08-25-2020

The Internship Series – My Path To Parsons

One of the most valuable things I was taught growing up was how to make the best of the situation I was given. This simple lesson was recently put to the test by the pandemic when I found myself, like many others, with a rescinded job offer and limited options left. Within a few days, a professor of mine at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology put me into contact with a member of the Indianapolis team here at Parsons, and within a week I had signed on with plans of joining the team in early June. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a blessing in disguise.

The theme of the 2020 internship program here at Parsons was announced shortly before I started: “Where Will My Internship Take Me?” I quickly found that the theme for the program rang true more than I ever imagined it would. I started June 8th as a Structural/Bridge Engineering Intern and was quick to realize that the opportunities and experiences I was going to have during my summer at Parsons were going to shape my future career and allow me to grow as an engineer.      

On the first day, I was introduced to an alumnus of Rose-Hulman who happened to also work in the Bridge Department. He became my mentor and a great advocate for me in the office and is really pushing for me to do more than the leftover tasks that interns typically get at other companies. I found that we shared many experiences and insights by attending the same small engineering school in Terre Haute, Indiana. He knows and understands my experience in the classroom. Because he has been in my situation before, he has a better perspective of how to give me guidance when I am working on something that has not been taught at school yet.

Not only have I had incredible mentors while at Parsons, but I have also had the opportunity to do actual productive work on real-world projects.

I have been exposed to projects at all stages and have had the chance to work on several bridge projects across the state of Indiana. One day I can be working on an inspection report for a project that is at its opening stage, and the next day I get to see a project that is almost ready for final submittal. This aspect has really allowed me to gain a big picture understanding of all the necessary components of engineering design. This is a concept that I would never have been able to fully understand had I not had the opportunity to jump onto real projects from day one.  

As an intern with my senior year of school still ahead of me, the biggest challenge that I face every day in the office is learning on my feet. It’s one thing to learn the theory of design in the classroom, but it is completely different putting that theory into practice in the workplace. For example, a typical homework problem this past spring was to size a single steel beam based on a well-defined set of data. When I perform similar tasks in the office, it quickly becomes more complex. I am looking to size four to five beams that will be used in an actual bridge design with the added challenge of defining the scope of the problem and what loads to use. Although this is a major challenge, having the opportunity to see how tasks are accomplished in the professional world versus the academic world has helped me develop professionally in such a short amount of time.

In the few months I have been at Parsons, I have learned more than I would have had I spent the same amount of time in the classroom. I am heading into my senior year with a strengthened understanding of engineering and a deeper passion for my work.

Meeting the CEO

To top off the internship, I had the incredible opportunity to spend just under an hour with Mr. Chuck Harrington, Chairman, and CEO of Parsons. I was able to ask an abundance of questions about him, his career, and any advice he had for me. During our conversation, he began to compare footprints in the sand with footprints on the moon. This left me momentarily puzzled, but it became clearer as he described how, as people, we need to be personable and know how to react to certain people and certain situations. With more appropriate interactions and reactions, we can leave lasting footprints, like those on the moon, rather than the ones in the sand that will be washed away with the next change in tide. Mr. Harrington also shared so many personal stories of his time at Parsons with me and it was incredible to see life through the eyes of someone so successful.

Not only did I learn a lot about his career and experiences, but I also learned a lot about the company as a whole. Coming into the summer at a company the size of Parsons, I did not know if I would be “just another intern,” but this meeting truly showed me otherwise. I came to quickly see how valued the employees are here and it really showed me that I am at the right place this summer. This summer has come full circle and I realized that I landed at Parsons for a reason.

About the author

Lauren is a rising senior studying Civil Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. While at Rose-Hulman, she is a captain of the Varsity Golf Team and the Vice President of both the student chapter of ASCE and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She is also a member of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and Blue Key Honor Society.

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