By Julia | September 26, 2011
This summer I completed my first ever internship at a place that I had thought I had always wanted to work. I had wanted it to reaffirm my decisions, make me attack my studies with more rigor. Revitalize me. Instead, I can honestly say, I’m much more confused.
I’m studying mechanical engineering. Usually, that causes some sort of reaction with whoever I tell. It’s “ooh, that sounds so hard I could never do that” or “eww, engineering” but in either case other people’s reaction just fuels me further, even if I’m not sure its the kind of work that I want to be doing.
My internship at a design firm with the title of “Mechanical Engineering Intern” and not much more of an explanation, fell short of my romanticized expectations of what actually goes on inside of a design firm. While I never was required to get coffee for anyone (although I was sent on multiple errands, including picking up cheerios at Kroger *not for snacking but for product testing*, picking up parts across town, or doing store audits *taking pictures of products in stores*), While some of it was interesting I was frustrated because there I was, an honors engineering student who was also in 2 different national engineering honoraries (Pi Tau Sigma—mechanical engineering, and Tau Beta Pi—general engineering) not really doing any sort of engineering, or really much of anything while my friends had amazing experiences elsewhere. I had also turned down 2 other offers of internships (that also paid more…) because I had honestly believed that I would be putting myself in the right direction by picking this opportunity. I didn’t want to start my career by doing something solely for the money (it seems like a slippery slope).
Even seeing the work that engineers at design firms do and the little glimpses of engineering that I had the opportunity to do I wasn’t re-affirmed.
The first weeks of my internship seemed to be interesting, meeting with clients and suppliers, being involved in brainstorming sessions, etc, but as the weeks rolled on, I was involved with less and less, while the designers and design intern were busier than ever and during the company’s weekly scheduling meeting people struggled to find something for me to do.
I’m probably partially to blame. As a first-time intern I wasn’t entirely sure of what I was supposed to do. I spent my first few weeks eager, asking for things to do, doing CAD (computer aided design) tutorials when I wasn’t given anything, but after weeks of asking for things to do and never really given anything and feeling like more of a hindrance for doing so, I stopped asking. I felt guilty for not doing anything useful even though I wasn’t given anything useful to do (oh the vicious cycle of internships).
I did enjoy the company I worked for. It was super small and everyone was really nice. In addition, nearly every friday, they fired up the soft-serve ice cream maker for some fresh ice cream/sorbet (‘cookie dough’, mango, chocolate, “boathouse juice”). There was even a company sponsored trip to Magic Mountain, and an awards day which consisted of 3 hours of games and food.
This internship quite potentially revealed that what I thought I wanted to be, isn’t exactly interesting to me anymore. Being an engineer at a product design firm is mostly fast paced work building other people’s ideas and products, and unfortunately during my 3 months as an intern, we were in the last stages of engineering work (drawing edits) where if you weren’t involved in the front end work, it can be entirely uninteresting.
Perhaps I might enjoy work earlier in the product design process, or in another area of mechanical engineering, but I’m also open to the fact that maybe engineering isn’t really my cup of tea.
To be continued…
ice cream and recycling bin– my own,
Comments are closed.