Summer Internship with BCI

For my STEP signature project, I chose to accept an engineering internship with Building Control Integrators. During my time with BCI, I worked closely with the engineering department where I helped develop and edit graphics for heating, ventilation, air and cooling systems.

The reason I took this particular internship with BCI was to explore whether engineering was the correct path that I wanted to take for my future career. I was at a point in my college career where I was questioning whether engineering was truly the right path for me. This internship provided the opportunity for me to gain practical experience in a mechanical engineering environment, as well as a better understanding of what my future as an engineer would be like.

One of my greatest fears about entering into the engineering field is that I, as a woman, would be a minority in the field. The engineering field is dominated by male workers and therefore I believed that it would be harder for me to gain the respect of my coworkers. In many ways, my fears were confirmed through my internship at BCI. I was part of a five-man team and worked alongside another male intern and under a male supervisor. I perceived the other intern as being more accepted in the beginning weeks of our internship. He didn’t have to prove himself the way that I did, simply because he was male. However, while many of my apprehensions were confirmed, throughout the course of my internship, I gained a new self-confidence in myself. Each time I successfully completed a project or generated impressive work, my confidence in myself grew. My team slowly began to respect me and I felt more included in the team. At the end of my internship, I feel that I gained more important experience than my fellow male intern. I was challenged in more ways than him, simply because I had to prove myself as a woman, and therefore I know how to deal with more difficult situations. I can now walk into a new engineering position knowing the obstacles I will be up against and will not question my intelligence, abilities, or whether I deserve to be there.

As a graphical intern, my primary responsibility was to assist with the creation of air and water flow graphics and from how they were being designed, installed, and commissioned. My learning curve of these tactics helped drastically in gaining my engineering self-confidence. In addition to the general concepts that I had learned in school, I was expected to quickly learn different components about building automation systems and how to use new software systems. Being taught by my supervisor, I was able to quickly learn the new information and was able to easily transfer my new knowledge towards successful completion of my projects. Being praised by my supervisor helped boost my self-confidence and encouraged me to continue learning more.

However, while my supervisor contributed to my engineering confidence, he always taught me valuable lessons through criticism. Over the course of the summer, I felt that I had gone above and beyond what had been asked of me. I had gone out of my way to learn new tactics, had spent extra hours double checking my fellow intern’s work, and had asked questions that aided in my learning experience. But in my final evaluation, my supervisor’s comments were not what I expected. He felt that I had shied away from difficult tasks and didn’t challenge myself enough. In addition, he mentioned how he had observed me spending too much time worrying what other’s thought and trying to fit in with a specific group of people. While his comments didn’t detract from the excellent work I had done, he provided me with excellent reflection room. All of his comments were correct and stemmed from my initial apprehensions of the engineering field. As a first time intern, many of those comments stemmed from the fact that I was nervous about my first ‘real’ job. But his comments also made me conscious of what my actions tend towards. Having been able to identify it, I now will be able to enter into new job situations and strive to not do the same thing. Ultimately, my supervisor’s comments helped me to realize that fitting in perfectly with the rest of your team is not the most important thing. Being apt in your field and striving for excellence is much more important and should be my primary focus.

Finally, my interactions with my fellow intern contributed to my summer transformation. As I discussed previously, he seemed to fit in with our team easier and quicker than I did. While this was initially off-putting, what was even more frustrating for me was his poor work-ethic. He would streak through projects, seemingly less interested in being correct as with being quick. Because of this tendency, I felt uncomfortable submitting work to my supervisor that was filled with mistakes and so would feel obligated to spend hours revising and redoing his work while he sat back doing nothing.  However, while this situation was extremely frustrating at the time, it taught me very valuable lessons about workplace relationships. I am not always going to get along with my coworkers, and many of them, I will not like. This, I believe, is a fact that everyone encounters. However, I believe that a phenomenal characteristic that I learned from this internship was developing a mindset where I could put aside my personal frustrations and find ways to work more effectively and efficiently.

