This is the first installment in a series called “Industry Insights” where we hear from a current student who is working at an internship, co-op, or full-time job and learn about their experiences. Today’s writer is Abi Lutes, who co-ops with DePuy Synthes.
“Hi, my name is Abi Lutes and I’m a junior in Industrial Engineering. I’m also a Co-Op student working for DePuy Synthes, a Johnson & Johnson company in Warsaw, IN that makes orthopedic implants. I knew coming to Purdue that I wanted to Co-Op to get work experience and help pay for school. I went to IR my sophomore year not sure if I wanted to start a Co-Op then or just look for a summer internship. Unfortunately, I was unable to get either through IR and felt really discouraged after hearing from almost every company to “raise my GPA to a 3.0 and come back next year”. I felt hopeless.
It was only about a week or two later that I received an email from the IE academic advisor telling all undergrads to consider applying to DePuy Sythes as they had an opening for a manufacturing Co-Op position. I pounced on that application and was rewarded with a phone interview. I was so nervous and thought the phone interview went terribly but apparently DePuy didn’t agree and I was invited to an on-site interview in October. Once I came to my onsite interview I fell in love with the office space and the atmosphere. I left my interview feeling excited and REALLY hoping I would get the job.
About 5 days later I got the call and the congratulations I had been awaiting! I would start Spring semester, on January 5th. I was so excited I didn’t even care that my winter break would be shortened down to 2 weeks. I let me friends and family know. I let Purdue know and got someone to take my place for my housing and I was set!
I moved in with my aunt, uncle, grandma, and cousin about 20 minutes away from work. I would be sleeping in their basement for the next few months. Monday rolled around and I showed up way too early for my first day and sat in the parking lot waiting until I was only 10 minutes early to walk in. The first day was a blur of training and terms I didn’t understand. I got my first tour of the floor. It was a two hour walk around the manufacturing floor filled with machines I wasn’t familiar with and terms I had never heard of!
My first term I realize was so important in terms of learning. I am now familiar with the floor and now no where I am going (most of the time!) I was a part of two big continuous improvement projects with a team consisting of full time engineers as well as shop floor workers. I was the only Co-Op both in my department and working on those projects. This just encouraged me to learn as much as I could and work my part on both teams. I also worked on some individual projects and was tested throughout the semester on what I was capable of.
When I first started I was nervous to ask for help from people outside my department or project team (sometimes even the people within!) I dreaded talking to the shop floor operators who saw me as “lost little girl” but I soon realized that people were here to help me learn. Not every person was as nice about helping me as the next but that’s all part of the experience. You need to learn not to be sensitive and to be confident in your ability to do your job despite of age, level of education, or gender. Once I realized that the company was invested in me and wanted me to succeed I was a lot more at home walking the floor. I loved my first rotation and am so happy to be back for my second. I’m working towards taking on more responsibilities and projects and excited to be the only Co-Op on a new continuous improvement project starting soon.
I love working out on the floor and live by the advice my boss gave me at the beginning of my first rotation: “don’t engineer from your desk”. Talking to the shop floor operators who work there every day really helps with your understanding of the project. I feel like I’ve learned so much more in my time as a Co-Op than I have thus far in classes! Co-Oping really gives you an understanding for what you are doing and a motivation to get through those boring classes so that you can get back to the industry!”
-Erin, your editor.