Engineering internships and co-ops bring success
�Since 2011, we have hired more than half of our co-ops to fill fulltime positions.�
� Tonya Horn, college recruiting, First Energy
�We need co-op students and interns to help conduct our business.�
� Eddy Bailey, BMW operational lead of talent development
By Skip Waugh
Internships and co-ops are becoming the new interview.
Sixty percent of companies surveyed for a recent Collegiate Employment Research Institute study said their primary purpose for internships and co-ops was to identify and develop talent. �Student employment experiences allow the new employee to hit the ground running while saving us considerable ramp-up time,� says Lisa Finch, manager of global diversity and inclusion at Halliburton (Houston, TX).
�The demand for our vehicles is growing,� says Eddy Bailey, operational lead of talent development programs at BMW Manufacturing (Spartanburg, SC). �We need co-op students and interns to help conduct our business.�
Ben Martin, VP of global talent acquisition at Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD), adds, �Students get a head start on fulltime employment because of their familiarity with our company. We are committed to using our internship/co-op program as our primary pipeline for entry-level engineering hires.�
Finding a match
Typically, internships are one-time work assignments that last from ten to twelve weeks, mostly during the summer. They can be full or part time, paid or unpaid.
A co-op is based on an agreement between the student, the employer and the university. Most assignments involve paid fulltime work that alternates with class time. Typically students work a co-op one semester and take classes the next. Most programs cover three work terms, turning pursuit of an undergraduate degree into a five-year endeavor. In return, the student gets solid work experience.
Campus career development centers and student chapters of professional organizations are good sources of contacts; students can also contact employers directly or via their career websites.
The competition can be fierce, but in some industries, openings go unfilled. �At last year�s career fair at Oklahoma State University (Stillwater), there were 180 to 200 employers and about sixty chemical engineers. That is the average graduating class each year,� says Leslie Reynolds, manager of human resources for Linde Process Plants (Tulsa, OK).
At the depth of the recent recession, many engineering students opted to pursue graduate degrees instead of seeking immediate employment after earning their bachelors. Now, some companies are seeing the trend reverse. �Students are graduating and coming to work here,� says Reynolds. �The students who want to pursue a masters can take advantage of tuition reimbursement.�
Shannon Freeze-Flory, worldwide recruiting leader at Texas Instruments (Dallas, TX), notes, �Texas Instruments provides opportunities for those who want to continue their education to receive assistance. TI has a long history of hiring interns and we plan to continue into the future.�
�Since 2011, we have hired more than half of our co-ops to fill fulltime positions. We have only seen a few students defer to attend graduate school, and some have continued to co-op while attending,� says Tonya Horn, college recruiting program lead at First Energy (Akron, OH).
Dong-Nghi V. Hua of Lockheed Martin: a co-op in high school
Dong-Nghi Hua decided early on he wanted hands-on experience at an engineering company.
At Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Greenbelt, MD), he was part of the school�s Quality Education in Science and Technology (QUEST)/Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) program. The school had an established partnership with Lockheed Martin�s information systems and global solutions business unit in Greenbelt and the company was looking for high school students.
Hua�s coordinator recommended him for a position. He got a co-op assignment during his senior year, so he split his time between Lockheed Martin and his QUEST/AOIT classes. After graduation he did summer internships in 2009 and 2010. He enrolled at the University of MarylandCollege Park in the fall of 2009.
During the co-op and internships, he worked with the decennial response integration system group. The system read and stored information collected for the U.S. 2010 census. He helped prepare materials and perform standard calibrations for test engineers.
Hua admits being a little nervous when he started with the group. �The team knew I had a huge learning curve, but they made the whole experience enjoyable,� he says. Toward the end of his second internship, he led end-to-end systems tests for the team. In the summer of 2012, he applied online for a third internship on the Lockheed Martin automated flight service station program in Rockville, MD. There he wrote software to automate tests.
