Popping the Olin Bubble: Finding my Summer Internship - Meryl's Story



Hi, I'm Meryl. Right now I'm a junior majoring in Materials
Science and this summer I'm going to be working for Ashland, Inc. as a
manufacturing intern with the Aqualon Hercules Water Technologies business
unit. Since I did R&D in my internship last summer I thought I would try
something different.

Even though I was only actively looking for internships over
the span of a month, the search took some interesting turns and led me on some
cool adventures.

Benefit of Professional Organizations

I started my search for a summer internship at the Career
Fair at the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) National Conference in Orlando,
FL. To me, this was the career fair to end all career fairs. Over 200
companies filled the giant exhibition hall with booths ranging from modest to
extravagant. Some of the larger companies had jumbo TV screens and lounge
areas--the Whirlpool booth even had a full size replica kitchen. In addition to
providing a plethora of networking opportunities to tap into, most of the
companies had some fabulous (and even somewhat useful) free swag.

Interview Opportunities

Many companies at the career fair were conducting interviews
on-site. I had the privilege of formally interviewing with 2 companies: John
Deere and Caterpillar. These were my first in-person interviews for anything
besides scholarships, so no doubt I was nervous. It was a good thing that I'd
gone to a session earlier that morning about interviewing skills. At the
workshop, I learned about how to use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action,
Results) to relate all of my Olin experiences to the interviewers. Although I
didn't realize it during the workshop, both of the interviews that I did were
based on the STAR format--good thing I was ready! The hardest part of the
interviews was talking about what I specifically did on my projects as opposed
to what the team accomplished. At Olin, that line becomes very blurred, but
companies only care about what YOU have done.

In addition to formal interviews, I talked to and networked
with over 20 other companies at the career fair, including Thermo-Fisher
Scientific, DuPont, Whirlpool, and the US Forest Service. A few of these
interactions were just casual conversations to collect the giveaways (like
cereal bars from Kellogg's), but many were much more detailed exchanges,
including talking about Olin and long conversations with recruiters that amounted
to informal interviews.

It was during one of these informal interviews that I made
my connection with Ashland, the company I'll be working for this summer. I hadn't
heard of Ashland until a recruiter from a different company led me to Ashland's
booth. I know that you're supposed to do your research about companies before
you talk to them, but I didn't' have that luxury with Ashland. Since I'd never
heard of them before, I was able to honestly admit that I knew nothing about
the company and would need to be brought up to speed. Turns out that Ashland
sounded like a pretty interesting company! I spoke at length with the
recruiter, and he happily told me all about their internships, both in R&D
and Manufacturing. I told him about the MatSci projects I'd been working on
this semester, and he was able to match those almost exactly with divisions of
this company.

At the end of our conversation, the recruiter told me to
take a look at the information on both internships, decide what I was
interested in, and then officially apply online and email him my resume and
cover letter. I didn't think much of it, especially since I hadn't even heard
of Ashland until 20 minutes previously, but I tucked the papers into my Olin
Padfolio and went off to continue my hunt for the best free giveaways.

After the Conference

Fast-forward to several weeks after the conference. I had
followed several of the leads I got; some were still sitting as overdue in my
Outlook tasks. Catching up on Olin work from the days I'd missed to go to
Florida was getting the best of me and taking my mind off of the internship
search. Then, I got an email from John Deere inviting me to come to their world
headquarters in Moline, IL for a second-round interview! Initially, I wasn't
sure if I wanted to go or not. I wasn't wild about missing more class,
especially at the end of the semester, and I still wasn't sure exactly what
type of internship position I'd be interviewing for. However, the more that I
thought about it and talked to people, the more excited I became about the
opportunity. This was my most promising lead so far, and I would get to visit a
place I'd never been before, even if Moline was the middle of nowhere compared
to Boston.

Now that I was thinking about internships again, I finally
got tired of seeing "Ashland" in red at the top of my to-do list. Things move
so fast in the corporate world, I figured I'd probably already missed out on
the opportunity. Still, I knew it would be foolish not to try so I sent off my
cover letter and resume to the recruiter. Boy was I right about things moving
fast! The next morning, I got a phone call from the Ashland recruiter. The only
thing he asked was if I had any questions, which confused me a little bit,
since that question is usually reserved for the end of an interview. I was caught
off guard; he was offering me a position. Although I was thrilled about the
offer, I had to wait to respond until after my John Deere interview.

First Business Interview

With less than a week left to respond to my offer from
Ashland, I boarded my flight to Moline, IL. In case you don't know, Moline is
located on the Mississippi River where it divides Illinois and Iowa. It's part
of a region known as the Quad Cities, which actually encompasses 5 larger
communities in 3 counties between IL and IA. I met the other students in my
interview group on the tiny, 50-seater plane from Detroit to Moline. The plane
was having some technical difficulties, so we all started talking while we were
stuck on the tarmac and then as wewaited at the gate to switch planes.
Although inconvenient, it was nice to get to know my peers before getting to
the interview. Only one of the other students (a girl from RIT) had heard of
Olin. The other students were from Binghamton College, Duke, and Lake Superior
State University--a school I'd never heard of!

In my interview sessions, I learned some very cool things
about John Deere. Even after their rotational program, they still encourage
employees to move around within the company to experience different
opportunities and positions. One of my interviewers had even gotten to spend a
year in South America! We also got to eat lunch with an employee from the
engineering rotation program. Our lunch took place in John Deere's indoor
garden, where they have a plant from every country they do business in. Even
though it was snowing and brutally cold outside, we still got to eat lunch in a
green garden!

John_Deere_garden0.jpg

By far, the best part of the John Deere trip was the tractor
playground at headquarters. They had all of their tractors, combines, and
construction equipment on display in the lobby, and we were allowed to climb on
everything and sit in the driver's seats! I had forgotten my real camera, but I
did have my phone--here's a picture of me (in my business suit) sitting in the
giant combine!

1-meryloncombine.jpg

I also got someone to else to share pictures with me. Here's
a (somewhat) better shot of the combine. It still doesn't capture how big it
was. They only thing that I could think of was Kenny Chesney's song "She Thinks
My Tractor's Sexy"!

2-combine.jpg

After the all of the scheduled activities, I had a little
bit of time to explore Moline. I went across the street from my hotel to the
John Deere Pavilion, which was another tractor playground! I visited an old
fashioned soda and candy shop recommended by our van driver, where I had a
pumpkin milkshake, some almond bark, and a nice conversation with the waitress.
I also walked by the shore of the Mississippi River. The river was nice, but I
couldn't stand outside for very long. It was just TOO COLD! Pretty soon, it was
time to fly back to Boston and get back to finishing up the semester.

The Final Decision

Even though working for John Deere sounded like a lot of
fun, I did not know the results of my interview before the deadline for
responding to my offer from Ashland. Now that I'm all set for the summer, I can
sit back, relax, and be thankful for the opportunities provided by SWE to get
out of the Olin bubble to look for internships!

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