This summer I interned at Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate in Milwaukee, WI in the Research and Development Department. I had the opportunity to select my own project and I chose to redesign the Research and Development Lab at the plant in Milwaukee. Albeit this major project, I also had the opportunity to learn the science behind chocolate production, conduct my own sensory panels, attend numerous chocolate focused trainings, assist with chocolate innovations for Cargill customers, and much more!
The most important outcome of my internship this summer was that I can now confidently say that I love my undergraduate degree, Food Engineering. Coming into Ohio State, I debated whether I wanted to major in Food Engineering, Food Science, or Chemical Engineering. I selected Food Engineering because I thought it would encompass my passion for cooking and love for the sciences. This internship aroused and manifested those passions beyond my expectations. On a daily basis, I had the opportunity to get creative with chocolate—I helped my fellow R&D coworkers create unique chocolate products for Cargill’s customers. In addition, I went on several tours of the entire chocolate plant and saw how massive feats of engineering within chocolate production equipment have transformed primitive artisanal chocolate production of the early 1800s into a large-scale production system of the 21st century that can meet the demands of customers across the globe. Food engineers cannot enhance the production system with engineering technology and models if they do not have an intimate understanding of the food science behind the product line they are working with. I now know that in my future career I will learn food science on the job which will allow me to use my engineering knowledge to enhance the efficiency and technology of the larger production system.
Another takeaway of my internship this summer was that I learned building strong relationships with the people you work with can transform your work experience. In general, I always try to be an outgoing and sociable person, no matter what the situation may be; this summer those character qualities enhanced my work experience beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I worked with four chocolate lab technicians (Hannah, Melissa, Nick, and Armando), two technical service team members (Tom and Fatemah), and, of course, my boss (Wyatt). I built amazing relationships with these people and took the time to learn about their lives inside and outside of work. Hannah and Melissa are relatively new to Cargill as they are recent college graduates and they gave me great advice about my future as I seek to finish my college education. We also had great fun in the lab, usually taking turns being DJs with our lab music speaker, so we could whistle and dance while we worked. Nick has had more experience, serving as a senior food scientist at a large ingredient company before coming to Cargill. He taught me the difference between astringency and bitterness during a taste test, while also sharing his advice about my plans for graduate school. Armando is an amazing chocolatier and he has such passion for his work. We frequently talked about life while making chocolate and I learned that he is a Christian just like me. Armando taught me how to be a Christian light in the workplace in a subtle way that can change the lives of people around you. My boss, Wyatt, was definitely not the type of boss I expected to have, nor was I too excited about learning I was to share a cubicle with him at the office. We built a great relationship and I learned all about his family; he even asked me to cat/house sit for him three times over the course of the summer!
Furthermore, I also learned that you should not hold preconceived notions of a city until you actually live or visit there. As a Kentucky proud southerner, I was somewhat wary of living in Milwaukee a city that is farther north than I have ever lived. Surprisingly, Milwaukee was beautiful in the summer (but the winter might be another story). I took the opportunity to explore every “nook and cranny” of the city. I attended a Brewer’s Baseball game at Miller Park. Miller Park is an interesting baseball stadium because it has a retractable roof. In fact, during the game I attended, the roof was put across the stadium in preparation for a coming storm. Milwaukee is located directly on Lake Michigan which brings so much activity to the lakefront, including beach volleyball, kite festivals, ethnic festivals, sunrise yoga, and much more! During the summer, Milwaukee has multiple festivals every weekend and my favorite festival was Strawberry Fest where I enjoyed numerous chocolate covered strawberries. Finally, Milwaukee loves art and this love speaks volumes through its spectacular art museum. The museum is modeled after an airplane and its “wings” rise and fall twice a day. As a result of my experiences in Milwaukee, I have learned to not hold assumptions against a city until I have explored all it has to offer.
I cannot begin to quantify how valuable my internship with Cargill Cocoa and Chocolate has been to my life. This was my first internship in a major food production facility and I was quite nervous at the beginning because I was questioning whether food engineering was the right career path for me; this internship conquered my nerves and showed me that food engineering is where I belong! In addition, recently I have noticed how some of my friends and family have been unhappy in their career situation; this observation has caused me to question whether I can find a job after graduation that incites a deep passion within me. This internship provided an answer to this question: you can find a job or career path that motivates you and makes you happy. I am glad to have experienced that happiness because I know it will help me as I continue to plan my future.