His experience at Lockheed Martin convinced him that he wanted to major in EE. �Electrical engineers have to know it all,� he says. �Not only is it challenging, but the field offers exposure to a wide range of knowledge you can�t find in other degrees.� He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BSEE in 2013, and applied to the company�s missions systems and training group. He got into the group�s leadership development program (LDP), which included a variety of assignments over a three-year period.
�The fact I had multiple internships with Lockheed Martin helped set my resume apart,� he says. �My internship experience with systems integration and testing also helped me land my first LDP rotation in vertical launching systems, which are used by the U.S. Navy.�
As a systems engineer in the program, Hua�s responsibilities include work on the navigation system for the littoral combat ship, a recent addition to the Navy�s fleet. �Working on projects like this is a perk of being with the country�s largest defense contractor,� he says.
Hua says his early experience with co-ops and internships was essential to his success after graduation. �I learned how to work with other engineers and how to understand my role,� he says. �It gave me actual engineering experience that I couldn�t have gotten any other way. Most important, it gave me confidence in myself and inspired my interest in the company.�
Hua stresses the importance of building relationships with coworkers. �You know who to go to for questions. It is much better and easier knowing you have strong bonds with the people you work with.�
Patricia Gharagozloo, PhD: intern at Sandia National Laboratories
For Patricia Gharagozloo, PhD, internships were a way to learn more about mechanical engineering and define her interests within the field. They led to a career with Sandia National Laboratories (Livermore, CA).
At the University of Washington-Seattle, she explored mechatronics, biomechanics and micro-electrical-mechanical systems, and had a growing interest in heat transfer and fluid dynamics. Gharagozloo landed her first two internships by attending career fairs and following up on the contacts she made there. �If the right person for your specialty isn�t there, you may be overlooked,� she says.
Her first internship was with IBM (Armonk, NY) in 2002, the summer of her sophomore year. She conducted failure analyses on the company�s microscopic tape head drives. She examined the properties of failed components using an atomic force microscope and tried to recreate the failures in the lab.
Her first internship with Sandia came the next summer. She conducted fluid and thermal computational simulations of two fluids being combined in a microscale Y-channel.
�Sandia brings hundreds of interns on site each summer and organizes outings, seminars and tours. It�s a great way to meet other students,� she says. She completed her undergraduate studies in 2004, earning a double degree in mechanical engineering and applied computational mathematical sciences.
She returned to the same Sandia department in 2004, the summer before grad school. At her request, she was assigned to a more experimental project in microfluidic mixing.
Gharagozloo�s third internship at Sandia took place during her PhD studies in 2008. She used her contacts to find a project that was similar to her doctoral research on the diffusion and migration of nanoparticle suspensions in thermal gradients.
In 2010 Gharagozloo received her MS and PhD from Stanford University (CA) and joined Sandia full time. As a senior member of technical staff in the fluid/thermal sciences and engineering department, she conducts thermal and fluid computational simulations for a variety of applications, customers and departments.
�Interning at a research institution like Sandia was helpful in getting into grad school and getting fellowships,� Gharagozloo says. During her PhD studies, she had fellowships from Sandia and the National Science Foundation.
She was also encouraged by the company to work on professional development and side projects. One of those projects focuses on diversity and inclusion, where she is working on projects to support future female engineers.
Danielle Goldbeck found her path to Linde Process Plants through prior internships
Danielle Goldbeck pursued a career in chemical engineering based on the positive experience she had in a high school chemistry class. She elected to attend Oklahoma State University (OSU, Stillwater) in 2008 and chose chemical engineering because of the challenge. �I knew I could always switch to something easier if I didn�t like it,� she said.
Goldbeck felt it was important to do an internship to help her narrow her focus. �There are a number of different paths in chemical engineering you can take,� she says, �the mechanical or petroleum engineering routes, or the true chemical engineering route. Working at internships helped me figure out my career path.�
Her first internship was at Conoco Phillips in Amarillo, TX, in the summer between her sophomore and junior years. She worked in the company�s transportation department and spent the summer in the field, planning how the company would transport gas from one location to another. Amid the tank farms and pump skids, Goldbeck saw the technology she had learned about in her engineering classes at OSU in action.