My internship at BCI, which was extremely challenging and daunting at times, has contributed immensely to my professional future. In addition to learning valuable hands-on knowledge and techniques, it taught me about myself. I now know my behavioral tendencies and my intellectual abilities were confirmed. The most valuable thing that this internship gave me was confidence – in myself as an engineer and as a professional. Looking forward to the future, I know that I will be happy and successful in the field of engineering. I will no longer be intimidated by being in a male dominated field or doubt whether or not I can succeed there. In fact, I believe that I have potential to perform just as well, if not better, than many of my future male counterparts.

I am extremely thankful to the STEP program for allowing me to pursue this opportunity with BCI and I will never allow the lessons I learned this past summer to go to waste. Without this experience, I very well could have made it through all of my college career and graduated with no idea what to do with the rest of my life. Having the opportunity to be fully immersed in a summer internship was a great validation for the path my professional career is traveling.

Step reporting back

Name:Anderson Spearman

Type of Project: Internship

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

This summer I used my step funds to work for the department of defense, in finance and accounting. The funds helped me afford to stay in Columbus by paying rent.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

I really enjoyed my step experience. I learned a lot about governmental accounting . I also gained insight on how things operate in the public sector. I learned a lot about the congressional appropriations and funds that help to compensate and facilitate the department of defense. I also made a lot of beneficial connections that can help me later in life.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

I learned a lot about the federal appropriations from my coworker Randy White. He was a seasoned accountant with DFAS. I also met others who went to Ohio state. I got a lot of great advice from my supervisor and my fellow interns.I also learned what it was like to work under a supervisor and meet deadlines. I was given an extensive project to complete that had was different than what I was used to. It was a marketing initiative that I would complete with the help of other interns and employees of the department of defense.

At my internship, I met many people from all around the country who wished to have a position at DFAS. One of whom, Johnothan, a junior from Purdue University became my friend and we are still friends to this day. Meeting new people and creating bridges was a great experience for me and i feel that it was very beneficial to me.

I loved working at DFAS because it was very fun. The base had a lot of fun benefits like a gym on site  and discounted tickets to attractions around town.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

I learned a lot about what it is like to live on my own. The DFAS job was my first real job and it gave me an insight into the real world. DFAS showed me a lot about the field of accounting. Although I am a marketing major, the DFAS experience allowed me to consider other options for career choices. DFAS also made me think about the different functions of the government.

Summer Experience Working in a Computer Office

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

I spent the summer working in a systems administration office – the Physics Computing Facility on Ohio State’s campus. I assisted in the daily upkeep of a network and assisted individuals with troubleshooting. I also spent my time working under a faculty member in the OSU Computer Science department who taught a summer software engineering course. I assisted the professor who instructed this course by grading programming assignments and helping instruct the students.

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Through my experiences, I was able to get a glimpse of my possible career choices after my undergraduate studies. Other than pursuing the traditional career path of becoming a software engineer, I was quite unaware of other job opportunities in my field. I was able to learn more about the job responsibilities of both a systems administrator and a college professor. Rather than working heavily on programming and the maintenance of software, a systems administrator focuses more on computer systems, networks, and servers. These focus areas are topics that are not thoroughly covered in a Computer Science undergraduate major. It was interesting to see a different side of technology that I was not particularly drawn to at first. Furthermore, I had never considered using my Computer Science degree to pursue further education and become a teacher or professor before this summer. Working under a professor in the Computer Science department, I was surprised to learn that this was a career that I am now highly considering. The fulfillment that one gains from being a teacher is something that I briefly got to experience throughout my summer. Overall, my experience opened up my eyes to all of the possibilities that my degree could bring upon graduation.

