Industry Insights: Rachel Elston

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 Rachel Elston (Lindsay). She graduated from Purdue in 2014 and currently is in a General Electric rotational program.

“Hey! My name is Rachel Elston (formerly Rachel Lindsay) and I’ve been working for General Electric as an OMLP (Operations Management Leadership Program) since I graduated in May 2014. While at Purdue I earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering, Minor in Manufacturing Engrachelelstonineering & Certificate in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. OMLP is another one of those ever popular rotational programs, but I’d like to think that OMLP is one of the best! I’ve worked in 3 different sites and am starting my final rotation in April. I’ve done Lean/IT in Auburn, Maine; sourcing in Salem, VA; supervising in Charlottesville, VA and now Quality Engineering here in Charlottesville. My favorite role has been my supervisor role managing 30+ operators in a variety of functions and tasks making PWA’s (Printed Wire Assemblies) – basically circuit boards.

I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned that aren’t job specific but can very applicable to budding female engineers!

1)  Intentions vs Perception: Be prepared that your energy may be mistaken for aggression, your never ending questions for naivety, and your focus to get the job done for indifference. I’ve been learning a lot about how my intentions may come across with a different perception. The more people you deal with in different functions and life experiences, the more this will happen. I’ve been reminded by my coaches to make sure I think about how my comments, actions, etc. will be perceived and how I can alter my communication style to fit the other individual’s needs. Being a supervisor with 1/3 of my team having worked here since before I was born does make for some challenges but I’ve had a great time learning this in practice and through development training as part of my OMLP curriculum. I’m sure this has been a lesson for us all during different stages- doesn’t mean we’re always wrong (or right!) but more that we should just be aware of it.

2)  Stepping back isn’t always a bad thing: In high school we were told to be involved, in college the pressure to have the perfectly rounded resume got even higher. Unfortunately this mentality doesn’t just magically go away after landing a dream full time job. This comes in new forms: joining a committee for your site, helping plan a conference for your rotational program, or maybe taking on that extra side project beyond what’s expected in your role. These are all situations I’ve had since starting work. It’s important that you promote your brand so your name comes to mind when something new and exciting is starting but it’s also important you retain the integrity of your brand by not overcommitting. I’ve joined and left different optional functions due my role at the time or even for a personal situation. That doesn’t make it automatically a bad move; just don’t make it a perpetual pattern. Remember- you’re always being observed and it’s important to reinforce the message of your ever growing brand!

3) Always be you: In every role, every company, every location, there are ways for you to exude you. Being you makes you memorable and makes sure you retain that certain light you bring to the world. You bring a different perspective, an approach or even a solution to every day work. Find that thing that uniquely makes you, you! For me it’s a combination of energy, lots of color and a love of Excel. Not necessarily job-related but you can bring that to your role and make it more enjoyable for yourself and those around you.  I’ve left each rotation being asked to come back by my assignment leader, peers or both. These facets of us make us more than that “one engineer who had a role a few years ago here”.

Thanks for listening to my thoughts about post-college life in industry! Good luck with the rest of your college and in the start of your promising careers! Go PSWE!

Boiler Up!


-Catie Cowden


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