Hi, 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.