What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

The relationships that impacted me the most throughout my summer experience were the ones that I cultivated with the students in both my position as a student instructional assistant in the CSE department and through my position in the computing facility. By being a student instructional assistant in a software course, I was able to work one-on-one with students who were working on a multitude of programming assignments. When a student was struggling with a particular coding problem or needed clarification about a certain topic, I thoroughly enjoyed helping these individuals to better grasp the material and reach their potential. It also helped me grow as a better programmer by helping students with their programs.

I also enjoyed the encounters that I had throughout working in the systems administration office. Many of the individuals that I assisted on a daily basis were Physics professors and graduate students who were working on research in some extremely significant areas of their fields. Not coming from a physics background myself, I appreciated the opportunity to learn a little about their fields of study while assisting them with my knowledge of technology. I even learned that the graduate students’ work often overlapped with things that I enjoyed, since many of them would do some programming during their research. Thus, I particularly enjoyed working with these graduate students, especially when I was able to see some of their work with programming.

Possibly the most stimulating aspect of my role in the Physics Computing Facility was that there was often completely new daily tasks. There was never a day that I didn’t do or learn something new. A student or professor would often come to the office with a problem or question that I had not come across before. The faculty in the office would often let the students handle these concerns to allow for many learning opportunities. These situations allowed me to become a better problem-solver. Moreover, as a student assistant in the office, I learned about new things such as the Linux and MacOS operating systems, the hardware of computers, and programming languages such as Matlab. Also, it was great to be able to work hands-on a lot of the time. These are examples of topics that I would not expect to come across in my courses throughout college. I feel that I am now better-rounded in regard to computers and technology.

I was also able to work closely with a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department. Through this relationship, I was able to learn about the duties and responsibilities of a university professor. For this particular software course, the professor would give the lectures, and would create/grade the examinations. My responsibilities were to assist students during labs when they would work on programming assignments and to hold office hours to provide one-on-one interactions with the students. I would also grade the almost-daily homework assignments and the weekly project assignments. Often times, the duties of the professor and my duties would overlap. I was able to learn the teaching styles of this professor and how he would respond to students’ questions. Outside of this one course, I learned that professors/lecturers often teach multiple courses while also leading a research project in their department. I quickly realized that the research-related duties of a professor interested me far less than did the teaching and grading responsibilities. Besides the research, the day in the life of a teacher became quite appealing to me.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

All of the individuals who I worked with in both the Computer Science Department and the Physics Department were very intelligent people who were passionate about their work. These were people who chose their careers because they thoroughly enjoyed the job and wanted to inspire and teach others about their work. This experience absolutely made me realize the importance of finding a fulfilling and meaningful career. After better recognizing my strengths and personal goals, I realized that I wish to pursue more software-related coursework during my undergraduate studies. Upon finishing my undergraduate studies, I will pursue a career in software engineering and then perhaps pursue graduate studies in Computer Science in a couple years. While working in an IT-related environment was a valuable experience, I realized that my ambitions are more closely tied to software engineering and, possibly, teaching. I am very enthusiastic about having a career that would allow me to work with software and become a better programmer. The prospect of one day becoming a teacher or university professor in Computer Science is also extremely invigorating. While conducting research as a professor may not be my ideal path, I thoroughly enjoy working with students in a classroom setting. I believe that the professional goals that I now have will lead me to a fulfilling future, and I can thank my summer experience for helping me to solidify my goals.


General Electric Aviation Co-op in Jacksonville, FL

imageHi, my name is Austin and I would like to share my wonderful experience in the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program with you. STEP helped to fund my opportunity to intern under the General Electric Aviation Co-op program for the fall semester of 2015. I was relocated to Unison Industries, a GE Aviation subsidiary in Jacksonville, Florida, that designs and manufactures jet engine ignition systems. My projects and roles were focused in the Quality Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, and Engineering departments.

