- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
For my STEP project, I completed an internship with Boeing in Seattle, WA. My position was in 737 Flight Controls where I worked with the Stabilizer Trim, High Lift and Pilot Controls systems. I utilized my STEP funds to help pay for housing, food and gas while I was living in Seattle. This internship helped provide guidance for my education and career in mechanical engineering. I learned so much working in the 737 factory and getting tours of the facilities. This internship contributed to my academic and professional growth as a student.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
Living in a completely new city 3 time zones away from your friends is a huge growth opportunity. I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and be open to exploring the city on my own. The public transportation system was great and allowed me to go downtown for food and shopping. I had always heard how bad traffic was in Seattle, but never fully realized until living there how true the rumors were. Commuting each day was a struggle, but I got to see a great view of Mt. Rainier as I drove to work! Seattle is a completely different atmosphere than Columbus, OH or Huntsville, AL where I am from, however I think it is valuable for everyone to travel and immerse themselves in a new place to experience a different culture and region of the world.
Working for Boeing was an incredible experience that opened my eyes to what I want to do with my future career as a mechanical engineer. I knew that I enjoyed the aerospace industry, however this internship solidified that was what I wanted to pursue for a full-time position. I conducted lots of informational interviews to hear and learn more about opportunities within the company and possible career paths for a mechanical engineer at the company. With my work, I focused on learning as much about 737 Flight Controls as I could in order to be a contributing member to the team. This ultimately led my manager to offer me a full-time position at the end of my internship which I was incredibly excited to accept.
- 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?
As someone who is naturally more introverted, it is a little scary to put yourself out there and move across the country for the summer. I was fortunate to have a roommate who accompanied me on many of the weekend hiking and camping trips, however a lot of the time I was on my own to figure out my way around a new city. Even seemingly simple things were different in Seattle than the cities I was used to. For instance, there were hardly any fast food restaurants that I was familiar with near my apartment in Seattle so I adapted to the local grocery stores and restaurants around town. I soon realized driving downtown was a giant headache, so I mastered the public transportation system and acquired a pre-paid card to swipe my way on and off buses. I learned to love the hustle and bustle of the popular city and began to feel at home after living there for several weeks. I made friends who were from the west coast and it was really interesting to hear about their lives and how their schools operated different than mine.
At the beginning of my internship, I knew nothing about 737 Flight Controls. One week into my internship my coworker took me down to the factory floor and asked me to name every flight controls surface on a plane being built. I struggled but managed to name all but one. By the end of the internship, I had a good grasp on secondary flight controls as I had worked heavily with the functional testing of the stabilizer trim and high lift systems. In addition, I supported a design project on the control column. Becoming knowledgeable about flight controls gave me much more confidence as an intern and an aspiring engineer.
Conducting informational interviews at Boeing was a valuable experience, as I fostered many great relationships with coworkers that I know I will continue to stay in contact with. They offered great advice for my future with Boeing as well as potential career paths. I would recommend anyone interning to hold informational interviews. Not only is it a great way to get to know people, it is also a good way to learn about opportunities. I was able to get to know many mangers and senior managers in my department, which will be valuable upon returning next year.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
My Boeing internship experience was significant in paving the way to receive my entry level position upon graduation and a chance for personal growth outside my comfort zone. I did not realize when my internship started that I would be working to prove myself and gain that full-time offer. Working hard and connecting with my coworkers was essential in getting an offer. I feel very happy with my plans to return and excited to begin this new phase of my life after graduation. Boeing gave me a good foundation over the summer to begin working with Flight Controls and gain experience in that sector of the company.
In addition, this experience helped me grow my confidence with myself as an engineer and almost full-fledged adult in the working world. The transition period during college, when you are given a lot more responsibility but still not at the capacity of a working adult, is important in setting you up for the real world. By participating in internship experiences, I was able to gain skills that aren’t taught in the classroom and learn about living alone and transitioning from student to full-time. I can say that after my two college internships I have completed, I feel prepared to make that transition and feel more confident looking towards the future.