STEP 2019 Co-Op Reflection
For my STEP project I completed a co-op with LyondellBasell as a Process Engineer Co-Op at their La Porte, TX olefins plant. I worked alongside my mentor to complete a variety of projects in different areas of the plant from the furnaces to the distillation areas and gave a final presentation on what I had completed during my term to the leadership team. There were many days of training and extra learning seminars to gain the most knowledge and experience about all aspects of engineering in the plant.
During my co-op experience, there were many transformations that occurred for myself and the view of the world. The first transformation that I saw for myself was growing in confidence as an engineer. The knowledge that is gained in school is important for understanding, but it not directly what will be used in the field. This makes it hard to really visualize what an actual job of an engineer is and be able to determine if I would like it or be able to complete it. This experience gave me the opportunity to explore a potential career options and see how to apply what I have learned in the classroom to a job. I transformed from just an engineering student, but a future engineering professional. I also moved across the country by myself and not knowing anyone beforehand. I had to mature and figure out everything while I was there. This allowed me to grow as a person as well and learn how to live in a new place and start new. This transformation of gaining confidence was a product of being able to take this co-op experience, which was made possible by my STEP program funds.
A transformation of my view the country also changed during my co-op. I grew up in Illinois and go to school in Ohio, so I stay pretty centrally located in the Midwest. I had never been to Texas before, and really had no expectations going into this new part of the country. I did not know if I would live living in this part of the country and was nervous to go there alone. After time, and becoming acquainted with the area, I grew to love this new area. I had a transformation in being able to go outside my comfort zone, explore new places, and appreciate a different part of the country. This co-op allowed me to see so many cities and experience different foods which I would not have had without this experience.
There are many people, interactions, and events that allowed me to grow during my project. For my first transformation in growing as an engineer, many opportunities allowed me to grow in the short period I did. First, my mentor is one person that really helped grow in my transformation. He was a consultant and worked in the plant for a long time and knows the ins and outs of each of the units. He was able to teach me the material I still haven’t learned in school and apply that and the things I already knew. I have not had that good of a teacher in such a long time, and he truly allowed me to transform into the engineer I am now. He challenged me to take on difficult projects and go outside of my academic comfort zone. This person truly allowed me to transform into a better learner and student, and I have him to thank for a successful co-op.
There are other events that allowed me to transform in my knowledge. There were many training sessions held by LyondellBasell and other contractors that allowed me to learn about different disciplines and acquire knowledge I needed to be successful for this term. These trainings introduced me to valves, pumps, seals, piping, and other mechanical items. These are all things I would not learn in school, but things I would need in a future career. These technical trainings were transformative as they are stuff I will never learn in a sitting classroom, so going out to vendors and contractors to learn in the information allowed me to get extra knowledge not all my classmates will have. Many of these trainings I had to reach out to attend and get this information for myself. This taught me how to be able to ask for help and assistance, but then use it on my own. These events were also what helped me transform into a confident student and young upcoming engineer.
The final interactions that helped me grow in my transformative experience, was meeting and growing in experiences with the other co-ops. As I mentioned part of my transformation was going to a new part of the country on my own and learning how to be mature. This helped transform me into the young adult that I am transitioning towards. Having interactions with other young adults going through the same thing helps learn tricks and grow as well. Having this new experience and exploring other places allowed me to transform and see other places that I would not have seen without this opportunity. As illustrated in these past three paragraphs, the people, events, and interactions detailed really allowed for my transformation during my time on co-op.
This change and transformation in my life was in both my personal and professional life. I was in an industrial plant and had important projects to complete to help this unit run. I learned the responsibility of an engineer and how to be independent in my thinking. I also learned how to communicate with other groups in a company, and how to effectively work and share ideas between each other. Not only this, but I was able to learn how to ask for help when I am unsure how to do a problem or needed another opinion on a project. I also learned how to write technically in a report so that other people are able to understand what I am thinking and proposing to change. This was something I had to work hard at, but after time I was able to learn and demonstrate my ability at this skill. Lastly, professionally I grew as a speaker as giving a final presentation in front of a leadership team. All of these skills I learned during this transformative experience will help me in my future professional career. Personally, I was able to grow confidence in my ability and how to be an adult. I was able to grow in new experiences, make new friends, and learn more about the world around me.