This STEP Signature Project has allowed me to develop valuable professional skills and has taught me how to live on my own. As my first introduction into the corporate world, the level of personal responsibility was a bit of a shock. We had managers who were always ready to answer any questions that arose, but the majority of our progress relied on us. The transition from Columbus, Ohio, the place I’ve lived my entire life, to Jacksonville, Florida, a place I merely read about in vacation magazines, was a considerable adjustment. In addition to not knowing the area, all of my friends and family were back in Ohio, which meant that I was in a situation where I knew absolutely no one. The opportunity to live, work, and learn on my own has been one of the most transformational experiences on my journey of personal development. My new understanding of expenses, networking, job opportunities, and the aerospace industry has truly expanded my perspective on life after college and has provided me great excitement for the possibilities to come.

The independence of living on my own was a bit intimidating at first, but then I started to look at it as an opportunity to explore and improve myself. Every week I would plan out meals to experiment with, new adventures to undertake, and various departments within the company to study. I learned that when you live on your own, all of your experiences and fun activities depend on your level of individual proactivity. As trivial as it may sound, I learned how to budget my finances, shop for groceries, and pay rent. I ventured downtown a few times to experience the various parades, football games, and concerts, so that I could see what it would be like to live in the city. I also explored the beachfront area, learning to surf, hanging out in penthouses, and watching air shows. Visiting other universities in the area was also a great learning experience for me because it not only gave me a chance to see the differences between northern schools and southern schools, but it also allowed me to make new friends and new network connections.

Working in a professional environment was also new to me. For the first time in my career, I was given responsibilities and held to the same expectations as salaried employees. I was treated like an engineer by both veteran engineers and shop technicians. I not only gained a wealth of knowledge about the company, its products, and its network relationships, but I also acquired a better understanding of personal responsibility. The success and lifespan of the projects I had the opportunity to work on were entirely dependent on my own productivity and work ethic. I learned the importance of people’s time and how good coworker relationships can significantly contribute to the success of a project.

In addition to learning a significant amount about professionalism in the workplace and the logistics of a product as it moves through the manufacturing process from piece inventory to shipping, I had the opportunity to improve upon my presentation skills. One of the projects I worked on revolutionized an age-old process that was used across all manufacturing value streams within the company. My manager and I first presented our idea her boss, who liked the idea and then told us to present it the Jacksonville site manager. After presenting the idea to the Jacksonville site manager, who loved the idea, he immediately told us to begin implementing the technology on our site. He then had us present to his boss, the manager for the entire value stream locations at GE Aviation. The manager of the entire value stream loved our presentation so much that he had us implement the technology to all other GE Aviation locations in the value stream. From the multitude of presentations we gave, I learned that preparation is the most important factor affecting the success of your performance. I found that the only way you truly become comfortable presenting to others is when you have rehearsed your material so many times that you’ve created a mental vocabulary database that you can effortlessly draw from throughout your performance. I also learned about the importance of simplicity when it comes to presenting your material to others. In many cases, only a select group of people have invested as much time as you have into your topic of study, and in order to share this discovery with everyone else, clear communication is vital. If you constantly use specialized terms that only experts in the topic can understand, you will lose your audience before you can reach the questions slide. These presentation experiences have given me the chance to learn how to successfully communicate complex ideas to people who may not be as familiar with the topic of study. It has shown me the importance of preparation, and has provided me a wealth of knowledge that I will continue to expand upon throughout my professional career.

Jacksonville Interns Fall 2015
Jacksonville Interns Fall 2015
From this STEP Signature Project, I have truly matured and attained experiences that are very difficult to come across in a classroom. I have learned more about the inner workings of the aerospace industry and have explored many potential career paths. This experience has had a significant impact on the direction of my career and the outlook I have on my studies within the aerospace engineering major. The connections and friends I have made will undoubtedly influence my future opportunities and life experiences. I am truly grateful for STEP and all those who helped to make this opportunity possible. I will continue to utilize the knowledge I’ve gained from this experience to further my personal and professional development. I hope that others will also see the invaluable influence the STEP program can have on a student’s professional career.