Industry Insights: Ashlee Janczak

This is another installment in our Industry Insights series. Today, our 2014-2015 PSWE vice president is here to share her tips in the workforce. 

“Hi PSWE! I’m Ashlee Janczak and I graduated from Purdue in May 2016 from Biomedical Engineering. Since then, I have been working for Norwood Medical as a Quality Engineer. Norwood Medical is a contract manufacturer for the medical device industry. We focus on process design, manufacturing, assembly, and packaging of orthopedic and minimally invasive surgical devices. I loved being a part of PSWE while I was at Purdue and want to share with you why I chose to work for a small private company.

There are many pros and cons for working for a small or large company but I just want to focus on three areas that were important to me when I was looking at both sized companies.

1. Culture

I would consider Norwood Medical a large, small company. We have around 1,000 employees and I know just about everyone thanks to a great orientation program (which I will touch more on in the next section). Norwood started out as a small, family run business and still maintains that culture today. Everyone in the company has been super friendly and will answer any one of my questions. But one of the most outstanding things is how much people care. I was in a small fender-bender at the beginning of the year over our lunch break and I can’t tell you how many people reached out and asked if I was okay and if there was anything they could do. People were willing to go out of their way to help and not just in this case. If there’s a document I need or something I can’t find someone will go out of their way to help me. Culture is so important. In my opinion it’s one of the biggest factors in whether or not you will enjoy your job. So it’s definitely something I considered when looking at different companies.

2. Training

Training is one of those things I feel like it is always overlooked. It doesn’t appear to be as essential as it really is. Training can come in many different ways whether it’s through internal training, certificates, mentoring, or education programs. It doesn’t have to be a formal program; anything counts as long as you are learning. So make sure to ask about it when you’re interviewing. The first training I received at Norwood was their three month orientation program. I spent just over a week in every building working on the floor, in the labs, in the assembly rooms, with the IT department, and so on. I really got to see what made Norwood tick. It was such a neat experience to spend that time to meet everyone and get to know to company before starting my job as a quality engineer. And every day since that orientation program, I have relied on something that I learned during that training.

3. Variety

When I graduated, I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to continue to learn. So when I was researching companies for full-time employment, I focused on companies with a variety of products and/or technologies. At Norwood, there are eight buildings and we are expanding. Each building has different capabilities and focuses including but not limited to CNC milling and turning, injection molding, laser making, etc. So every day I am learning more and more. It’s a lot of fun! So make sure to do a thorough job of researching companies, whether that’s through the internet, meeting recruiters at job fairs, getting to know an employee, or going an on-site tour.


These were just a few things that were important to me when I was job hunting. So remember, keep your options open. You never know where you’ll end up! Best of luck with your upcoming exams and finals PSWE!”

-Leann Demorest


Industry Insights: Allie Sexton

This is another installment in our “Industry Insights” series, where we feature guest posts of people in the industry sharing their insights. Today, we feature Allie Sexton who works in Oslo, Norway.

“Hello!  My name is Allie Sexton and I graduated in 2014 from Construction Engineering and Management.  I went on to work (as an intern) that summer for Walsh Construction in Oslo, Norway.  Walsh was constructing for the U.S. Government in Norway and I was lucky to be a part of it for 3 months.

I jumped on that plane June 1 and did not know what to expect.  I had studied abroad in New Zealand, so how hard would 3 months be in Norway?  Well, I was working a lot and not meeting any local people.  Then 6 weeks in to my internship, I met my current boyfriend, Christian, on a complete coincidence.  He’s Norwegian and was working in Oslo at the time. We had common hiking and traveling interests so we hit off.  I left Oslo in August knowing that I had to come back.

Fast forward 5 months… my plane landed in Oslo and I began my career as a Project Engineer with Walsh.

But the project was not performing well, the client was incredibly difficult, and we suffered from bad management.  One of my colleagues took me under his wing and started giving me tasks of my own, challenging me, and acting as a mentor. Because of his guidance, I was able to prove myself capable of handling material procurement and, eventually, of managing my own subcontractors.  But as 2015 dragged on 2016 began, more and more of my upper management started to leave the project.  Managing subcontractors is not something that a Project Engineer usually handles without guidance of a superior. I therefore felt that I lacked guidance, and the project was definitely wearing on me.

My first two years as a professional were not easy.  Combine a difficult job with moving to a new country and adjusting to professional life after college…. it turned out to be a pretty rough start!  But I am here to share with you that the project ended and things got better. 

