges were more impactful for the natural flow of the language.

I actually had some doubts about whether I could take the class. My other choice for the fall was the “Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals”), but I felt like I could apply for it again with the career and language experience from BMW.10

HR said the BMW language classes are possible based on my manager’s approval. I had my that, but I almost ruined it because I told other people that they could do it if they had their manager’s approval as well. I like adding value to people, and if they could take these classes as well, I think it would’ve been a great thing. But HR got spammed with these emails so they sent out this:

Untitled
Untitled

And I was like “hmm,” I probably still fulfill all of these requirements because my German level is at an intermediate level, so I went out and got lunch with the manager of classes to get his approval. So I ended up taking the classes, but it was more effort than necessary if I didn’t talk to people about it. Nevertheless, rules are made by people, and if you can talk to the people responsible, you can get around the “rules.”

Projects

This internship was more of a self-driven experience than one with a large amount of guidance—at the start I could clearly see with a team of about 8-9 full-time people and 5 interns, it wouldn’t work out. Something that people don’t think about is that it’s not about interns finding opportunities, but also the team’s ability to have interns help without increasing drag. Teams, too, can be overambitious about how much they can handle and how much they’ve prepared in advance. In these situations, interns have to ask if the project they choose is getting them closer to their goals.

project2.webp
project2.webp

What I ended up doing is creating a monitor for monitoring the production of cars. Associates use this all day, and the current version needed modernizing because the project maintenance teams don’t support PHP anymore. It was a self-driven project, though I did get some assistance on databases and deployment. I felt confident in learning this subject because of the availability of documentation and resources.

Frontend Backend Databases
React Express Oracle APEX
Next.js REST APIs SQL

Before that, I covered many potential ideas:

  • GPT-3 usage for classifying employee sentiment and language translations
    • Ended up not working that well because I couldn’t find a usage pipeline, such as HR, in order to ensure this project has an impact
    • The one good use case I’ve seen for this is correcting OCR text
  • Quantum Computing
    • If you read congress.gov bills, the Innovation and Competition Act says that this is important
    • For me, I felt like it was still in a stage of research rather than a stage of implementation, and I struggled to figure out what I could do with this even if I had implemented some projects as we’re only around tens of qbits
    • We used the ATOS Quantum Simulator, but nobody I talked to really understood how or why it worked. I personally don’t know why we couldn’t just use a traditional computer to simulate it. I think it was in the upper 20s for qbits?
  • Machine Learning/Data Science/Computer Vision/etc.
    • Actually I would have had some great mentorship had I picked a project in this area. But I didn’t trust my foundations in this, nor did I want to spend these four months learning this but have nothing to show at the end.
  • Microsoft Hololens AR Projects
    • The developer experience of this is simply not up to par, so I didn’t go further with this. I had to install a ton of Visual Studio packages, C++ libraries, Unity libraries, and then still have 4-5 steps in order to compile my project. IMO, the company that wins AR will have the best developer experience.
  • Web3 stuff
    • Didn’t have any use cases at the company, but it’s something I’m exploring on my own time.

I feel like I wasn’t able to add as much value to the business because I just simply wasn’t that skilled at the time? If I were dropped into a situation like that now, I’d approach it from getting a list of problems at the business that needed to be fixed and seeing where that meshes with my skills.

Autocross Racing Experience

After doing an internal hackathon, which was more like an “idea-a-thon,” our team came up on top for the simplicity of the proposed implementation of batch tracing glue barrels and low cost due to existing parts. I think what sunk the other pitches was that they threw out “this’ll cost $10,000,” or “this’ll cost $70,000” without significant justification. After this experience I do think there is value in “pitch-a-thons” because time-limited executives can evaluate a lot of potential ideas.

