Co-op Stories: Jakub Bzura

By: Yunjia Hou

This story was originally published by Wentworth Institute of Technology News. Read the original post: https://wit.edu/news/mechanical-engineering-student-troubleshoots-tesla-on-co-op

Jakub Bzura Headshot

Jakub Bzura looks at a Tesla on the road a little differently than most.

“My instinct is to check the panel gaps and look for serial numbers to see if I remember any of them,” he says.

Bzura, a senior Mechanical Engineering student, conducted his first co-op with Tesla in Fremont, California this past spring and he is currently on his second co-op at the Tesla in Reno, Nevada.

As a quality engineer in Fremont, Bzura was asked to find, analyze, and reduce the deviations of different parts of a car that might significantly influence the assembly.

In Reno, he is a battery pack manufacturing engineer, working on designing manufacturing lines.

“I enjoyed quality engineering, but I wanted to try different things,” he says.

At the beginning of his co-op at Tesla, Bzura was challenged by the ambiguous nature of his role. He was given a lot of space to work creatively but sometimes was unsure whether he went about his work in the way the company anticipated.

“At Tesla, people are not necessary going to tell you how to do things. They give you a problem and they want a solution. How you get from A to Z and anything in between, is really up to you,” he says.

Bzura was immediately placed into hands-on projects. He says that he learned from colleagues that “there is no problem too big.”

Jakub in front of Tesla sign

“A lot of teams that feel like they are understaffed and unequipped can really do amazing things when they put their mind into it,” he says. “That’s quite evident in Tesla.”

With Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, Bzura says working on his projects is “definitely rewarding.”

“When you devote enough time and energy to something it becomes a part of you. When you bring it to completion and you see it’s making a difference in the bigger picture, it feels good,” he says.

Bzura said he never imagined before he could get an offer from Tesla. “It was an awesome day,” he said.

He believed his previous internship experience and the resume improved by his Wentworth co-op advisor helped a lot. During the Tesla interview, he was asked very detailed and technical questions including about different material properties that are associated with the job position.

“They are looking for specific levels of responsibility,” he says. “People who carried through the entire project and stuck to a problem eventually solved it.”

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Jakub! Be on the lookout for our next co-op feature. If you would like to share your co-op experience with us (positive or not-as-expected), or have any questions about the co-op process, please email us at coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

As always, to make an appointment with your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

How to Make Cold Calls to Employers

By: Lauren Creamer

Cold calling employers can be an essential method of outreach when seeking co-ops. This is especially true for industries where the Institute does not have strong connections (yet). How does one go about making cold calls, you ask? First, identify companies that are of interest to you, or are in your geographic location. Note key bits on information in a spreadsheet, including the local number (not a 1-800 or 1-888 number). Then, develop a script that fits your needs. Below is an example that can be tailored to fit your situation.

Man on phone

Start…

“Hello – My name is Lauren Creamer, I’m a local university student and I’m calling to inquire if you hire interns?”

 

If they say yes…

“That’s great, are you in need of an intern for this upcoming season? I am looking for spring internships.”

 

If they say yes…

“Great. How can I apply for that opportunity?”

 

If they say no…

“That’s too bad – in the future, how can I apply for your internships? I will be seeking another in September.”

(OR whenever your next co-op is scheduled).

 

If they say no…

“Okay, thanks for your time. Have a nice day!” *hang up*

 

If they don’t know or are not the right person you should speak to…

“Is there someone else I could speak to who might be able to share that information with me?”

 

From here you would continue the conversation in whichever direction they take you. Regardless, you should be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What kinds of internships are you looking for?
  • What are your school’s requirements? (Check our website for up-to-date co-op deadlines).
  • Does it need to be paid? (The answer is “YES” if you’re calling for-profit employers).
  • Why are you interested in this company?

 

For the most part, employers will react in a neutral or positive manner when you make cold colds. Occasionally you might get a disgruntled person on the line, and in that case, be polite and move on. You don’t want to put your energy into someone (or a company) that isn’t open to your inquiry. You could always try another tactic (like reaching out to specific individuals on LinkedIn).

 

When in doubt, create a plan of action and run it by your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor!

 

As always, to make an appointment with your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Co-op Stories: Liv Deluca

By: Liv Deluca

Originally published on the Hasbro Interns @ Play Blog: https://interns.hasbro.com/en-us/post?post=this_is_my_hasbro_experience

Student in front of Hasbro building

This is My Hasbro Experience

Hi there! My name is Liv and I’m currently going into my junior year of Industrial Design at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA. My co-op experience this summer in the model shop has been amazing! I’ve learned so much about industrial design and have improved on my model-making skills. I’ll be returning to school in the fall with real life work experience, company knowledge, and new techniques I’ve learned from my co-workers.