Goldbeck interned the next summer at another Tulsa energy company. She optimized compressor stations for gas pipelines through simulations. It was more mechanical than chemical engineering, but she realized she liked the design work.
She attended a career fair on campus in the fall before her 2012 graduation. There she spoke with Leslie Reynolds of Linde Process Plants, and ended up interviewing with three different groups.
�They said I was qualified for all three positions,� says Goldbeck. She accepted a position in the process
engineering group and started right after graduation.
Goldbeck is currently a process engineer in the technology and sales group. Her team designs processes for clients, defines the equipment needed, develops process flow diagrams and material balances, and runs process simulations. Goldbeck enjoys the variety of working on multiple projects.
Applying what she learned in the classroom during her internships gave her a wealth of experience. �Even if a particular internship is not an exact fit, the exposure to the industry and getting out of the classroom setting can help a person determine the right direction for his or her professional career,� she says.
George White: an untraditional path to a Black & Veatch internship
George White always had a knack for figuring things out. In 2009, he got a BS in business administration from William Jewell College (Liberty, MO), then decided to pursue an engineering degree. He attended Metropolitan Community College (Kansas City, MO) for two years, then moved to the University of Missouri at Kansas City, majoring in civil engineering. He soon realized that to be employable, he needed practical engineering experience before graduation.
White found his first internship on Craigslist: an opportunity with a geotechnical engineering firm, Tsi Engineering (Kansas City, MO). He did double duty as a field technician and a lab technician from 2011 to 2012, and wrote one of the firm�s geotechnical engineering reports.
He interned with two other firms during 2012, then met an HR exec from global engineering firm Black & Veatch (Overland Park, KS) at a dinner hosted by the Kansas City STEM Alliance. After several conversations, he started at Black & Veatch in January 2013.
�This was a little different from my experience at the other companies,� says White. �I was given the responsibilities of a level 1 engineer.� He worked with transmission lines and the structures that support them.
When he graduated with a BSCE in 2013, Black & Veatch offered him a job in the same department as a transmission line engineer/civil engineer.
White recommends that students looking for internships consider non-traditional avenues to find what they want, such as going on Craigslist.
�Don�t be afraid to go directly to a company, especially a smaller one, and let them know who you are and what you want to do,� he says.
Jordan Roseland: intern to employee at Halliburton
Jordan Roseland sought out internships because she enjoys hands-on learning. As a cased hole associate field professional for oil field services company Halliburton in Williston, ND, she continues to get practical experience.
Roseland majored in petroleum engineering at the Colorado School of Mines (Golden). The multidisciplinary aspect of the degree was a huge draw for her. �You need to understand the whole picture as a petroleum engineer,� she says.
She attended a career fair at Mines, looking for an internship where she could get actual field experience. Her internship with Halliburton ran from July to August 2012. �I had a short summer because I had a class to take for my major that is only offered over the summer,� she explains. Her schedule in the field was packed.
After two weeks of safety training, she worked on a multi-well pad, with two wireline crews and a fracturing crew on the job. �At first I was overwhelmed, especially after seeing how much equipment it takes to get the job done,� Roseland says. She also worked on perforating and cased hole logging jobs.
She had taken a class prior to her field experience on well log analysis and was familiar with wireline logging tools. She says it was exciting to see the technologies in action.
She also attended a weeklong training for fulltime engineers. She visited one of the firm�s research centers and saw what went into the testing and creation of the perforating guns used in the field. She gave a short presentation on what she learned in the program and presented it to Halliburton representatives and wireline engineers in Houston.
Her experience as an intern convinced her to pursue a career as a wireline engineer. She stayed in touch with company recruiters after her internship, and by December 2012 she had an offer to join the company after graduation. She graduated in May 2013 with a BS in petroleum engineering and started with Halliburton in June.
