The Internship Series – My First Exposure To A Professional Environment
When thinking about my career, I have struggled to settle on just one area of interest to focus my time and effort on. I entered Auburn University in the fall of 2018 originally planning on pursuing a major in physics. I quickly bounced around between several different fields of engineering as I learned more about the inner workings of each one. Every area of specialization had its exciting innovations and opportunities. I was afraid that, in choosing just one, I would limit myself and miss opportunities that could be found elsewhere.
I settled on pursuing a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering. While there is a heavy focus on manufacturing, the principles learned within the degree program have applications in nearly every industry. I’m learning how to analyze a system from the ground up, dig in deep, and think of practical ways it could be improved. This isn’t just a skill set that I can carry from job to job, but it’s a mindset that I bring with me everywhere.
My opportunity to intern at Parsons came unexpectedly towards the beginning of my sophomore year. I had been actively looking for internships for several months without much luck and had begun to get discouraged. While I was searching, I eventually came across a listing for a system engineer internship at Parsons. At the time, I had barely heard of Parsons, and I didn’t know what made it special over the many other engineering firms found in the Huntsville area. Through some research, I immediately found out how much bigger Parsons was than I had ever thought. I became enthralled in all the different business units Parsons serves. Every business unit seemed to be constantly on the verge of some new breakthrough or innovation, and I knew this was the type of company I would want to spend my career with. I also realized that, at a company like Parsons, I wouldn’t be locking myself down one career path due to the sheer variety of areas I could be involved in.
At my current position, I am working on a project supporting a streamlining of administrative tasks within the Missile Defense business unit of Parsons. I have been exposed to many different parts of this project, from the overall business analysis to developing some of the automation tools that will be used to prevent time wasted on repetitive tasks. I enjoy the challenge of being given a problem that has no clear solution and devoting my time to solving it. While the path to the solution can often be long, frustrating, and full of dead ends, I’m able to naturally learn more about the system I’m working on as I go. Often, this leads me to find different angles to approach the problem that I had not considered before or caused me to redefine the problem entirely. The most rewarding part, though, is not finding the solution but presenting it to the customer. Knowing that I accomplished the task that had been set out for me and succeeded in eliminating wasted time within the company makes all the hours spent on the problem completely worth it.
I am incredibly grateful to have an experience like this as my first exposure to a professional environment.
Although the pandemic has altered the traditional workplace experience, I still feel like an important and valued part of Parsons. I’m still getting to know the faces of the company, from my fellow interns to some of the senior management, but everyone I’ve met has been welcoming and interested in who I am as a person.
The Early Talent Program team has also done an incredible job exposing us to all the different nooks and crannies of what Parsons does and what they have to offer. The Coffeeology series brings in different speakers from around Parsons to talk about career development, from better time management to giving back to the community. The Meet the Business Units series cycles through each of the main business units around Parsons and gives an overview of the projects each focus on.
So far, my favorite lecture has been the Meet the Business Units on the Connected Communities business unit. I’ve always been intrigued by the transportation networks around the world, and specifically on aviation and airports. I love the idea of taking the concepts of efficiency and innovative thinking I’ve been learning about applying it to the transportation industry, which is exactly what this business unit does. Throughout the presentation given by Thomas Topolski, it was easy to tell that the engineers and designers in this were not afraid to dream big. They aren’t afraid to questions the way the systems have been carried out for years, but, instead, enjoy stepping back and seeing if there is a fundamental way to rethink them to improve beyond what we ever thought was possible.
Towards the end of my internship, I had the opportunity to meet with Parsons CEO Charles Harrington for a one-on-one mentoring session. I entered the session with a list of questions to ask, but I wanted to focus on having a conversation first and let that guide my questions. We introduced ourselves, and I told Mr. Harrington about my experiences so far and where I want my career to go in the future. He was able to offer a lot of advice to me on how to move forward, and we discussed the nuances of getting started with a career. We talked about the balance between living the moment and perusing long term goals, which is an issue I often find myself struggling with.
His last piece of advice to me was one I will carry with me everywhere I go. He juxtaposed the act of leaving footprints on the beach and leaving footprints on the moon. One will likely wash away or fade as time goes on and others traverse the path, while the other will stay forever, frozen in space. He challenged me to, no matter where I go, leave footprints not just on a beach, but on the moon. Leave a lasting impression that will live on once I move on and will never fade.
That kind of imaginative and creative thinking is contagious, and I know that I want to work for a company that encourages it. I am very grateful for the opportunities that have come my way so far at Parsons, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead.