Taking a Leave of Absence for the Right Internship - Johannes' Story

As it turns out, finding an
internship at a company that is a startup, has openings that would be
interesting for a mechanical engineer, is working on something related to clean
technology or clean(er) energy, and is located in the Boston area is extremely
tough. Since these were pretty much my requirements for the ideal job, I
consider myself lucky that I stumbled across OsComp Systems last summer, with
the help of our indispensable PGP team. Although I became apprehensive as my
first day of work approached and I really didn't know what to expect, I haven't
regretted my decision to take a Leave of Absence from Olin to work at this
natural gas compression startup.

 

Since I began work at the
eight-person company in January, I've been working on anything from component
design, to scaling and feasibility analysis, to simulation, and electrical
system design. I've been part of a company in the process of revolutionizing
the natural gas industry and gained insight into what it takes to develop
cutting-edge technology.

 

Even though I've noticed many
similarities between our engineering team of four people and some of the teams
I have worked with at Olin, the differences are striking. The main difference
is that our project has a time scale of several years, compared to most Olin
projects, which typically last a semester or less.  At OsComp, I have to
continually think about how my decisions will affect the company years in the
future. Documentation of ideas, simulations, and CAD is extremely important
because  after I leave, my co-workers need to be able to know what I was
thinking. Because of our particular project, the stakes are also much higher.
At Olin, if my project doesn't work, I write all about why it didn't work and
what I learned, and still end up with a good grade. If my prototype at OsComp
doesn't work, we don't get investors, which means I don't get paid and the
company may fail. As a result, I've come to appreciate the culture at Olin that
allows me to take risks without much actual risk, but I also better understand
the consequences of such undertakings when more is at stake.

 

I feel that even my five semesters
at Olin have prepared me well to work in industry. The reasons for this are
two-fold. First, Olin's practical and project based approach to most classes
means that I have gained experience in taking an idea from conceptualization to
realization, something which my co-workers didn't do until joining the
workforce. Second, Olin has exposed me to other engineering disciplines in
addition to mechanical engineering not only through classes like Principles of
Engineering, but also through its size and community. Since Olin is so small, I
interact with electrical or design engineers on a regular basis, providing me
with knowledge that is not part of any standard ME degree. This breadth of
knowledge is extremely useful at a startup because I never know what unexpected
challenges may lie ahead.

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