Internship with Department of Athletics at Ohio State

Starting last fall to this May, for a whole academic year, I interned for Ohio State Department of Athletics as an event management intern. I served as a secondary event manager at 25 different athletic games including football, hockey, and women’s volleyball. I worked as liaison role to redcoats and ushers on game day and deliver professional customer services to over 1200 audience.

(This is the picture that I was working for Taylor Swift’s concert)

I have enjoyed my time at the event management in Department of Athletic. One cool thing about the internship is we have monthly meeting which would host former interns/ guest speakers to talk to us about their experience in the sports industry. The former interns talked about their transition from student interns to full time working professionals. They shared their advice of finding a job, doing interviews and what this internship with event management has brought them. Guest speakers are business partners who have worked with Ohio State before. They have all had 5 to 10 years’ experience in the industry and they generously shared their background with us. It is wonderful to have some professional development opportunities during the internship.

Entering my junior and senior year, the stress of finding a full-time job is in the air. Given the opportunity to connect some former interns and industry professionals through the meetings enables me to broaden my network and hear their insights about an industry. Having a series professional development session really helped me to think about my career goal and prepare for that.

One of the biggest changes I have seen in myself is I came from someone who’s nervous about interviews and had no good story to tell to a confident Sarah who can tell her story vividly and show her strength to the interviewers. I really appreciate the event management team which has given me countless chances to fully participated in all kinds of athletic games, volunteer opportunities and concert operations. Those experiences are unforgettable to me and they enabled to get my foot in the door.

I can’t get where I am at without STEP’s support. The STEP expo I went to made me be aware of all kinds of activities that STEP support other than study abroad. The internship with Department of Athletics is my first internship and it has definitely led me to bigger places. I have gone through many interviews at the end of my junior year looking for internships. As I was doing the interviews, interviewers were interested in what I did at Department of Athletics as sports is a big thing at Ohio State. I ended up getting an internship in the summer because I have had previous internship experiences in such a well known department!

STEP Spring Co-Op Reflection

My STEP Signature Project was a 4-month long Co-Op with BMW Manufacturing in Greenville, South Carolina. My Co-Op featured an extensive look into activities and culture of a large corporation.

My time at BMW has changed the way I look at a lot of things in my life. I’ve learned valuable information about living alone. While at college I was close enough to home that I could come home for a weekend if I was feeling homesick. Living in South Carolina, approximately 10 hours from home, I can’t just come home on a whim. I’ve learned to be okay with being so far from home. I learned about dealing with people in the workplace that don’t get along with me. I’ve learned a lot about how I deal with social situations when I don’t know anyone. I grew professionally as well; I was able to network with a lot of different people across the globe and learn many different aspects of professional protocol.

So, packing up most of my possessions and driving 10 hours down to South Carolina alone was a very surreal experience for me. I didn’t have any friends in South Carolina before I moved so I was quite literally driving into the unknown. An experience like this can really tell you more about who you are as a person and I was able to learn a lot about myself because of this. I learned that I don’t mind being alone if I have something to do. I learned I was okay with going to the movies or concerts even if I had to go by myself because I was able to make friends there. I found that I can succeed in many various social situations as long as I trust in my instincts.

At work I was surrounded by many different types of people and as I mentioned above, they came from various places around the globe. I was able to learn a lot about different cultures and ask questions about how people grew up. I compared their experiences to mine and became more apprehensive of the lifestyles we live as Americans. The work itself was very educational and worthwhile as I learned skills that I’ll need for upcoming classes. The work was very interesting as well, I had a great time learning about the practices of BMW.

Lastly, I was able to gain many different friendships with other interns that I wouldn’t have been able to make otherwise. I went into the experience expecting to learn more professionally but left having become more emotionally, socially, and professionally sound. The friendships I made with several other interns in departments that worked with mine became stronger both in the workplace and out. We worked as a team at work, successfully completing different projects for the company and we celebrated our hard work after hours. We took trips to the beach, went go-carting, did escape rooms and hung out by the pool. These people helped teach me more about becoming the friend someone would like to have. I say this because its so much different becoming friends with someone when you know you only have a couple months together. Life moves fast and friends move away but the friendships last lifetimes.

This change has been extremely vital in my professional, personal, and academic lives. I have learned much more about myself than I thought I would, as I have never truly been alone until now. I expanded the network of people that I’ve worked with which gives me greater chance of success in the future. I learned a lot of practical skills that I’ll need for my classes in school as well. Overall this experience has been fantastic and a pivotal kick start to my career.