I wanted to co-op at Hasbro because I had an interest in toy design. When I got hired, I was so excited – telling everyone I knew that I was going to be working at Hasbro! I was looking forward to learning as much as I could about model-making, toy design, and the company overall. My first week at Hasbro, I was so nervous but everyone in the model shop is so nice and helpful. I could ask anyone for help or a question, and no one hesitated to show me how to do something or answer my many questions.

A typical day for a #HasbroCoop in the model shop – all depends on the day or week! Throughout a typical week I would use SolidWorks, 3D print parts, use the metal lathe, vacuum form, spray paint, hand paint – it just depended on the project I was working on at the time. I would collaborate with model makers, designers, and engineers on projects as well.

One lesson I’ve learned from the model shop that I can bring along my design career is that there’s never just one way to do something. If I had to make a new mechanism for a toy, I would try and find inspiration from other toys and take them apart to see how they worked. I could also ask my co-workers and they would give me ideas and advice on how to make models as well, because they’ve been doing it for years. Everyone has different ideas, advice, ways to do things – so I wasn’t afraid to ask for help and learn.

My favorite memory this summer was just always laughing with my co-workers. It was nice to make connections with so many people and just being able to laugh and talk about anything. Overall, my co-op this summer was rewarding. I became more confident in model-making, making connections, and just with myself as a student. I made connections I never thought I would make.

To incoming interns looking to make the most of their internship, make those connections. Reach out and talk to people – you never know what might come from a conversation. I never thought I would be reaching out to other employees within the company, setting up times to meet to discuss my career path – that was so outside of my comfort zone. But within the last month of my co-op, I was doing that, and it helped my communication skills and confidence immensely.

Thank you, Hasbro, for an awesome summer and co-op experience! 🙂

Liv, Model Shop Co-op
Wentworth Institute of Technology

Co-op Stories: Alec Hewitt

By: Alec Hewitt

Alec Hewitt is a senior in the undergraduate Electromechanical Engineering program. He recently completed his first mandatory co-op with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and shared his experience with us:

Alec Hewitt at WHOI

  • Describe your co-op role.

I was an Engineering Assistant III at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where I led an electrical design project and helped out with an overhaul of the autonomous underwater vehicle, Sentry, to improve its sonar and control capabilities at depth.

  • Why were you interested in completing your co-op at WHOI?

I am interested in engineering because of the impact on science and discovery and I think WHOI is such a great example of that. WHOI seemed like the perfect place to accomplish hands-on science and engineering while being involved in the cutting edge of deep submergence research.

  • What is a typical day like at your co-op?

Days at WHOI are never typical, but most mornings consist of a short meeting with the small Sentry AUV team (around nine people) where we discuss the goals of the day and give vehicle updates. I typically spend the morning doing electrical and software design, then working on the vehicle the rest of the day. Vehicle work is never typical – we spent part of the summer installing a new multibeam sonar transducer, and another part bringing the vehicle in and out of the ocean for testing.

  • While on co-op, what project(s) have you been a part of, or something that you are working on, that has inspired you? 

           Sentry AUV is used mostly for oceanographic research, particularly for mapping the seafloor, taking measurements, and locating lost wreckages. This work is heavily dependent upon the vehicle’s ability to travel along the sea floor at 6000 meters for up to 24 hours at a time. During the summer, I designed a circuit board which would analyze battery usage and help elongate the lifetime of each mission. This was inspiring because it, along with the other great work by the team allowed WHOI scientists to collect valuable data for understanding unknown ecosystems and terrain. Seeing engineers and scientists with drastically different skill sets work together to gather data was very inspiring.

  • What was the biggest lesson you learned through your co-op?

I’ve learned that co-workers will value you equally when you give yourself enough confidence… while having some humility. Ask questions, but never underestimate your own answers to problems. Being a co-op is tough because you are being challenged while surrounded by experienced engineers and scientists. The most valuable thing you can do is show confidence in your work, but listen carefully when you are wrong.

  • What advice do you have for students interested in working at WHOI?

           At WHOI, the engineers and computer scientists are also the vehicle mechanics. No matter your major, make sure you know the imperial system, how to fasten a ratchet strap, and learn some knots! Above all, always continue learning things that you won’t find in the classroom.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Alec! Be on the lookout for our next co-op feature. If you would like to share your co-op experience with us (positive or not-as-expected), or have any questions about the co-op process, please email us at coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

As always, to make an appointment with your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Fall 2019 Drop-In Hours: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 1:30pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

Why I Go to Hackathons as a Business Major

By: Joseph Schnackertz

Joseph Schnackertz is currently a junior in the Wentworth Business Management program. He shared with us his journey to realizing the value in the skills he brings to hackathons. Read his story below and check out his winning hackathon contributions here.

