Team Work: Engineers need other engineers!

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For the past five weeks of my internship, I have been working on a project that consists of a plethora of research and brainstorming. Essentially, my company has an idea, and as the engineering intern, I have to figure out how it can be feasibly created. This means considering efficiency, costs, standard parts, materials, manufacturing, and spacing to make the best design. I feel that I have learned more in these past few weeks than I have in the past year. The first 3 weeks consisted of self-disciplined research with little instruction except during weekly meetings with my boss where I would jot down all her advice and comments only to google it later to absorb all the information I could. This continued for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week that by the time Fridays came, my mind was as exhausted as it was fulfilled. When the 4th week arrived, I was to began designing and brainstorming the product (which I have been craving to finally do as an engineering intern). However, I soon became stuck. I had all these ideas, but my brain was scattered in so many different directions of where I could take this project. What I needed was someone to understand my thought processes and ideas, to confirm my reasonings and call me out on my logic.

Then came the 5th week of my internship. Another intern, a Mechanical Engineering student from Italy, arrived with background in automation and robotics. Immediately, I summarized my research of 3 weeks to her in an hour, and we immediately went to the drawing board and started brainstorming. How I missed working with other people! Now it made sense why my classes involved so many group projects or why my teachers encouraged students to work together. For exams and problem sets, I always enjoyed working with other people; I was often more efficient and creative with solutions when I could reason and talk out loud. This applied in the workforce because I became much more efficient and proactive working with her. While the same challenges that had me stuck last week are still frustrating us now, we have come up with possible solutions or new changes. Of course, as one problem is fixed another arises. Similarly, one day, she and I accompanied our bosses to a meeting with a partner where we were able to talk to 5 of their engineers who developed a similar technology that we are working on. The difference is, they have finished the design and prototype in just 6 months. It was beautiful, and I was amazed. We were then able to ask them questions and discuss topics that I have been heavily researching…and they either knew the answer or tried to logically work out the answer with me. I came out so fulfilled and informed; what an experience to talk and collaborate with other like-minded people!

Meeting room with the 5 other engineers

Admittedly, I was not expecting to learn so much in terms of technical and soft skills within 8 weeks. Some of the soft skills that I feel I have improved include: timelines, presentations, confidence, professional social skills, international social skills, and picking up on different cultural social cues (an international internship I truly believe is something all students should considering pursuing! I’ll discuss more on this topic in a future blog post.) The technical skills include: topics research, looking at projects from a broad, user-business-investor perspective, mechanics, machine design, and automation/robotics. What I think I am getting out the most, however, is experience in learning to problem solve like an engineer. I cannot begin to describe how challenging some of these problems have been, but it forces me to think outside of constraints; a necessary skill for those pursuing careers in innovation and technology. Not only that, I am encouraged to look at issues from a multitude of perspectives; something that classrooms sometimes fail to teach but that working forces you to do.

Of course, I’m just an intern. I really do appreciate the responsibilities and trust they are giving me. I often feel like I am gaining more than they are from me. Whether they use my designs and suggestions is unlikely, but from the words of my boss, “I want you to learn and truly get something out of this internship” (She is really nice, but still super intimidating…refer to blog post “From Georgia Girl to Startup-Intern).

Myself and the other international interns of my company