I had an image of what a day at a typical engineering firm would look like. It’s quiet and maybe a little impersonal. Employees work eight hours and rush out the door at 5 o’clock. Luckily for me, I’ve found this doesn’t always have to be true. The outlook and expectations of leaders within the company develop a work culture. This atmosphere guides the attitude of engineers toward their work. As designers, we are privileged with an opportunity to make a great impact – a greater impact with the right approach. I was led to this discipline by my appreciation for the power of a well-designed building, both visually and structurally. This summer, I have been proud to work at a company that is conscious of the link between these two elements. My initial impression of Wallace was what I found on the web prior to my interview. On the company site, I came across a phrase I liked: “The art of engineering.” The more I learn about the company, the more this attitude is apparent.
The weekend before my first day, I was full of all the usual nerves before navigating new territory. But by the end of my first week, I had met and conquered my first challenge: a flagpole design. The flagpole in front of a massive grocery store is easy to overlook. I never anticipated designing one or considered that someone had to design it at all. All the information was in front of me to find the answer, but the real task was putting the pieces of something new together. Since then, I have played an active role in various projects which begin the same way. My experience has covered construction observations and inspections. I spent evenings assessing deterioration on a concrete parking garage to estimate the cost of repairs. For these projects, I began to see myself function as a contributing member of a team. Each week brings a rollercoaster of tasks in which I am given unfamiliar and unexpected responsibilities. Each time, I end up with a solution to a problem and the determination for the next one to be better.
There are certain benefits that a student expects to gain from an internship. Networking, professional experience, and an improved resume are among them. In addition to those, there are unnoticed elements that may be even more crucial; this type of experience builds confidence and helps us to find our place professionally. As the summer winds down and I move back to Stillwater for fall classes, my peers and I will be bringing back our experiences to share with each other. We will apply them to our final year of school and then to our first jobs. For me, this experience has played a major role in guiding my path after college. It has offered insight to answer big questions, like whether or not grad school is for me. I have been surrounded with ambitious and devoted colleagues who have helped me form an idea of what my life could look like 15 years from now. These short ten weeks have primed me for my future career and set a standard of what I will expect from any engineering firm.
Emily Ashbaugh is a summer intern at Wallace Engineering, a structural and civil engineering consulting firm. She will be returning to Oklahoma State University this fall to finish her Bachelors degree in Architectural Engineering. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please follow us on Twitter (@WallaceEng) for blog updates.