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Rising Stars: Senior Staff Engineer / Assistant Chief Inspecting Engineer

Find out more about Karen Sabo as she shares her career experiences and challenges as an engineer.

Name: Karen Sabo
Company: Honda of America Mfg Inc

School: University of Pittsburgh
Years Out of College: 24
Major: Metallurgical Engineering

1) How did you get your first job? Would you share what you learned in the first few months of on the job training?

When I was graduating from college a friend told me that Honda was hiring.  I got an interview and have been there ever since, holding various positions and having many opportunities.  Although Honda had started manufacturing operations in the U.S. in 1979, the company had not been hiring engineers straight from college. I was in the first group of hired college grads and one of the first women. I started in the automotive side at the auto stamping department and am now in Motorcycle.  

My first job was a great starting point.   One of the first things Honda does when you join is give you exposure to all the different facets of production.  This way you understand how a car is built in its entirety and going forward make decisions that take account of how you influence the entire manufacturing process.   OK, in the beginning I have to admit I didn't see the immediate benefit of this overwhelming introductory process.  But the company helped me change my mind quickly. 

Within my first 3 months on the job I was sent on a business trip to Japan.  On that trip I had met some of my first mentors from Honda as well as some of our suppliers. One of the things I realized I liked about my job was the opportunity to continue learning, growing and experiencing new things. 

2) What challenges did you face along the way?

The biggest challenges are the differences in language and the distance between Japan and the US.  However, this is something everyone learns to understand and embrace.

3) What happens in your typical day? What excites you most about your job right now?

Being a Quality manager of the Motorcycle plant ensures that there is never a typical day. In the morning, however, we usually review what happened yesterday and where we are headed. From there it can take a lot of different paths.  Besides quality I have to pay attention to other aspects such as safety, environment, cost, production and worker morale.  All of these things must be considered and planned for.

As you can see there is quite a bit of diversity, and I think that is why I like my job so much. Do I do much metallurgy?  I wouldn't say that it is a daily part of my job, but, yes, some metallurgy is still there. The basic background that I received in college was a good building block, and Honda has helped me to promote and develop it further.

4) What is the best advice you've heard so far? How did you hear it? What advice would you give other students starting on a similar path?

Find a mentor. When you are experiencing new things and get a bit confused, a mentor would guide you.   Next thing I learned is to be a team player and keep a positive attitude!  This will help you become more accomplished and successful.  I have learned so much from my fellow team members.  Finally, my advice is to "find a job you enjoy!"  I love working at Honda!

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