Christian and I decided to stay in Oslo, and I now work with a Norwegian subcontractor here in the city.  My tasks are so far very manageable and it feels so great to work with local Norwegians.  I start Norwegian language lessons soon and am getting my driving license (much harder to do than in the States!). Getting a network is so beneficial and it would not have happened had I not joined a Norwegian firm. I am no longer a transplant here in Norway!

I don’t have a long list of advice for you…. but I hope my story can demonstrate that change is scary, but change can also be a good thing.  Leaving my American job felt like I was cutting ties to America for good, but in reality, you can always go back.  Family and friends will make time for you, and you will make time for them.  Being an expat will challenge you in ways you never dreamed of, but it will open so many other doors for you as well.  So take these kinds of opportunities if you can, and don’t be afraid to make a change that is ultimately better for you.”

-Leann Demorest

Industry Insights: Britany Benton

This is another installment in our Industry Insights series. Today, we introduce you all to Britany Benton, a Purdue grad with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. She now works at GE. 

“Hey! My name is Britany Benton (formerly Kaiser), and I graduated from Purdue in May of 2015 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Shortly after graduation, I started working for GE Appliances as part of the Edison Engineering Development Program. As a part of this program I rotate jobs every six months and work towards a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Some of the work I’ve done on my rotations include developing microwave cooking algorithms (like your popcorn button), optimizing the size and location of the counterbalance springs on dishwasher doors (so your door doesn’t fall open too quickly or slam shut), improving quality on the ice and water systems of refrigerators, and creating FEA models across multiple product lines to help our engineers make the best design decisions possible. I have about a year and a half left on this program before I “roll off” into a permanent position with GE Appliances.

Outside of work I love to play sports (I guess I dogshaven’t changed that much since college).
Luckily for me, my husband shares the same passion! Our main sports are sand volleyball and softball, but we’re not too picky- anything with a ball will suffice. We have two Labrador mixes, Lily (2 years) and Lucy (13 weeks), who also love being outside and chasing anything you throw their way.

I grew a lot as a person in my four years at Purdue, and even more since then. Here’s a bit of advice I compiled for getting the most out of your time in college and preparing for life after graduation.

1. Stop worrying.

‘If I don’t get a 73.4% on this test, then I might fail the class, and then I’ll have to retake it, and then I won’t graduate on time which means more student loans, not to mention no one is going to let me co-op with them with my flawed GPA, and then I won’t be able to find a full time job without a co-op, and then I’m going end up living in my parents’ basement for the rest of my life!’

Sound familiar? Engineering school is hard, especially at Purdue. But worrying and stressing yourself out isn’t going to help you any. I may have worried a little too much during college, but one of the things that helped me was reading the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. There’s a kindle download for it, if you’re interested. Also, know that you wouldn’t have gotten into one of the nation’s top engineering school if they didn’t think you could do it. Purdue believes in you, so you should too!

2. Don’t participate in “rèsumè builders” just to build your resume.

You don’t want to get to your senior year hunting for a job with nothing under the “extracurricular” section of your rèsumè. At the same time, dragging yourself to meetings three times a week for four years in Club ABC that you have no passion for isn’t the way to go either. Please don’t join a club or seek a leadership position for the sole reason of adding a line item to your rèsumè. The best “rèsumè builders” are going to be the things you do because you want to, not because you’re trying to impress people.

intramuralsFor me, it was intramurals. If going from the softball field, to the sand volleyball court, to the dodgeball gym, and then back outside to the ultimate Frisbee field on a Thursday night during exam week doesn’t speak for “time management” in an interview then I don’t know what does. That was one of my favorite Purdue nights, and I got to talk about it in an interview! Building your rèsumè should not feel like chore. Find clubs and activities that you’re passionate about (PSWE is a great place to start!) and your rèsumè will build itself.

3. Don’t be afraid to travel… but also don’t be afraid not to.

One of the awesome things about Purdue is that there are so many opportunities to travel whether it be study aboard, internships aboard, spring break trips, or one of countless other options. If traveling is something that is important to you, then you should absolutely take advantage of it during your time at Purdue. But maybe travel isn’t something you’re passionate about, and that’s ok too. I’ve met a lot of people who’ve been to more countries than I have U.S. states, and sometimes it’s hard not to feel intimidated by those people.