One of her team�s responsibilities is to send tools down into drilled holes to collect data. The logs they run evaluate cement, obtain information about the formation, or inspect casing. Her team is working on wells in t��he Bakken formation, which lies between North Dakota and Montana and extends into Canada.
�Internships provide you with learning experiences you cannot get from a classroom,� Roseland says. �They show you what working in your chosen field is like and help you decide what you�d like to do in the future.�
Kathryn �Kiki� Schuck: assembly and test at Texas Instruments
Kiki Schuck believes there are no limits to an engineering career. She was good at physics and math, and that brought her to engineering.
�Engineering doesn�t pigeonhole you,� says Schuck. �There are so many paths for engineers, and the field is open for you to try different roles.�
She enrolled at Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA). She saw internships as a chance to test a variety of career options. �An internship can help you figure out if you should go to graduate school or directly into industry,� she says.
She had heard of Texas Instruments, which has a location in Bethlehem, but was not familiar with the semiconductor industry. In May 2011, she started her first internship as a process and equipment engineer.
�I was working in a lab contributing to a project and team,� Schuck says. �I realized I was in control of my own career.�
Schuck spent the summer working in advanced power packaging. Her main project focused on thermal models. She developed testing procedures to identify voiding in solder bonds and to determine how heat and other elements affect metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor devices.
�Being a process engineer is challenging and rewarding because you see the immediate outcomes and results of your work,� she says. �I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of seasoned, experienced individuals. The environment at Texas Instruments makes you feel comfortable and helps you realize that we�re all still learning.�
Schuck graduated in May 2012 with a BS in integrated engineering with an emphasis in mechanical engineering and astrophysics. She joined Texas Instruments in June 2012 as an assembly and test engineer.
�Most days I work in a class ten clean room, which is an extremely controlled environment. That means I wear a bunny suit with two pairs of gloves and boots, and take air showers before I can actually get to my tool in the fabrication area.�
Schuck supports the startup of a production process she helped design. The process has been in research and the team recently won approval to move forward. Schuck will spend time in Taiwan to work in the wafer fabrication area.
�This project has been two years in the works, so I�m incredibly invested and excited to get into the fab in Taiwan, help train the team, and get started,� she says. �It�s rare at my age to have an experience like this, but Texas Instruments and the engineering field offer so many opportunities not available elsewhere.�
Texas Instruments has a real sense of community and offers a great foundation for careers, says Schuck. �There are social and diversity groups for employees that help you find your place,� she says. �I�m involved in the women�s and the new employees� initiatives. So it�s been easier to meet other people at the company.�
Schuck recommends on-campus career fairs to find internship opportunities. She also suggests joining student chapters of professional organizations like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to meet other students and professionals and find opportunities.
Nicole Navinsky: SWE connection leads to Texas Instruments
Nicole Navinsky considered becoming a medical doctor. Her mother suggested she look into engineering. Fortunately, she found a college program at Southern Methodist University (SMU, Dallas, TX) that combined pre-med with engineering, and soon decided engineering was where she belonged.
She encourages students to consider a career in engineering. �A lot of people think you have to have an unattainable level of intelligence to be an engineer, but it�s really about hard work,� says Navinsky. �You don�t have to be the smartest person in your class to succeed. You just need to work hard and discover what you�re passionate about.�
Navinsky set her sights on an internship at Texas Instruments. She networked through her SWE section and did her own online research. She made a connection with Texas Instruments and, after three telephone interviews, landed an internship in summer 2012.
�I was nervous about having to answer technical questions, but the interview was more about how you approach a problem, not the solution,� she says. �I appreciated that TI wanted to make sure I was a good fit for the team and they were a good fit for me.�
During her internship she was a product engineer. She performed yield trend analysis on TI products and devised solutions to improve the yield and save money.
