Becoming a Stronger Engineer Through Internships
I had four internships here at DLR Group. I started in May of 2006 as a sophomore in college, and I got hired full-time in 2011. I've been here ever since.
I would say the benefits of an internship experience outweigh the drawbacks. The biggest benefit an internship gave me is a foot in the door to real-world architectural engineering. The internship is kind of the segue to give you an introduction into what the industry is going to be like—it's quite different from school. During your internship you focus on day-to-work, while thinking about the big ideas is what school is for.
Being an engineering intern at an integrated design firm gives you exposure to what all building design disciplines do, from architecture to mechanical engineering and even plumbing. It’s important for an intern to have exposure to all those disciplines to understand what each is trying to accomplish through their design. This will make you a stronger engineer.
A few things to keep in mind:
Remember to keep a very open mind and never be afraid to raise your hand or go seek help. You're still the newbie. If you're being thrust into a project and you're asked to do a task that you're not 100 percent sure how to accomplish, ask for help. That's the biggest transition that you need to deal with when going from a student to intern. Suddenly the responsibility is great, but that's all the more reason to take a step back and ask for help. Don't be shy.
On the other hand, you need to have confidence in your abilities. Coming fresh out of engineering school, you might be more fluent in the latest drawing or building modeling software than someone in a more senior-level position. So figuring out when to assert yourself is key, too.
Above anything technical, I think the most important thing is to always try to build relationships. You never know who in the world you're going to be able to help, or who you're going to need help from. Make sure that you have the best influence you can have and stay positive with your attitude. Find mentors. Your people skills are what's going to make or break you in the real world, so nurture as many relationships in the workplace as you can.
Most importantly, as an engineering intern at an integrated design firm you get the special opportunity to adopt the integrated design mindset— approaching design with a holistic understanding of how your individual discipline impacts the full potential of a space.