Outside of my time at Purdue, I’ve lived in three houses my entire life and they’re all within 30 miles of each other. My husband and I live currently reside in a small but cozy starter home on the South side of Louisville, KY. We are within a 45-minute radius of all our parents, grandparents, and many other relatives, and we have no intentions of ever moving away from our hometowns. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Again, please don’t take this as me telling you not to travel. If traveling is something you even think you’re interested in, you should absolutely take advantage of the opportunities available to you at Purdue. But I also want you to know that it’s okay to settle down in your hometown and live in one city your whole life if that’s what you want to do.

Good luck with the rest of your time at Purdue and Boiler Up!”

-Leann Demorest

Industry Insights: Michelle Wellman

This is part of an ongoing series called Industry Insights, where people in the industry share their stories. Today’s is Michelle Wellman. 

“Hi! My name is Michelle Wellman and I graduated from Purdue in May 2015 with a BS in Biological and Food Process Engineering. While in school, I always knew I wanted to work in the food industry specifically in production. Out of college, I got a job working for Land O’ Frost as the Food Safety Manager. I’m responsible for our regulatory programs (HACCP, GMP’s, SSOP’s, etc.), Pest Control Program, Foreign Material, and Microbiological Program. I also work closely with the USDA inspectors in our plant in case they have any issues with something we’re doing in our process.

Throughout my career so far, I have learned so much and grown more as a person. I wanted to share a few things with you that I’ve learned both in the Industry and in life!

1. Explore new hobbies or reignite old ones: In high school and college I was constantly going. I joined many different clubs, was involved in sports, and still tried to spend time with friends and family. After graduating college and working for a smaller company, I felt limited with extracurricular opportunities. There didn’t seem to be a lot of “extra” ways to get involved with “clubs” at work; Purdue had provided many different clubs and sports teams that you could join/ participate in and it didn’t seem like my company did. Luckily, this lady I worked with had a volleyball team she was trying to recruit players for, and she asked me if I wanted to join. In high school I loved playing volleyball, but in college I didn’t have the time to play. I love having the time to get back to playing, and it was great finding someone who had the same interest I do! Don’t be afraid to try new things or reconnect with past hobbies.

2. Organization: In college, I was very organized. I color coded every subject, had matching folders and spiral notebooks, matching pens that I would write with in my planner for corresponding homework assignments… I had a system that worked for me and kept me on task. In industry, it was completely different. I struggled trying to organize all my work and I would find myself making many different “To-Do” lists in various places. It wasn’t as easy to correlate a work assignment with a color. It took me a while, but I was able to classify my job into different categories, and color code each category. I recommend finding a way early on to keep track of your assignments, what you’re working on and due dates. Things can pick up very quickly, and if you know a system that works best for you it makes your job 10 times easier!

3. Travel! After graduation, I moved somewhere where I knew no one. I had no friends or family within a 1.5 hour radius, and I’m not one who is very outgoing and meets people easily. I was sad that all my friends were in different places around the US (and other countries), but I took that as an opportunity to travel! I was able to go to Honduras, New York, New Jersey, California, and Evansville within my first year of work. I love traveling, and even though my friends weren’t close, it gave me new destinations to travel to. Taking vacation time to go on a trip (even if it’s a weekend getaway) is important so you don’t burn yourself out. Although my close friends aren’t close geographically, I know if I need a quick place to travel to they are always there for me!

I hope these tips help or at least give you something to think about in the future!”

-Leann Demorest

Industry Insights: Julia Hom

This post is an installment of a current series, Industry Insights, where we talk to Purdue graduates about working in the industry. Today, chemical engineering graduate Julia Hom talks about her experience in Eastman and the industry as a whole. 

“Hello! My name is Julia Hom and I graduated from Purdue in 2015 after studying Chemical Engineering. Since then, I’ve been working at Eastman Chemical Company where I perform experiments to refine different manufacturing processes. I loved being a part of PSWE and want to share some pieces of advice I’ve learned since graduating.

“Advice I try to remember as a young engineer:
1. Define the skills you know, the ones developing, and the ones you want to develop in the future. Adopting this strategy has kept me focused in my current role and reminded me to stay open to new opportunities. This process requires understanding which skills I have already mastered, then incorporating those into my career. The books “The Pathfinder,” by Nicholas Lore and “What Color is Your Parachute,” by Richard Bolles have both helped me enter this mindset. Talking with coworkers has been encouraging, but ultimately, I had to invest time alone into thinking about it. The clearer the picture I have about my skills, the better I can communicate my career aspirations to my manager, mentor, or someone who can help expose me to new experiences.