Students hacking in lab space

You may be thinking…

“Why should I go to a hackathon?” The best way to answer that, is to know what a hackathon is. A hackathon, in its most basic form, is a collection of teams working to solve problems. So, if you like developing solutions to society’s greatest problems like pollution, housing, rising water levels, social injustice and more, then hackathons are a place for you!

“But I can’t code…” That’s the first thing people who have never touched a compiler say when they are invited to a hackathon. I, myself, am guilty of this way of thinking. In high school and my first year of college I had the opportunity to attend multiple hackathons, but I never did. I am like so many others that either don’t know how to or simply don’t enjoy coding. Today, I am here to disrupt the status quo. In the last year I have been to three hackathons, built three teams of total strangers, did some work, and won all three times. The following is the story of my journey and how I overcame my insecurities and looked inward to see what I had to offer.

Student hacking independently

“So, what can I bring to the table if I can’t code?” That’s the question I asked myself when I considered going to a hackathon my university was sponsoring. I was afraid of slowing the group down, I was afraid of being looked at like an idiot, but most importantly I was afraid of being bored. But instead of trying to learn the basics of coding in less than two weeks, I looked toward my strengths. I asked myself what skills, knowledge, personality traits, and/or interests I already had.

“What skills could I offer my team?” Looking inward was the best thing I could have done before my first hackathon. It was then that I realized I was a team builder, an idea guy, and dabbled in graphic design. I recognized the value of what I could bring to the table, and how I could enhance my soon to be team members. Remember, it’s about complementing the skills of other members of your team!

“Wow, you’ve got a knack for JavaScript!!”

No, not like that. Though it is nice to complement people, it is better to have one person that is good at collecting decent fire wood and another be an ace fire builder than two people that can collect decent wood. Remember, the skills you bring are valuable!

All that being said, don’t think that you can come to a hackathon unprepared. Be sure to know some basic vocabulary of code before you show up. So, when someone says, “I’m fluent in Python,” you don’t think that the person needs to be sorted into the House of Slytherin. Consider watching some “basics in coding” videos to gain a general understanding of how code works, but not expecting to be able to write it proficiently. This will arm you with the basic knowledge of what will be discussed and enable you to not only contribute more to the project but also walk away from the event having had a better experience.

Lastly, at the conclusion of the hackathon be sure to exchange contact information with your teammates. Get phone numbers, Snapchats, LinkedIns, Facebooks, Instagrams, Twitters, GitHubs, Devposts or other social media profiles. Beyond teammates, you can connect on LinkedIn with event organizers, sponsors, speakers, volunteers and other people who you engaged with throughout the event. The connections you make at these events can, if you continue to foster them, become invaluable when you begin your co-op/job search.

I walked away from these hackathons with a new outlook on what hackathons were, a wildly different view of my skill sets, and of course fifty stickers with some random Octocat in different outfits.

The society we know has marketed and branded the word hackathon; slapping a label on it saying ‘Computer Science Students Only’ in big red letters. It’s a shame, and a huge missed opportunity for people like me and you who feel we couldn’t offer anything. Be the one who has the confidence and passion to seek these amazing opportunities. Recognize the value of the skills you have! Make something great! Meet brilliant people! And harness your creativity and team spirit!

Winning student hackathon team

Here is a list I developed of some crucial players on a great hackathon team. These roles are not reserved for any type of person or any major, feel free to assume a role if you have had related experience. For example, you can be a JavaScript Jedi and be the Team Developer. Feel free to design your own role too!

  • Designer – Do you like to make graphics? Then you can provide a key service of UX design.
  • Empathizer – Have you directly experienced the problem that is the focus of the hack? If so, your knowledge is invaluable.
  • Brainstormer – Can you think outside the box and drive others to think critically?
  • Team Developer – How well can you organize people, make sure voices are heard, and keep people on task? If you can, then team development may come easy.
  • Public Speaker – Can you present well in front of an audience? Many hackathons require pitches/demos to whole crowds, that could be your time to shine.
  • Question Master – Like to get to the bottom of things? Be the one to speak up in the group, ask why you all think this is the best solution to the problem, ask what could be better, ask if this solution focuses on the problem/user.
  • Coding Wizard – Love to code? Great, then you’ve got your work cut out for you.
  • Hardware Hacker – Many hackathons have hardware portions, leverage your skills to produce a unique hack!

Thank you, Joe, for sharing your experience with Wentworth CO-OPS + CAREERS! If you are interested in participating in a hackathon organized by Wentworth students, follow HackWITus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hackwitus or check out their website: https://hackwit.us/.

Feedback: How to get it and why you need it

By: Caitlin Brison

Co-op – it’s learning by doing. Actually, it’s learning through reflection on doing.  During a co-op semester, students have the opportunity to work hands-on in a professional setting outside the classroom. The key ingredient that makes co-op a learning experience is feedback.  Feedback helps us correct errors and promotes self-reflection in order to improve our performance. It is essential to get feedback on the work you are doing. So don’t be afraid to ask for it!