STEP Spring 2019 Co-op Reflection

My step signature project entailed working at the company LyondellBasell for 5 months. I was a process engineer that aided in maintaining the process of producing alcohol and microthene and upkeeping the safety of the site.
My understanding of the career field and ways to work together with people changed. I had not done an internship/ co-op prior to this one, so I was very confused and nervous about what I would be doing. LyondellBasell gave me projects to work on that were not just busy work. It gave me an idea of what I would actually be doing in the field. This also helped in highlighting how to apply the knowledge I learn in class to the real world and helps guide my class choices in the future to gain a specialty. I learned how to better work with and interact with people of different backgrounds and different specialties. This helps especially since we are only exposed to people in our major at school, but at a real job there are people with multiple different disciplines.
The projects I worked on really contributed to my understanding of the career field. I was given multiple projects and had the independence to figure them out on my own while getting help when I needed it. These projects included implementing flow meters, removing piping, and changing settings on specific equipment. I thought this was a simple process, but upon designing the details of the project, I realized that a lot more considerations and detail had to go into the project so as to not put anyone in danger or disrupt the process. This also contributed to my realization in how to apply chemical engineering to process engineer role.
I also learned the importance of safety in the career field, specifically at chemical plants. We were required to wear PPE whenever out in the plant. I had thought it was just a precaution, but big accidents where we would need them rarely occurred. I was mistaken. Nothing happened at our plant, but we discussed incidents that have happened or were currently happening across the world. It made me realize the importance of the PPE and all the precautions we take to ensure that no one gets injured. It made me appreciate my projects that were centered around safety aspects more because I realized it did matter that I completed them.
All of the projects that I worked on at the plant required someone else’s input. The someone or some people could be another engineering discipline, a finance advisor, lab tech, operator, or mechanic. I was able to interact with all of these people and be able to accomplish my projects successfully. They all had more experience than I did and focused on aspects that I did not, so I learned a lot about how the process at the plant worked and what they normally have to be concerned with when a project occurs. In addition, many of the people grew up in a small town in very rural parts. I was raised in an urban/suburban area. It was good experience to learn how to get along with people of a different backgrounds and ideations.
This transformation is valuable for my future career. Being able to do this internship allowed me to learn how to apply my knowledge in an actual job and gave me an idea of the specific area I would want to work in in the future. I was able to learn from experienced coworkers that taught me how to best conduct myself in the company and teaching me how to be successful in this role really helped prepare me for my future in any job that I choose.

My Time In DC and WAIP

For my STEP Signature Project, I spent the SP19 semester in the Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP).This involved me working full-time in an internship of my choosing, specifically the Department of Transportation while taking a classes. During this time I also lived and attended a wide variety of events, tours, and panels with classmates throughout my time there.

I grew a lot during my time in D.C. It was my first foray into the “real” world, meaning that my normal support network was practically nonexistent, and I had a decent amount of commitments there, working a 32-hour work week, having class, and then also having a variety of study tours, policy salons, and panels to attend as well. It really helped my confidence as I met the demands of my program, realizing I was able to do everything I did.

I also learned a lot about what I actually want to do going forward in my life. Before going to D.C. I was dead set on grad school, but seeing the opportunities I have got me to reevaluate. Although I still want to go in the future, I no longer see it as a prerequisite to getting jobs in the government or politics. This has changed my academic and professional plans pretty significantly, as I continue finding more things I can do right off the bat.

The work I did at my position in the DOT kept me on my toes as I was always working on different projects, or helping respond to events in real time. This all helped me become more confident in my skills as we tackled and solved new problems. At the same time, the work I put into the class I took, which ended with my capstone project, really summed up the work I have done throughout my entire undergraduate career. The opportunites for leadership presented as well helped me reinforce my strengths, while also improving upon my weaknesses, which wrapped up my self-improvement over the semester.

My interactions with the fellows who worked on the Hill, and talking to my mentor specifically gave me a lot of knowledge about the other opportunities that I can pursue outside of going to grad school and seeking a graduate fellowship. This also strengthened my network going forward as I look to dive into some fields different than what I currently have experience in, or possibly return to campaign work. Especially with the 2020 election spinning up, it was a great time for me to have this revelation.

Getting to explore D.C. further and actually living there really helped settle me on moving there some day, which was a pretty big change from what I had previously wanted to do. It took a lot to realize that I could uproot from Ohio (where I have always lived) and move somewhere in pursuit of a more fulfilling life and career.

