This is an 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 Bailey O’Malley who co-ops with GE.
“My name is Bailey O’Malley, and I am a junior in Chemical Engineering. I am currently on Co-Op at General Electric in Salem, VA where I work as an OMLP intern in the Environmental Health & Safety division.
When I received an email in early October asking if I wanted to write the November PSWE Industry Insights article, the slightly starved right side of my brain responded with an enthusiastic, “YES”. I had over a month to pen this article, but like a wide-eyed kid in a candy shop, I had no idea where to start. There were so many possible things to cover!
After work that day, I scribbled a list of insights I wanted to share on the back of an old meeting agenda. The list was far too lengthy and entirely too random to form an article. Some of the tips were basic in nature such as:
‘3. Keep a work notebook – My notebook helps me keep track of important information from meetings and it also helps me keep track of my time. In industry, time moves quickly, but sometimes projects and people move slowly. You’ll begin to wonder where all your time goes! Throughout the day I try to jot down things I’m working on, problems I run into, and questions I need to ask so that I can stay focused and productive throughout the day. My recommendation would be to grab a 50 cent composition notebook from Walmart and bring it to work on the first day. Hold yourself accountable to writing in it because your notebook will serve as a great resource for you!’
Others on the list were broad, all-encompassing tips like:
’14. Remember your managers are people too! – It is easy to be slightly intimidated by your managers. But being normal people, your managers will have stories to share. Feel free to ask them to lunch one day, schedule a meeting with them on Outlook, or spend an extra 30 minutes after work to discuss their background, experiences and passions. I guarantee it will be worth it! Everyone has a story, so go ahead and make time to listen. You’re bound to learn some interesting things! I learned my manager quit his first job to travel around America and play beach volleyball competitively for nearly two years!’
So with nearly a month to complete the article, I left the list next to my bed in case a brilliant idea would come to me in my sleep. However, the list was left untouched, and the article unwritten, up until this past Monday. I had to give my Mid-Term presentation to the plant manager, my EHS managers, the manufacturing MSOs, and manufacturing supervisors, but I felt incredibly unprepared. I usually love to give presentations, but my project was about a week behind schedule, my presentation had been completely revised during the rehearsal, and I was giving a presentation to a large audience full of testosterone. Going into the presentation my brain was filled with self-doubt. Then, right before I began the presentation, one of my managers leaned over and said, “Be confident in yourself, you’ve done well so far.” Thankfully, his little comment calmed the nerves, and the presentation was a success. The discussion that ensued was full of helpful critiques of my methods and compliments on my progress. Even though my project wasn’t where I wanted it to be, the plant manager and my managers loved my project and presentation. After reflecting on my day, I realized I wanted to write about confidence for women in engineering.
Google defines confidence as, “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”
I like the wording of this definition, and I know confidence is something I, along with many of the women I have worked with, struggle with from time to time. In an internship, the confidence struggle can be amplified because of the external and internal pressures to do well. There have been times when I have fallen into the trap of assuming that everyone around me knows far more than I do and I have little to offer. But if there is one thing I have learned from my internship this fall, it’s that particularly in industry, portraying confidence is key to success.
From day one of my internship, I have been out walking the manufacturing floor interacting with hourly and salary workers with at least 10 years’ experience, and in meetings with GE executives. In these situations, the people I was engage with want to hear my opinions and my ideas, and I am able to have a direct influence on all of them. At GE, every day is a new confidence challenge for me especially because I work at a Union site. There is often tension between Union members and salary employees, so I developed a backbone quickly. I learned that if I needed something to be done, I had to be calm and assertive in my approach, not timid and wishy-washy. For contrast, this past summer, I worked in a research lab environment in Oregon. For a majority of the time, my communication and influence was limited to my fellow researchers and my mentor. In this role, I felt comfortable and confidence wasn’t as big of an issue. I was simply collecting my data, writing reports, and having discussions with my mentor. However, on the manufacturing floor, it is a whole different ball game. As an intern, and even more so as a female intern, it is crucial that you appear self-assured so that your voice will be heard and you will be respected.
Now, even if you’re a naturally confident person, industry won’t be all peachy keen for you. There are going to be challenges that you think you’ve tried from all angles, or projects that seem rudimentary but are taking way too much time to finish. While your morale may be low completing these tasks, people will take notice if you continue to show enthusiasm for anything thrown your way and continue to show pride in what you’ve done. Stay strong and confident.
This fall I have learned that you might have to “fake it till you make it” in industry, but go right ahead! Pull a Beyoncé and assume the identity of Sasha Fierce when you need to perform. Take a deep breath and smile your radiant, confident smile. Do whatever you need to do in order to be self-assured and appreciative of yourself because confidence is absolutely key in industry.
Thanks for reading! Please contact me at email@example.com with any questions you have about industry experience, Chemical Engineering, tacky puns, or just life in general. I’d love to hear from you! Boiler Up!”