Our team proposed a method for batch tracing glue barrels
Our team proposed a method for batch tracing glue barrels

The result was that we got a voucher for a half day on the track, which all things considered, was decently fun. It’s definitely in the top quartile of things I’ve done. I originally had the idea of a premium car might be like good furniture. What was actually notable was that these BMWs are quiet and quick at acceleration/breaking, but the interior wasn’t a huge difference from other cars to me. Perhaps expecting wood and metal linings inside the car comes from a perspective of not really driving expensive cars.

autocross
autocross

Miscellaneous Things I learned

  • BMW hires a lot of BCG consultants because they pay significantly more in Germany
  • Kuka and ABB do a lot of robotic “process consultant” work for BMW
  • Palantir once had a lot of people come in and do a bunch of crazy stuff with data for BMW quality control. They had not seen anything like that before. But they bring the junior people rather than having all senior people on the team.
  • Aftersales is HP printer ink. So aftersales is just some money.
  • Venture capital of BMW is iVentures
  • Apparently nobody exactly knows how much profit is made from a single car at BMW. It’s all one giant tangled loop.
  • Financial services at BMW is leases, loans, finances, etc. and they make a lot of money from interest and finances.
  • Theory: All major successful companies have a finance arm to them (think Starbucks gift cards)
  • supposedly you have to reapply for co-ops because each new job has to be posted (some federal law?) and you tell the manager and they approve you.
  • From another intern: FTX = Field Training Exercise in Reserve Corp, don’t do “transpo” or you’ll die quickly
  • Kuka arms move hella fast
  • Imagine your only job being to put strips of foam insulation onto a windshield (that was what we observed at the plant, I wonder how much he gets paid to do that)
  • On visits on Silicon Valley: Intel has an old-scale HQ, Github supposedly has a nice office, BMW offices ‘feels’ European in that you walk into the lobby, have a wing on the left and right, and about 2 stairs. I think the floor labeling was European too.
  • South Carolina stores plutonium for around 1.5 billion Euros
  • Some of the German belief against nuclear power is that despite advanced countries studying mathematics, science, the Japanese nuclear disasters mean advanced countries cannot control the technology
  • S Plaid had interior quality comparable to a Ford (this was 2021, btw)
  • A manager’s perspective: Electric cars have numerous problems for adoption: European flats do not have a place to charge them, perhaps it is a move to reduce reliance on Arab countries, social media causes the young to want cars for status signaling, perhaps young people will give up cars altogether

More on glue barrels

  • Something interesting about the batch processing of material: things such as glues, lubricants, oils, washer fluid is that they have no labels. So how do you associate such things, if a recall is needed, with car VINs?
  • Once a barrel is attached to a robot, it can’t move. Batch of 20, etc., and the barrel could be at the windshield or at another part. They purge the line to some extent, but they can’t guarantee that they kill it completely. What is a “shark fin?” The thing at the top of a car?
  • Currently, batch process material is done by shipping date. Hopefully they were used in sequence, so you have to figure out which cars and volume within three months is taken. It’s terrible to just go one by one and figure out which cars have issues because the glue is going to be hidden
  • How often are the barrels swapped out? It depends on the volume that is used and the size of the barrel. Small barrels are good for 30kg, or roughly 65lb.
  • IPSL, IPSQ, “International Production System, logistics and quality module, etc.” Those systems are used to scan individual part numbers and dumped into the “DOM” database. If we can link it into this kind of database structure, where we already have the ability to track serial numbers for parts, we might be able to find a solution to how we deal with it for glue beads.
  • The batch number is labeled on the glue container. When a barrel is put into a glue machine, all they do is write it on a piece of paper?
  • If there are 20 barrels placed at a different batch, how do you know distinguish which ones work?
  • The glue process: get barrels, place into machine, it reduces the volume to squeeze it out into tubes, repeaters then add on the pressure, and finally it goes into the KUKA robot arm which automagically places it onto the windshield

Conclusion

Overall I got the most possible out of this experience. The only thing I should’ve done is set up a 1-1 meeting with everyone in my department at the beginning so that I got to know everybody. Surprisingly, I think I handled the bureaucratic system within a large company well considering the situation with German classes. I’m happy about the project I did, and I feel good about progressing in Computer Science.


  1. CBYX-YP has an age limit of 24, which I won’t hit for three more years.