The combination of improving myself, becoming more confident, and finding many new opportunities that I can pursue really compounded, creating the changes I’ve talked about. Having this kind of direction change has really helped me grow, and opened up a wide array of new opportunities for myself. Since I know I want to eventually move there, I can begin making decisions and altering my life plan to focus on getting to D.C. and into the kind of career I want some day. My STEP Project was a truly transformational experience, and I would be nowhere near where I am academically and professionally now without it.

Getting to meet one of my senators, Sherrod Brown, was an amazing opportunity, especially after having worked on his campaign last fall!

Great View from the Capitol Building!

STEP Internship WAIP SP2019

For my STEP project I participated in the Washington Academic Internship Program sponsored by the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Through this program I completed a 32 hour per week internship, gained class-credit toward a minor in public policy and many networking and professional development opportunities; all while living in Washington, D.C.

During my time in Washington, I learned a lot about myself personally and professionally. I learned about many different career paths that I could pursue in the future and tips for interviews, networking and perfecting my resume. I grew more confident in myself and my abilities. I also was able to be more politically active and was able to learn more about and advocate for issues such as higher education affordability and accessibility, rural broadband access and reproductive rights. I was able to volunteer and interact to serve different communities than my own; broadening my horizons and knowledge of these groups.

I am not exaggerating when I say that participating in WAIP was one of the best decisions I have made during my college career. Moving to D.C. was tough as it was 9 hours from home instead of 3, but it challenged me to be more independent and self-sufficient. I will be graduating in May 2020 so this real-world experience was extremely beneficial as it gave me a taste of life post-graduation. Through our networking events with alumni in D.C. and our study tours I was able to make important networking connections that will last for years to come, and that were able to offer advice for my future career search. In balancing a nearly full-time internship and class in the evening I was able to work on my time management skills.

Also, one of the key takeaways from WAIP for me was that I am not looking to go to graduate school directly out of college. I was debating this decision before participating in WAIP and was even planning on taking the GMAT this summer. After talking with hiring managers and other professionals I decided to wait of grad school. I know that everyone is different, but I feel as though this is the best decision for me.

Probably my favorite thing that I gained from WAIP was the overall confidence I gained in myself and my abilities. Since I was young, I have always wanted to be a sports analyst and work in sports marketing. I had moved away from this dream as I have gotten older because I was not confident that I would be competitive with other applicants for this career field. I thought that entering a predominantly male dominated field and receiving my degree from a public University would automatically disqualify me. Through talking with OSU alumni and other women with experience in sports marketing who I met in D.C. through WAIP, I am very confident in my ability to work hard in pursuing the career path in sports marketing and if it doesn’t happen for me then I will move to something else, but I at least want to try it. I am less afraid of failure and feel confident in the education I am receiving from Ohio State and know that the professional development WAIP has given me through our various policy salons and study tours has prepared me to enter the workforce as a competitive candidate, even against those with ivy league degrees.

The internship portion of WAIP also allowed for major personal and professional development. The internship experience WAIP helped me receive taught me the type of company culture with strong values I am looking for. This additional work experience during my undergraduate career gave me to opportunity to work in my internship this summer and made me a more competitive candidate for the job.

WAIP has also empowered me as a woman. I touched on this earlier, but being in such a politically-charged city has allowed me to understand first-hand the magnitude of some of the issues woman and minorities face today. I really was in the center of it all. Through talking with other woman and minorities I learned how to establish myself as a woman in the office and in society, and to advocate for myself and for what I believe in.

I was able to meet so many important people such as the Ohio delegation and even the Surgeon General and White House Liason from the Department of Health and Human Services. This experience matured me professionally and personally more than anything I have ever done. I was representing The Ohio State University and knew I had to do it with respect and pride.

WAIP was difficult and very trying sometimes. Half-way through I thought that I wasn’t cut out for an experience like this, but after getting through it I now know that I was meant to do this program. I am now more empowered than ever as a woman and as a student soon entering the workforce. I am reenergized to return to Columbus for my final year and excited for the future to come.

My Spring Internship at NASA

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

During Spring Semester 2019, I worked as an intern for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I worked on safety critical software that will directly support the launch of the SLS rocket. The project that I developed provides a new way to test the displays that engineers in the Launch Control Center will use.

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? 

I understand NASA’s overall mission better, and have a better view of what is happening at various parts of NASA, as well as where the rest of the Space industry is moving towards. I saw some of the different types of tradeoffs people and managers had to do to get things done. While there are some extraordinary geniuses at NASA, I realized most of the employees are just regular people who like space. I also realized that most people’s paths to get to NASA were not straightforward. They didn’t go through the traditional process of a single undergrad engineering degree to be there. Many people I met there came from Community College, or the Military, or even did an a bachelors in something not STEM related.

