What It's Like to Work at Saturn Corp.

FRAMINGHAM (01/24/2000) - Interviewee: Roger Kash, manager of information technology infrastructure and operationsCompany: Saturn Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors Corp.

Main location: Spring Hill, Tenn., 35 miles south of NashvilleTenure: Almost 14 years. "I was our 200th employee. We were founded in 1985, and I started in April '86 in controls engineering in the manufacturing IT group."

Number of IT employees: About 50 full-time staff and 100 to 150 contractorsWho does what? Full-time staff manages and sets strategies, procures equipment, selects contractors and sets assignments, develops business cases and defines scope of work. Contractors handle operations, troubleshooting, deployment, implementation, software development, etc. "Full-timers are interacting more with people in the plants and with [internal] customers."

Number of employees (end users): About 15,000 in Spring Hill, Detroit and Wilmington, Del.

How do most employees get to work? "Many drive Saturns. GM offers an employee discount. The discount applies to all GM products."

Workday: "Most work a typical 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 or 5 p.m. day. It really depends on what you do. If you're in operations, you follow production hours.

If you're in support or maintenance, you set your own hours but do whatever is necessary."

Kind of offices: "We all have the same office arrangements - the Saturn [CIO] sits in a cube on my left, and one of my infrastructure managers is in a cube on my right. IT is scattered all over and generally co-located with end users."

Computers: Almost all NT workstations, with some Unix-based machinesPercentage of staff that telecommutes on a given day: "Not very many. We all come into the office because we build a product, so the focus is to do whatever it takes to support that, and it's difficult to do that from home."

What kind of in-house training do you get? "We have GM University, and we bring in training for whatever we need from Microsoft, Digital and local companies."

On-site day care? "Not right on-site, but very nearby. It's a public facility, but it's supported by Saturn."

In-house cafeteria/food service: Yes, several cafeterias. "They serve three meals a day. The menu varies - sandwiches, hot meals, pancakes, prime rib occasionally."

Food rating (scale of 1 to 10, with 10 the best): 5; "I eat in the plant and off-site."

The one thing everyone complains about: [Laughs.] "Well, probably ‘hurry up and wait' - the bureaucracy in GM, in that it takes a long time to get what you need to get the job done. GM is a big company. Saturn is not completely autonomous. We have a new IS group in GM, and we are part of that team now - we're still Saturn employees, but part of the GM IS organization."

Little perks: [Laughs.] "We get to see and use the latest technology before the public does - you could call that a perk. In IT, we don't have any particular perks over other areas of the company. We have a lot more participation than people do at most companies. And we have regular GM benefits, which are competitive."

Would employees feel comfortable e-mailing the CEO? [Laughs.] "Sure. Saturn employees would feel comfortable e-mailing the president of General Motors."

Quote: "Compared to other manufacturing IT environments, Saturn is extremely progressive. I would put our plant in one of top best two or three in the U.S., and you can validate that with [our vendors], Microsoft, Cisco and Compaq/Digital. So, from that perspective, it's about as good as it gets. Now, Saturn is being influenced a lot more by GM than it was before, but GM lets Saturn be what it is."

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