Marathon Petroleum Internship STEP Experience

STEP Project:

My project was an internship with Marathon Petroleum Corporation in Canton, Ohio. I was working at the refinery in the Technical Services department under the Crude Unit engineer. I was involved in several big projects during the semester that I was employed there and learned a lot.

Transformation:

The biggest thing that changed for me was my assumption of the professional world. I assumed that all the people I worked with would look down on me as an intern and not value my thoughts and ideas. I couldn’t have been more wrong, because my coworkers at Marathon were all so supportive of what I had to bring to the table and gave me really valuable and important work throughout the entire semester.

I also assumed that I would basically be on my own when working on my projects and I wouldn’t get much help. Once again, my assumptions were proven wrong. As long as I went out seeking help, I could always find it. If I had a question or issue with any step of any of my projects, there was always someone there that was willing to help me.

Aspects leading to my transformation:

In starting my internship, I was super shy and afraid to ask questions and thought that my opinions and ideas were not of value. The first time that I started to notice that this was not the case was sitting in weekly meetings with everyone from the refinery. The team leader would go around the room and ask everyone if they had something worth mentioning or discussing with the entire refinery. I thought that I would be skipped over in this process, but I was always asked if I had anything to contribute to the discussion. That made me feel like a very valued member of the refinery team.

Once I started to get the hang of the refining industry, I was given very challenging work because my mentor knew that I could handle the work load and responsibility. I thought that my mentor would come to my office and ask me how things were coming, but he never did. This made me learn to advocate for myself and ask questions when I have them, rather than wait around for someone to come and ask me if I need help. I had much more responsibility than I assumed I would have as an intern.

Lastly, I built many professional and personal relationships while completing my internship at Marathon, both with the other interns and with the full-time employees. Having a relationship with the full-time employees allowed me to see that I was a valued member of the team.

Significance:

This experience really helped to further my professional goals and future plans. I am now considering a career in the petroleum industry because I was such a valued member of the team as an intern. If I was so welcomed and accepted as an intern, I can only imagine how I will be treated as a full-time employee. My internship at Marathon helped me to see what a future as a Chemical Engineer looks like, and get me excited for my future.

My Summer as an Engineering Intern

A Summary of My Project:

I spent my summer interning at Tosoh SMD in Grove City, OH as an engineering intern within their New Project Development team. I worked to improve the material properties of metal sputtering targets utilized in creating microchips.

How My Initial Understandings and Assumptions Were Altered:

When I accepted the position as a summer intern at Tosoh, I had a hunch that I was not cut out for metallurgical engineering. Yet I wanted to explore different areas of my field in order to fully determine what career could be right for me. After four months of employment, I became very certain I would not become a metallurgical engineer so my assumptions were not particularly altered in this respect. However, this experience made me realize how much I had enjoyed my research position during the previous school semester. My internship was lacking the creativity and loose structure that research innately has and the harsh factory atmosphere of my internship seemed even worse when compared to the pristine and well-lit lab I had worked in during the school year. While I wasn’t particularly fond of conducting research at the time, my internship made me realize that I really enjoyed my time in the lab.

Not only did my internship show me how fun and exciting research can be, it also made me seriously consider going to graduate school. Before the summer, I had assumed that I would look for a job in engineering right out of college and that I would prefer working up the corporate ladder to staying in school. Grad school had always seemed silly to me; why stay in school and rack up my debt when I could get out in the world and make a decent amount of money? But after seeing the positions in Tosoh that new college grads held, I decided that I could do better. I would rather stay in the world of academia a little longer and further explore what I’d like to do as a career, because after my internship I have become certain that I do not know what career I want.

Events and Relationships that Led to My Transformations:

While working as an intern at Tosoh, I noticed three key factors that were drastically different between conducting research and day-to-day life at my internship. These three factors contributed to my realization that I should remain a student with a biomaterials focus and conduct research instead of becoming a metallurgical engineer. The three factors are: 1. The way I am treated as a woman in each environment, 2. The work environment itself, and 3. The ultimate purpose of each occupation.

As a woman in engineering, I am particularly receptive to when and how I am being treated differently from my peers. While awareness of sexism within STEM fields has improved, it unfortunately still exists. As an undergraduate assistant for biomaterials research at Ohio State, I am not treated any differently from other students. It is very common for women to participate in research as well as for women to be in the medical field. However, my internship was a very different environment that was almost entirely populated by older males. Not only did I battle against agism along with the other interns, I was additionally battling against sexism. As a feminine woman working in a male-dominated factory environment, my competency was questioned much more often than the other interns’. Rarely did I feel respected or comfortable in such large groups of men who made a point to comment on my shoes or hair, where my shoes were work boots identical to everyone else’s and my hair was tied back as required. I was often ignored when asking for help and talked over in conversations. Each day was a battle for respect, which every individual should be given automatically. Needless to say, this aspect of my internship was the most difficult.