I also had to adapt to a different culture at NASA and in Florida. Work generally moved slowly for us there for various reasons. There was still a lot of work to do, but setting up took a while, and a lot of the work was fixing difficult and non-intuitive problems. While I was in Florida I also had to learn how to live with a lot of animals and a difficult roommate that I was responsible for driving. Living in this unfamiliar situation caused me to rely on the friends I made there a lot more than I would have otherwise, and I consequently made some lifelong friends.

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?

There is a definite tradeoff between quality and maintainability of software, and getting a product out. One of the new full time software engineers there saw a lack of quality in the structure of my code due to an existing structure. While some of the other engineers thought it would be a waste of time (“painting the bikeshed”) to fix the structure of the code to make it faster and more useable in the future, the new full timer made a case that he could refactor it efficiently, and succeeded. I saw variations of these types of discussions play out in various projects within the office. There were some people, like the software architect that would consistantly push for good practices over speed, while others would push back for various reasons.

NASA is an organization that operates on a long timeline, and there were a lot of older technologies and paradigms in use there. Many of the designs for buildings, rockets, other machines, and software was repurposed from past missions in past eras with specifications that conflicted with future requirements. The technology I worked with was generally pretty old for software and the question ‘Why do we use X?’ sometimes gave confusing answers rooted in multiple changes in administrative priority and bureaucracy. There was a stated business casual dress code (which in tech is outdated) with collared shirts and long pants, but nobody seemed to care if you followed it or not. Because such a high priority was put on safety, nearly everything was tested, and it seemed like more priority was placed on testing than on features at many times. Much of the work we had to do was aimed at making the jobs of the people doing the testing easier.

Although this work was important, due to the massive scope and timeframe of the entire SLS (Space Launch System) program it sometimes felt as if the work I was doing had little impact. However, when the farther along my project got, the more people asked about it, and would come to rely on it. Although my project had importance to the organization, I felt that I was not learning as much as I wanted to technically working on it. I learned a lot when I was working alongside an engineer during projects, or speaking to my mentor about the history of NASA, but when it came time to sit alone and develop software, I felt kind of stagnant. Reading through documentation and trying random things until they work can be frustrating.

There is definitely something special about NASA that you wouldn’t get at most workplaces. When you go into work through the gate, you’re greeted by space shuttle booster engines. Out of the corner of your eye, you can spot the vehicle assembly building. As you drive in further, the scale of the building is finally clear. It is one of the largest buildings in the world by volume, and where NASA has constructed their rockets for the past 50 years. Getting a close up view of that building every day made me proud to work at NASA, and gave me a sense of how big, difficult, unique and amazing the things going on at NASA were. Regardless of what I had to work on, NASA’s overall mission, the collective goal to expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity, is incredible.

To accomplish incredible goals you need incredible people, and the some of the people who worked at NASA were a big part of what made it special. My mentors were great, interesting, and motivated people, and although they didn’t take a deep dive into my project technically, they were really welcoming. They organized lunches and a tour to see the the crawler, and came into our room periodically to talk rockets and careers with us. One of my mentors went out of her way to take us to her makerspace, where we got to meet interesting Orlando makers and make out own laser cut drinking glasses. Some of the other engineers had the ability to make even mundane things exciting. The engineers who specifically took an interest in helping me made a big difference by giving my work purpose.

During my internship I made friends with people from across the country and around the world, from all kinds of different backgrounds. I went fishing, went climbing, played basketball, watched movies, and went on a road trip to Key West with them. I learned a lot of things I would otherwise not have known from them because everyone had different interests and was from different places. We grew very close, and I ended up meeting people I will probably be lifelong friends with. Being out of the house and constantly coordinating the next adventure with them exposed me to many different perspectives and made me a happier, more extroverted person.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

My NASA internship helped build valuable software engineering and testing skills by having me complete an independent project from start to finish. I built skills using different tools, testing software, and communicating problems to a large team that will help me in future software engineering positions. I also learned about the space program, its history, and about the various spacecraft and people who made it work.

Working at NASA also made me reconsider what I value long term. The people who I looked up to the most at NASA were always learning new things and finding ways to apply new ideas in and out of work. They reaffirmed that I should constantly be learning and trying new things, as well as teaching others. On a related note, most of the people I talked to advised me to go onto grad school straight out of undergrad, which makes me more sure in my plan to do so.

 

Me in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building night/day.

Me, Nashir, and Joseph (left to right) in front of the Lego Loch Ness Monster at Disney Springs.

Key West road trip.

The whole crew on picture day.

Me and co-intern Nashir during the last week.