LyondellBasell Internship Reflection

This fall semester, I had the opportunity to work as a process/polymer engineer in the petrochemical industry with the company LyondellBasell at their Morris, Illinois site. LyondellBasell is a global company that produces chemicals, fuel, technology, and polymers that are used in everyday life. In my role as a process/polymer engineer at the Morris site I was responsible for working on about 4 major projects throughout the term but also attending daily meetings and tending to smaller day-to-day tasks. One of the major projects that I worked on that had a potential cost savings of close to $250,000.
One of the most important transformations I had during this fall term would be my ideology on how to become successful in the professional realm. Before this co-op, I used to think that the best way to become professionally successful was to do it on your own. By this, I simply mean working “hard” by yourself and not asking others for any help because you should have the knowledge to solve a problem by yourself. However, after two months on the job, I quickly learned that reaching out for help, asking, questions, and in general, having good interactions with your co-workers is vital to completing your projects in a time efficient manner. Knowing everything, especially as an intern, is impossible. That means that it is vital to build good relationships with as many people possible at work because you never know when that relationship could help you.
During my internship, there were several instances that led to my change in professional ideology. I would say the first time that I realized that I couldn’t do everything by myself and that I would need help to make it in this internship was about 2 weeks into my internship. During my second week of my internship, I was given what many of the experienced engineers considered a “easy and straight forward” project, however, I did not think it was. This was my first project and only my second week on the job so I was not accustomed to the employees or the “lingo” that was being used to describe the project. Because of this, my “easy and straight forward” project became more difficult because I was reluctant to ask the necessary questions to even get started on the project. Instead I sat in my office for a few days trying to search through our database to find the answers that someone could have easily told me.
After my fruitless search through the database, I realized that I was wasting more time by trying to be my own “hero” and do this project on myself. My ego and ideology on succeeding professionally was actually hurting not only me, but my company because I was not being productive. When I had this realization, I finally mustered up my pride and walked into my mentor’s office and asked for the help that I desperately needed to get started with my project. Before I asked my mentor for help, I was not sure how he would take my need for help. After all, this was a project that many considered “easy and straight forward”. However, to my surprise he was welcoming to my questions and was even surprised I hadn’t asked for help sooner. From that point on, completing that project really turned out to be as easy and straight forward as the other engineers originally thought.
I also had a similar revelation about the importance of work relationships when I worked one full week on the night shift with my site operators. LyondellBasell runs 24/7 and our plant operators alternate between working on day shift and during the night shift. My objective of working a week of nights was to get to know the operators better on a personal level because they are an integral part of the company and are the people that put in the manual labor. While I was initially not excited to be working from 4:30 pm to 2:30 am, this experience turned out to be great because I got to know them all very well and appreciate the work they do on a daily basis for the company.
I would say my transformed view on reaching out for help and building relationships can be applied outside of my professional career, most notably my academic career. Often times, I try and struggle through courses and homework by myself and end up going nowhere and wasting my time. This internship has inspired me to seek out help in my courses often and early. This way, I can succeed academically as I learned how to succeed professionally.