My First Engineering Internship - The First Month
Hello, my dear readers!
If you have been following along my journey on other platforms, you are probably well aware by now, that I have started my first industry internship, at no other but GE Gas Power!
Now from that first sentence, you may already wonder. Wait, isn't she studying to become an aerospace engineer? What on Earth is she doing in a manufacturing engineering intern position?
Well, dear friends, I am absolutely stepping out of my comfort zone (to say the least).
My fellow engineering college student friends and even just any college student are well aware that getting an internship, is no easy feat. To double the "fun", my fellow international student buddies will probably hear internship and run. To triple, the challenge, internationals in aero (like me), will not only run but have nightmares about ITAR (and all other regulations, misinformed companies, etc.)
To translate this, to my non-international, non-aero, non-college-student readers, getting an internship, is very very very challenging. Frankly, it requires a lot of luck. And by being international, especially in a field that is heavily centered around the military, you have a very limited list of options. I also should add, that I am currently only a rising junior, making this challenge, again, a very big one.
Now, I believe the other current challenge doesn't really need a huge explanation or introduction. The pandemic has put a lot of companies, and especially intern programs into a difficult position when it came to hiring.
So to wrap up this length introduction, my internship came about with a lot of work, and luck, and challenges too. The positive: it's back home. The I didn't know yet: It's not a strictly aero-related field or position.
So, here we are, I'm home, and started at my internship right about a month ago now. And what did I learn so far? Well, some of this:
Before, we can deep dive into the lessons, the challenges, and all that I have learned. Here is when I should set the scene for all of you reading.
First off, as I mentioned, I am back home. Now, Hungary is a little different from how internships and companies and all of that operate of course. Although, the general company culture is quite Americanized, of course, the people aren't.
I work with hundreds of men. When I say this, this is no exaggeration. I have one female engineer coworker, that is all, that is it. Now, of course, this isn't the most unlikely set up as a female engineer (sadly), however, the numbers should probably be mentioned.
Thirdly, I study in English. Now, this is, of course, a given, that I go to Virginia Tech, in the US. However, I am mentioning this, as I should highlight, that I have also studied everything I know (mainly), that is strictly engineering in English. Quite ironically, I do not speak my mother tongue in many ways when it comes to my profession (like the names of given tools).
So the scene was a given as a mixed brain of languages, a very different basis of engineering knowledge, and not a lot of females, but a lot of metal. And by lot, I mean loads and loads and loads of metal.
The First Bit - The What Now?
The first week, and few days. Well let me tell you, I was a lost girl. By a girl, I should probably specify, I felt hardly like a woman. Mainly, because everyone around me was at least 3 years older (interns included). Also somehow, everyone was taller than me. Being 5'3 or 160 cm, this was hardly a challenge.
All in all, I felt intimidated, and tiny in this huge world of metal and freshly gained information. I of course was prepared, that as an intern, we mainly bring the basics, and pick up all of the rest there. However, I was not prepared to feel this list in my first week.
Surely, the fact that I could sometimes simply blink when talking about a given word (as I only knew it in English). Or the fact that I have only done one part drawing my entire life. Or many others.
Did not boost my situation into a happy corner. I felt intimated, slow, and just simply not the best at what I was doing. I had a hard time understanding some of the challenges I was faced with. Not only because they were actual engineering challenges, but also because, I never really did anything like this. Not only from a standpoint of: I have never done an industry internship. But also from a standpoint of: I am not studying to be a mechanical engineer or am one, like quite literally, everyone around me. So my thinking, and ideas operate in a different sense and way.
The Middle - The Wait I Have an Idea
By the middle of the first month, I was starting to realize something great in being challenged in so many ways. By being out of my comfort zone, especially by so much, I was learning a lot too.
Not simply getting better at the tasks I was given, and the work I was doing. But also, because I was pushing myself. I no more let myself feel intimated, by not knowing it all or feeling like I was quite tiny in this new world. I was focusing on the positives of doing this so young, and doing it in such a new environment.
This job was meant to challenge me and by doing it not only in the general sense I am learning a far lot more. By venturing into a situation where I didn't feel confident, or even in the right place at first. I was able to start focusing on the goods of these hardships and challenges.
We develop the most outside of our comfort zone.
The End - The Wait It's Good That I'm Here
Now by the end of the month, I have concluded many things. I was given my first bigger project recently, and I spent a lot of time working to develop a solution to the task at hand. As I spent a few days working out the basics of my initial design and solution ideas I felt nervous.
Nervous especially by the fact, that I knew my approach was very different from those around me. I read research papers and wrote pro-con lists and kept working up ideas, that I knew in many aspects were unseen at our site.
However, I had the amazing feeling that when sharing my ideas with my mentor, and other coworkers, they started asking questions. Not because they were confused, but because they were interested in these new approaches.
So maybe, my differences are my source of greatness all in all. And quite frankly, it feels great to know, that I am able to do the same jobs just as quickly as others around me, with software and things I have never done.
I now know how to create those big metal things too. I know about all the ways I should use CAD and especially the very new drawings, and welding, and all of those. I am proud of myself and make an effort to recognize that I did learn all of this very well in just a matter of a few weeks.
Because after all, not only am I learning a lot. But I am also growing to feel a lot more comfortable being uncomfortable. I am taking on extra challenges formed by language, different work cultures, and even by being put into in a sense a different field.
So, my first month has mainly taught me all of this. I was slow, and intimidated, but loving it all the way. I love having this opportunity and growing every day. Yes, my work is not perfect, or as quick as I would be if I was performing a task, I have known how to do for years. But by learning all of this, I get to combine my knowledge of the comfortable and the new, coming up with unique new ways of solving problems. Which is quite frankly, the main goal of any engineer.
Stay tuned, an update coming soon!