The Internship Series – Uniquely Unified

For the Summer 2020 intern cohort, we were faced with a unique experience that only a pandemic could bring: a radically different approach to the program. As Parsons adapted to the changing needs of work-life, we were onboarded as a class of remote workers. Parsons took on the challenge of engaging a remote workforce, and we rose to the occasion to produce meaningful work despite COVID-19. As we surpass our expectations during these unforeseen circumstances, I am so thankful for my team and the company.

I am part of the Information Architecture group under John Scarlett with Irene Fleischman and Liz Junod. I primarily work within the missile defense market as an engineering and computer science intern. Within our team, we use SysML to phone our skills in model-based systems engineering and model the various elements of the nation’s layered defense. Our studies play into the larger need to understand the complexity of the ballistic missile defense system, and with our knowledge, we can represent the system dynamically to provide a more engaging and comprehensive experience for our team.

Systems engineering is the basis of the work we do within the missile defense system, yet the interdisciplinary field extends into other markets and industries. Based on the Meet the Markets lecture series, I have learned that Parsons’s other markets, such as connected communities, space systems, and cybersecurity, use systems engineering for a disciplined approach to creating solutions. The software, frameworks, and practices in my internship give me real-world practice in multiple industries because as our systems grow and technology develops, the intricacy between them climbs. Additionally, the system needs to be understood at a local and global level to provide a complete and accurate solution.

As I enter the midpoint of my internship, I have had opportunities to listen to and speak with real experts in their field, covering their line-of-work and their respected projects. These men and women have encouraged questions in the lecture series and prompted us to reach out to them and explore careers and industries for our own edification. I have had the blessing of meeting Carey Smith, COO, and taken heed of her advice—one gem from her talk paraphrased is: “Take on as many jobs as you can. Explore as many opportunities as presented to you. This will shape you for your future.” And the meetings we’ve had and the people we’ve met have shown me diverse in personality, opinion, and passion from the Parsons community.

Parsons puts their interns in contact with so many successful people so that we can succeed, and to take charge of the opportunities that come our way.

I was blessed to have a mentoring session with our CEO, Chuck Harrington. I took this opportunity to glean lessons on leadership, conflict, and communication. To share with you some pertinent points, I want to echo his sentiment: leverage conflict or the “dynamic tension” to move forward, remember your reasons for what and why you communicate, and have methods to hold yourself accountable, even as a leader. I thank him for his time and his wisdom that he bestowed, and I am so pleased to be at a company that values its employees so greatly.

Additionally, there are so many helpful people at Parsons, and these people could be intern coordinators, mentors, managers…the list goes on, and they cover professional, team-building, workplace initiatives topics to name a few. Some meetings that have stuck out to me are as followed: James Lackey’s presentation on Simulation and Integration, Stephen Cochran’s presentation on Cybersecurity, and Greg Karahalis’s presentation on Space Systems. Every speaker I’ve heard has informed and inspired me throughout the internship.

Though, it is not to say that remote work means only work. Chelsea Tekesky and Jenna Anderson do an amazing job of showering the interns with attention and love. They have hosted after-works to play games and quiz ourselves at trivia. Irene introduced herself to us, her team, with a crowd-cheering roar, which I gushed over upon learning she was my project lead. Lastly, with my team, we have found ways to make the internship feel more personable without having the ability to meet one another in person, and that is priceless.

About the author

Sierra L. is an Alabama native pursuing a secondary computer science degree at UAH. Prior to her time at Parsons, she lived in New York City for a number of years. Currently, she spends her days walking her puppies, Kingsley and Gracie, hiking Alabama’s various landscapes, and practicing her Vinyasa flows in yoga.

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