STEP Reflection: GE Aviation Software Internship

Name: Courtney Campbell

Type of Project: Summer 2017 Internship

For my STEP project, I focused on my professional development by doing an internship with GE Aviation in Evendale, OH. I was a software intern in the Test Systems Engineering department where I would maintain their software packages. I also was a part of the Professional Development Committee (PDC), where I helped coordinate lunch and learns with executives and other intern events. During and after my internship, it inspired me to take a few different coding courses to put into practice what I had learned over the summer.

Unlike most interns, I ended up living at home and commuting to work. This was the first time I ever had to pay anyone to live somewhere and also having to use a car to get to work. Ohio State is a very walkable campus, so it was definitely a change for me. Driving an hour to work in the morning and in the afternoon was eye-opening. It was eye-opening in the way I got to understand what it possibly may feel like to work full-time in a different city once I graduate college. Having STEP funds to cover my gas expenses and living at home expenses were nice because it gave me a chance to really focus on getting experience with industry software without worrying about paying rent or gas.

My first day, I was extremely nervous since this was my first internship and I came in with the assumption that this internship would be super high level and that I wouldn’t be able to understand anything. After the first two or so weeks, I definitely had a different mindset. I realized that none of the people in my department knew everything; they all were in my position when they started at GE and it was completely okay that they had to learn some things on the fly. The tech industry is moving so fast, there’s no way that you can always be caught up and know everything that’s happening. I think that was the biggest transformation in myself. It’s okay to not know everything and it’s okay to say when you’re confused or lost because people are always willing to help.

My first week was definitely difficult, just because of catching up to what my department was doing and trying to remember everyone’s names and positions. I had to learn a whole new programming language and learn the code the department used to build their applications. At first, it was really daunting. I came in afraid of what I should start on and I also didn’t get my laptop until the second week of my internship, so it was giving me some anxiety and fear. But I had one really great engineer who would take time out of his day to go over anything and everything. That gave me much more confidence and let me know that even though the department had me as their only CS intern, they still really cared. The same engineer sent me a really nice email the week after my internship ended just to say I did the department proud and that there’s so many companies that would love to have me. That had such an effect on me just because I did struggled and he knew that and made some mistakes, but I did my very best, which is enough. My manager was also very supportive which made my experience so much better.

Other than building relationships with GE Aviation employees, there was a big focus on professional development. Since GE Aviation is such a large company, and then the whole GE company is even bigger, they implemented a Facebook page where interns could watch interviews with various executives, all done by GE interns. There were tons of interesting people, and they all had great advice about making the most of your internship. My favorite professional development session had to be the LinkedIn workshop. I was done by the GE branding manager and it gave me some great insight and advice to promoting myself online and creating my personal brand.

The Ohio State network is so strong, and it was so prominent at GE. I attended a lunch with all the Ohio State interns and co-ops along with many Ohio State graduates who ended up doing full-time at GE. It was very impressive to talk to them about how they made the transition from college to full-time, and hearing from a few of them who were now in senior positions was very inspiring. They were all down to earth and they definitely cared about what us interns had to say and what we thought about the company, including our intern assignments. I remember a couple women talked to me about feeling in adequate when they started, but they found mentors that cared about their success. It made me a lot less afraid of when I do graduate and go into full-time; there are people rooting for you every step of the way.

As a black woman in computer science, companies that are dedicated to giving everyone a seat at the table like GE are so important to me. I want to work for a company that knows that diversity is one of the most important things to have and will support me to do my best for them and for myself. I got my first internship my second year, so I wasn’t an expert on how to do internships correctly, but I’m happy I was able to receive an internship where I struggled a little bit. This is valuable for life because you have to realize disappointments happen and you won’t always be ahead, and learning it early is so helpful because you’ll know how to deal with it when you actually get to your full-time job and it’s going to be so much easier to handle. Everyone should do at least one internship or co-op during their academic career; I feel like I learned so much about my field and what I actually want to do in the future.