The way I was treated by the people in each position is closely related to the different environments in which I have worked. In the lab conducting research, I am with well-educated people in a school environment. The lab was clean, well-managed, well-lit, and not frequented by many people. I am trusted to complete the work I am given, and when it is complete I am able to leave for the day. At Tosoh working in a factory environment, I worked with people ranging from only middle-school education to bachelor’s degrees in college. Working in a factory was dark, dirty, and truthfully depressing. The employees are not happy and their resentment against the company is very obvious. I would not choose to work in a similar environment again.

Last, the true difference in positions was their overall purpose and goals. At Tosoh, the goal was to produce a high quality, clean metal to be passed on for sputtering in microchips. Conducting research has much more revolutionary, moral, and exciting goals such as improving medication administration in household pets or engineering tissues to be used for burn victims. I feel a sense of importance and purpose when conducting research that maybe my work will truly change someone’s life for the better, and manufacturing metals does not give me this same feeling of achieving a higher good. It is very important to me to help other people in whatever career path I choose, and this principle is not met as a metallurgical intern.

The Significance of My Transformation:

My summer internship gave me a much better idea of what I’d like to do with my life, and the types of goals I wish to achieve. I cannot morally agree to using my engineering degree in a position where it is not helping to improve our society and the lives of others. I also refuse to remain in a work environment that does not grant me basic respect. While I had a feeling I would not emerge from this internship wanting to be a metallurgical engineer, I had no idea I would want to pursue graduate school. I am now very confident in my decision as a biomaterials focus and am grateful for the experience working at Tosoh for teaching me more about myself and my goals as an engineer.

STEP Experience- Export Internship

In the summer of 2015 my STEP Experience took the form of an Export Internship with Ribbon Technology in Gahanna, OH. Because I am pursuing a degree in International Business, I applied to Fisher’s Ohio Export Internship Program, or EIP, which pairs undergraduate students with small to medium sized companies in Ohio for a summer long internship. It combines a Spring Semester course that focused exports with an internship dealing with international trade.

Having been able to participate in EIP, I learned a lot about myself, how I operate under new kinds of life pressures, and about my preconceptions of the workplace. I learned a lot from the program itself, but much of my personal development was due to events brought about by the program, that were not necessarily related to aiding the international expansion of the company I was working with. Having previously only worked part-time or full time at more “fun” jobs, the full time internship was a new experience for me.

The things that brought about my personal transformation include living on my own for the first time, my introduction to the lifestyle changes that working full time brings, and the value I found in myself when I had an important role in the decision making.

To participate in the internship, I would have to arrange my own housing. Leaving the residence halls at the end of the school year was my first time moving out to live on my own where all of my expenses would fall on me, so the STEP funds helped to lift much of that financial burden for me. Even though I would be subleasing and sharing with a roommate, I was so excited to have a place to call my own.

In arranging my own housing, I learned a lot about myself and how I handle stress as my original plans fell through dramatically. Soon after I arrived, the roommate made it clear that I was not welcome there and I didn’t feel safe. Without going into detail, I ended up displaced for a time before finding a new apartment. This was happening during my first few weeks on the job and was a challenge different any I had ever experienced. From that, I learned a valuable lesson: When subleasing, ALWAYS meet the roommate first! It was very tough, but now it makes for a good story.

The internship itself was an awesome experience. Working full time was new to me. As I became accustomed to the new lifestyle, it challenged my previously held views about the workplace and opened my eyes in a new way to the value of my education. Ribbon Technology, where I worked, is a manufacturing company. The foundry and the office spaces are connected to each other. It was interesting to see both sides of our operations- understanding how things worked in the office and also being able to connect it to the products that were made in the foundry. My main projects at RibTec were overseeing the development of the new multilingual website, market research, and creating an Export Compliance Manual for the company. I always looked forward to go into work, because I liked what I was doing.

The last thing that contributed to my growth in my STEP experience that I will write about here is the value I found in myself during my internship. The idea of being an intern often suggests shadowing professionals and running errands for supervisors, a way for interns to play a role, even if minute by nature, while witnessing the operations of the area of study. This internship was completely different for me. It gave me firsthand experience of what it’s like to work in my field, and also prepared me during the school year to bring something of value to the company I was working with. The research I preformed and corroborated with what was already there and other export related projects would be key in their expansion into South America. It felt great to bring knowledge and present value to the company I was with.

The experience I had with EIP was valuable to me in a several ways, both professional and personal. Professionally, I had the opportunity to network and build relationships with other professionals. These were guest speaker who came to our class during the semester and served as resources for the students if we ever needed help during the internship. I was also able to put the learned theories of international business into practical use. What I enjoyed most, was what I gained personally: the life lessons that came with my participation in the program (some learned the hard way) and the new friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I am grateful to have been able to do it.

 

EIP Interview EIP Award Stainless Steel Fibers at RibTec