Editor’s Note: When TEMA Engineer Jackie Birdsall got a chance to work at Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan, she knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. Birdsall’s work on the Mirai and hydrogen fueling stations have put her on the cutting edge of the auto industry’s future. So, like other North American team members before her, Birdsall traveled across the Pacific to bask in the knowledge of some of the best engineers in the world. That sounded pretty cool, so we asked her to write a semi-regular diary about her experiences. Part 1 is below.
Howdy from Japan!
I’ve been here a little while now and am loving it.
The people here – both locals and fellow expats – are so welcoming and supportive.
I have an amazing apartment in Nagoya and am surrounded by so many things to do. Actually, there may be too many delicious restaurants dangerously close.
Though I can’t go into everything I’m working on at TMC, I’d still like to share my experiences as an American engineer in Japan.
One thing that’s blown me away is the magnitude of the people around me. In my first days, I had a problem on a part that I couldn’t figure out. I asked my manager who, in turn, directed me to the engineer who designed the component in question.
I walked past the numerous engineers on my floor to find him among the engineers on the floor below. Not only did he answer my question, he gave me a detailed explanation. As an engineer, hearing this first-hand knowledge directly from the designer of the component gave me a unique appreciation for not just the component, but the wealth of knowledge all around me.
As I walked back to my desk, past these other engineers, I realized that, among these eight floors in my building, and among the many buildings at TMC headquarters, each of these engineers is an expert in something that directly shaped one of our vehicles. And they are all here. And they are all ready to answer my questions. That’s when I fully realized the true scope of this assignment. That’s when I realized how much I can learn over the next 13 months.
And ultimately, I realized that this is what the One Toyota concept is all about: collaboration and the opportunities you can only get when sitting at a table and discussing a concept face to face.
Maybe One Toyota is a uniquely North American adventure. But it certainly embodies the culture Toyota spreads in its offices throughout the world. And by being on the same campus as all of these giants in my field, I have a chance to understand my work more deeply, and appreciate my role as a unique engineer who is part of a team working toward a common goal.
On a personal note I visited Hiroshima last weekend. At dusk, I arrived at the A-bomb dome – essentially ground zero for the A-bomb detonation which leveled the city in 1945. It was silent, beautiful and peaceful.
At the base of the Memorial Monument, a plaque reads: This monument embodies the hope that Hiroshima, devastated on 6 August 1945 by the world’s first atomic bombing, will stand forever as a city of peace.
The stone chamber at the center contains the Register of Deceased A-bomb Victims. The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.”
It is one of the most powerful places I have ever been. I wanted to share that moment – that ideal – with everyone.
By Jackie Birdsall