Navinsky graduated from SMU in 2013 with an MSEE. �Getting a masters gave me a deeper understanding of electrical engineering. It also allowed me to have one more internship before searching for a fulltime position.� She received the SWE Outstanding Collegiate Member award in 2013 for her contributions to SWE, the engineering community and her alma mater.
Although Navinsky enjoyed her internship, she wanted to capitalize on her strong social skills. She asked the intern program manager about moving into an applications engineer role that would combine her technical background with customer-facing opportunities. Several weeks later, she received an offer to join the digital light processing front projection group. The technology Navinsky works with is cutting edge and has a number of interesting applications.
Most of her customers are in Taiwan and Japan. Navinsky is also involved in the development of application software and helps customers integrate software and hardware into their products. She has traveled to Asia to participate in quarterly tech reviews.
�The international travel has been exciting for me, especially as a new college grad. You find that different customers have different challenges, and part of my role is helping them work through those.�
Navinsky points out that professional organizations are a good route to internships. �Membership opens a lot of doors and provides great leadership experience. Companies are always interested in that.�
L-3�s Rosa Rivera edges out the competition for an internship
Engineering was not on Rosa Rivera�s radar when she first enrolled at California State University (Long Beach). She liked the science-based courses she took in high school, especially math and physics. But the illness of a family member meant that she spent a lot of time in hospitals, which led her to consider a career in nursing. She worked as a hospital volunteer for a year.
After two years in college, she began to look at other areas of study and discovered electrical engineering. �I was fascinated by how electronics functioned, how they were wired, powered and controlled,� she says. �The power courses at college were the most interesting.�
When it came time for an internship, Rivera found herself facing stiff competition. Out of 1,000 applicants, she was one of six finalists chosen for a summer internship with L-3 in Torrance, CA.
Her first assignment, in 2012, was with L-3�s Electron Technologies, Inc, on the supplier quality and development engineering team. Electron Technologies develops complex systems and components for satellites. Rivera was a fulltime intern in the quality organization.
Rivera worked alongside component engineers. She created a master parts list and implemented a database for the management of parts obsolescence.
At the end of the summer, all the interns briefed the senior management team on the result of their work. An HR manager was so impressed that Rivera was referred to L-3�s Power Paragon, which makes advanced power systems for naval vessels and ships, for an interview. She landed an associate power design engineering internship. From October 2012 through January 2018 she worked twenty-plus hours a week and carried a full course load.
She worked directly with a project engineer on procedural updates, documentation and drawing modifications, then joined the failure review board (FRB). �As a member of the FRB, I had broader insight and the opportunity to work directly with technicians to identify the root cause of failures,� says Rivera. �During the later parts of my internship, I used what I learned to identify component replacement parts for through-hole to surface-mount board redesigns.�
Rivera is glad she began her fulltime career with the same company where she interned. �Being an intern allowed me to become familiar with the company�s culture, engineering processes, and people. It also let me demonstrate to my managers how I could contribute.� She started at Power Paragon as a power design engineer shortly after receiving her BSEE with a concentration in power electronics from Cal State in December 2013.
�At Power Paragon we have a chance to see cutting-edge technology first hand. We serve a unique market niche. There aren�t many companies in the world that do what we do.
�If you participate in a setting where you hope to work after graduation, you get a better perspective on the field,� Rivera says. �Internships allow you to learn from professionals who can help you apply your educational background to real-life applications.�
Melissa McPartland: to Germany as a BMW co-op
Melissa McPartland took advantage of the robust co-op program at Clemson University (Clemson, SC) when she was a mechanical engineering student. Students work with campus advisors on resume building, interviewing and finding the right employer. They can also suggest that the school invite specific employers to visit the campus.
McPartland interviewed with nine companies in a three-day period, including BMW. �I clicked well with the female engineer who interviewed me. She made me feel good about being a woman going into engineering and coming to work at BMW.�
McPartland looked forward to the experience of a long-term co-op. �I felt I was going to be a real member of the team and not just another student coming through. They were going to give me a lot of responsibility and engineering work.�
McPartland did a total of three co-op assignments in the total vehicle validation group and one six-month rotation in Germany. All the assignments involved acoustics analysis for the vehicles built in the Spartanburg plant.