“2. Take time to learn the true objective of the task at hand and its priority before leaping in immediately. I have learned that knowing background information pays off in the long run because that knowledge provides motivation for yourself and others. Also, there have been scenarios at work when I didn’t have time to address every task in my queue and had to follow through with higher priorities first.

“3. Define what you don’t know, figure out who can best help you, and then ask for help! Since starting working, I haven’t been expected to figure out everything on my own. It took me time to understand basic organizational flow and which people had what expertise. After building relationships, it was easier to find who the right person was and ask for help. 

“Lessons I learned in PSWE that I have used:
1. Network with those both older and younger than you. One of my favorite parts of PSWE was meeting people who were not my age. I have found that learning how to relate to people of different ages is essential in the workplace. The age gap becomes larger after college, and I work with some people who are grandparents. In this way, being a new hire feels similar to being a freshman. In embracing the feeling of being inexperienced, I can ask obvious questions to everyone. 

“2. Success can be contingent on communication. In PSWE, I found that a simple idea, if communicated clearly, will stick. In industry, there are many moving parts and keeping key stakeholders informed was essential to a project’s success. If I made a change or carried out a plan, I work to communicate and document it well! 

“3. Listen intently to all feedback. I remember being a member of PSWE and looking back at the survey forms for events and programs, then deciding how to improve the event based on that feedback. Similarly at work, respectfully listening to others will bring new perspectives and ideas. I learned that the more I listen, the more honest feedback I receive. 

“4. Don’t forget to have fun! In college finding free time could be difficult, but without it, burning out is inevitable. PSWE became my outlet to meet fun people and develop new skills. As work gets busier, I rely on friends, Krav Maga class, and my piano to recharge.”

-Leann Demorest

Industry Insights: Sam Stephens

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 Sam Stephens. She is a senior co-op student at Purdue in Chemical Engineering.

Hello my SWEple! My name is Sam Stephens and I am a senior in Chemical Engineering!  I’m currently on a Co-Op rotation at the Houston Refinery (LyondellBasell) in Houston, TX, and my story today is to share with you how dead wrong I was about what I thought I knew about myself.

IMG_9445Let me break the timeline down for you: All of last semester up to the day before I was supposed to start work, I was trying to figure out any way that I could find another job and do anything other than work a manufacturing role again. I did not like specialty chemicals working at a small plant whatsoever, so I was bound and determined to hate the refinery. I mean, I absolutely hated the demanding hours and working with a bunch of dads (no one my age). I want work – life balance. I want to enjoy the big city that I live in. I want to enjoy my job. From the past co-op and internship terms that I’ve had, it was seeming more and more impossible after each passing day.

Fast forward to January 18, 2016: Day 1. Here I was, despite my best efforts. But…what was this? People my age??? I couldn’t believe it, I was working in a process role once again, but this time, all of the process engineers are 23-26 years old. My boss is only 38 – not old enough to be my mom! Now I know, it seems like this is really important to me, but it is! When you’re considering a workplace, the environment is so crucial. This is starting off well…

Day 3: My mentor – a brilliant young engineer – meets with me to discuss my projects about catalysts, pumps, reactors, etc. Hold up, SWE, I think I just heard a chorus of angels – I’m actually interested in every single project!

The first month passed by in a breeze. In the process of learning everything there is to know about the units I was supporting, I found out that I really like catalysts. Like I spent my lunches and my free time learning about it. I set up meetings with our catalyst expert to ask all of the questions I had. I roped the other co-ops in. I was hooked on it. I couldn’t believe it, I loved what I was doing. I loved coming into work at 6:15 am. I loved my projects. I loved the refinery.

Ok, back to present day. I’m four months into my role and leagues of knowledge beyond where I started, and guess what: I still love refining. I took everything in me to step through the door back in January and now you couldn’t pull me away if you tried.

The moral of my story is to take full advantage of any opportunity that you’re given – even if you’re sure that you’re going to hate it. Give it a try. Just. Try. It. It might be that you hate it, but so what, it was 3 or 4 months of your life to find out that it’s something that you definitely don’t want to do. If Edison can make 1,000 unsuccessful attempts to make a light bulb, you can make 1 potentially unsuccessful attempt to find your future job. And what if it turns out that it’s actually not that bad? What if it turns out that you love it? Doesn’t that make it worth the try?

TL;DR: Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it – I thought I would hate working at a refinery and it turns out I absolutely love it.”

-Catie Cowden

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