By: Supriya Ramesh
As I am writing this story, I cannot help taking a trip down memory lane.
It was the summer after 2015, when I first stepped my foot on the American soil to pursue my college education from one of the most renowned universities on the globe named – Purdue University. I still remember how ecstatic I was about this opportunity and had already begun planning my objectives to accomplish during my undergraduate years. Amongst all the goals that I had set for myself, one of my ardent desire was to gain industry experience in the United States in my field of study, to learn and gain knowledge about the real-world experience and work with people from a culture, different from mine. In fact, from how I rewind my memory, I recall that I was resolute even before freshman year began, to acquire an internship experience soon after my sophomore year at school.
Now, this journey of ‘job hunt’, as it’s called, was not a cakewalk. With the beginning of my sophomore year, began my fishing expedition towards finding a relevant job for myself. They say, “Life’s a maze, not a straight path.” Metaphorically, I was in a labyrinth, not knowing how to find my way to fulfill my dream. Certainly, I did want to get the taste of solving real-world problems in the industry, but I did not know where my interests lay. All that appealed to me was the manufacturing industry, as I was inspired by my father, who himself had 32 years of experience in this field, at that time. However, there are innumerable opportunities for an engineer in this discipline – design, supply chain, quality, production, manufacturing – there follows an extended list. After prolonged nights of research and interactions with my family, peers and mentors, I had an idea of what my supposed interests were; quality, in this case. Then, I did further exploration to know which companies offer such manufacturing quality opportunities and what skills as well as qualifications were required for these positions.
And then, for the ultimate guide to the employers – resume or curriculum vitae. Much like the way I performed qualitative analysis of inorganic salts in the chemistry laboratory during my high school days – I, yet again, had to engage myself in fastidious scrutiny; this time the difference being, a deeper introspection. As a neophyte to this game, let me tell you, the process of resume building and writing cover letters was very nerve-wracking. After identifying my skills and continuous consultation with the career advising team on campus, I finally, put together some words on my resume. But wait! Resume is not a constant star like the sun. Rather, it is like the moon that waxes and wanes once in 15 days. With little time in my hand and increasing competition, I had to tailor my resume to the job description on each organization’s website. And thus, I would submit my job application to a couple of companies, elements of which included – personal information, transcripts, resume and cover letter. I hoped to hear back from at least one but, was disappointed and disillusioned by the negative response.
“Failure is simply opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford
Keeping Henry’s words in my mind, I found another door open for me, that I hadn’t realized earlier. After much pondering, I said to myself, “Let’s progress step by step”, decided to pursue an internship experience in my home country, India and fortunately, had a productive and rewarding summer. This was when I understood the power of connections. I had established many industry contacts back in the day, and hence, took advantage of those. With a few conversations through email, I was considered an eligible candidate and was thus able to gain some valuable work experience, before junior year commenced. A year passed by and I was in the battlefield, again. However, the initial stages of job search were not new to me and this time, I heard back from a few companies for an interview.
Uh oh! Yet another intimidating phase of the job-seeking process. Preparation for the job interview required extensive research about the company – mission, vision, products, services, history and other relevant knowledge. Beyond that, was required the rehearsal for behavioral and technical questions pertaining to the position applied, a decision on what to wear and what documents to take in hand. A few months passed by and I began getting positive replies from companies and I was on cloud nine.
Facing all these pitfalls and rising again, I didn’t just get 1 or 2 internships, but have bagged 4 industrial opportunities, which thereby gave me a 9-month work experience throughout my undergraduate years of study in Mechanical Engineering. Among these 4, I have worked for 2 companies in India – Tata Cummins and Tata Hitachi Construction Machinery, both of which were during Summer 2017 and, for 2 others in the States – Deere-Hitachi in Spring 2018 and Cummins Inc. in Summer 2018. It has been such a privilege to work for some of the top-notch companies in the world where I have been able to gain experience in diverse fields such as Plant Quality to refine assembly procedures, Production Planning to improve machinery efficiency, Manufacturing Planning with a focus on fabrication and paint engineering, and Design Quality exploring data analytics. With all the hindrances through my road, I have learnt (1) self-motivation is crucial as it boosts one’s self-confidence, to never constrain yourself from adopting new skills and be enthusiastic about acquiring more and more knowledge continuously; (2) Be open-minded and make the use of the wide variety of possibilities available to you and lastly, (3) Keep increasing your industrial contacts circle by establishing new connections. Furthermore, I was able to demonstrate the core values such as, working in collaboration with teams all over the world, by acknowledging the differences people might have in their ideas and caring for their opinions in order to deliver desired results for the customers, by implementing the right method and staying committed to the work. This 9-month exposure has enabled me to communicate better (written and verbal), develop an attitude to persevere and strive towards excellence, learn how to work independently with little or no direction as well as juggle between various tasks and be flexible. All in all, my internship experiences have been worthwhile, complex and hence, challenging.
I sincerely thank my mentors, whose supervision and support has had an impact on my success and surely, the skills that I have adopted will further develop me holistically and help me achieve my goals quickly. Today, on August 20, 2018, as I begin my senior year at Purdue, I am taking along with me all the guidance I have gotten, some cherished memories and look forward to seeing the multifarious opportunities in store for me.