Her assignments built on one another. She started the first assignment shadowing her coworkers, and by the end she was taking her own acoustics measurements, setting up graphs, and putting together presentations.
In the second co-op, she filled in for one of the engineers who moved to Germany, working on a mix of day-to-day issues and development projects. In the third rotation, she added work in the assembly hall for the BMW X3 engine line.
Although she had not graduated yet, she felt a stint overseas would help her qualify for the company�s engineering and operations management development (EOMD) program. The two-year program is designed to give new hires experience in all areas of the company.
McPartland successfully lobbied to be sent to Germany to continue her acoustics work, even though working abroad was not common for U.S. interns. McPartland was in Munich from May to November 2012.
�Going to Germany was the biggest learning experience for me,� she says. �It was an all-German department and I was one of three females. I learned how to be comfortable in an unfamiliar setting.�
In 2011, McPartland received the National Co-op Student of the Year award from the American Society for Engineering Education. Her project work also was recognized by BMW�s research and development center in Munich. She graduated with an ME from Clemson in May 2013 and started with the company shortly thereafter.
McPartland got into BMW�s EOMD program in July 2013 and is currently a line supervisor of about forty associates involved in the assembly of the BMW X3. She is in charge of center console installation and windshield and rear glass installation. Her new role is challenging, she says.
Working as a co-op was the best decision she made in college, says McPartland. �I think I ended way ahead of where I would be if I had not done a co-op. I got a lot of opportunities early on and it really jump-started my career.�
Shuting Guo of National Grid: internship adds hands-on experience
Shuting Guo had several years of work experience before she started as an associate engineer with National Grid (Waltham, MA) in 2013. National Grid is an international gas and electricity company that connects consumers to energy sources through its networks in the northeastern U.S. and Great Britain.
Guo got her undergraduate degree in electric power from Shanghai University (Shanghai, China). She spent a summer as an intern at State Grid Corporation of China, Shanghai Branch, where she worked as a service assistant. She analyzed and resolved a variety of power grid breakdowns and problems. She also did a five-month internship in the sales department of GE Energy at its Shanghai headquarters. She translated papers and reports on gas turbine and completed a forecast report on the price for China�s natural gas in the year 2015.
She came to the U.S. to pursue her masters degree in electrical engineering at Syracuse University (NY). She believed a graduate degree would make her more competitive in the job market. She applied for an internship with National Grid, hoping for some real-world experience.
During her internship in summer 2012, she learned about the electrical system and how to use software and a database to complete work assignments. Guo visited substations to get familiar with the equipment. She did feeder review, transmission line modeling and relay database updates, providing fault clear time, fault current, and impedance information for the company�s client by running a computer model.
The work environment at National Grid was supportive, Guo says. Her mentor gave her a lot of help and guidance. She also appreciated the company�s stated mission to make a positive impact on the environment.
�We are involved in community work, helping to create a better environment for our society,� says Guo. �As an intern, I visited a garbage recycling site and learned how they help save money.�
She graduated in 2013 with her MSEE and kept in touch with the director from her internship group. �I expressed that I had a great internship experience and had a strong interest in working for National Grid,� Guo says. �Fortunately, I got an offer.� She is now an associate engineer in the protection engineering group in the Waltham, MA office.
She is pleased with her decision to stay on board and feels National Grid offers her opportunity for growth. �This year, I am taking a power course at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, Worcester, MA), which will give me additional technical training for my job,� says Guo.
She says the position also demands strong interpersonal skills since group collaboration is part of the daily activity.
During her internship she learned that the company emphasizes team efforts, but also encourages employees to take personal responsibility for their work.
�You must be willing to take the lead on projects, be able to manage your time and finish your projects on schedule. It�s also important to extend yourself to help others.�
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