Group of people talking

Ask for feedback in real time.

Giving feedback can be equally as uncomfortable for supervisors; some skip it because they worry how it will be received.  They hold off, then they dump negative feedback in a formal performance review and you never had the opportunity to change.  Create an atmosphere that welcomes it by having a good attitude and showing you are resilient. You can listen and adjust.

 

Help your boss be your coach, too.

Pose specific questions in real-time. It doesn’t have to be a formal sit-down meeting to have a coaching exchange. Asking vague questions can lead to vague feedback and nothing gets accomplished. While the work is still fresh, pose questions like “What’s one thing I could have done better on this project?”  It shows that you are investing in your own growth.

 

Ask for examples.

Vague feedback is futile and can be disheartening. Press for examples or ask targeted questions so that you can be made aware specifics and be encouraged to change. This will help you make adjustments and identify parts of your performance that may need major or micro adjustments.

 

Value input from your colleagues.

Don’t just look up for feedback – turn to your colleagues. Knowing how your colleagues view your strengths and developmental areas can be a really powerful tool. They may have insight your boss doesn’t!

 

Feedback can be a stressful experience, which is why many people hesitate to ask for it. But guess what? The more often you do, the more comfortable and impactful it becomes. With increased opportunities to adjust your work, the better you will be at your job and the higher you get reviewed. More feedback leads to higher performance and increased job satisfaction.

 

Learning how to get feedback on co-op sets you up for success your entire career. Feedback builds resiliency and helps you develop a growth mindset.  It’ll be a tool you always use and you’ll impress your future employers with the level of maturity and motivation you bring to your role.

 

Additional Resources:

How to Get the Feedback you Need: https://hbr.org/2015/05/how-to-get-the-feedback-you-need

The Assumptions Employees Make When They Don’t Get Feedback: https://hbr.org/2019/06/the-assumptions-employees-make-when-they-dont-get-feedback

As always, to make an appointment with your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Fall 2019 Drop-In Hours: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 1:30pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

Guide to LinkedIn

By: Ria Kalinowski

LinkedIn is a social media networking site that allows people to connect with colleagues, peers, and industry professionals. Individuals highlight their skills, experience, and examples of work on an interactive platform.

Man searching through LinkedIn

Why Should I Use LinkedIn?

  • Visibility: 93% of industry recruiters use LinkedIn and your profile has the capacity to hold far more than your resume does.
  • Research: Millions of people across the world are using LinkedIn! You can view company pages to learn about company culture and see who works there on the “People” tab. Follow companies to see what they are talking about. You can look at interviewers’ backgrounds to get a better understanding about what types of questions they may ask during interviews.
  • Professional Networking: You have the power to connect with people based on shared interests and/or similar backgrounds. Reach out to alumni and join groups to ask industry specific questions. Comment and engage with others in groups. You will get noticed. Make sure it’s for the right reasons by acting professionally!

 

How can I use LinkedIn?

Promote your brand, highlight your accomplishments, connect with alumni and industry professionals, join groups, conduct informational interviews, engage with employers through discussion boards – the possibilities are endless.

 

How do I get started?

  • Create an account at linkedin.com.
  • Add information to your profile. Include as many sections as you think appropriate (education, experience, volunteer work, courses, and so on). Bring it to an All-Star Level using these suggestions: https://coopsandcareers.wit.edu/blog/2018/08/01/creating-an-all-star-profile-on-linkedin/.
  • Get your profile reviewed by your advisor. Just like your resume and cover letter, this is a professional marketing tool that should receive feedback before use.
  • Connect with classmates, colleagues, professors, friends, etc. And send them a personalized invitation.
  • Don’t stop now! Continue to update and add information to your LinkedIn account as you gain skills and experience.

 

Tips and Best Practices

  • Complete your profile because profiles that are complete show up higher in search results.
  • Think carefully about your headline. It doesn’t need to be your current title, but it must be relevant. Avoid “Student at Wentworth Institute of Technology” as that headline applies to over 4,000 students. Use your headline to stand out by focusing on your career goals or on your main skills.
  • Customize your URL. Do this while in edit mode and choose some iteration of your full name (ex: SamRSmith10).
  • Upload a professional, high-quality photo as profiles with photos get more views. Get your picture taken at the LinkedIn Photo Booth at the next Wentworth CO-OP + CAREER Fair or ask a friend with a quality camera. Please, no selfies!
  • Write a concise, thoughtful “About” section. What do you care about? Why are you on LinkedIn?
  • Add content to the “Accomplishments” section on your profile. Publications, Projects, Patents, Posts – share your work!
  • Utilize the Alumni tool on Wentworth’s page to identify alumni with whom you want to connect.
  • Personalize all requests to connect. Don’t just send the stock message – share information about who you are and why you’re reaching out.
  • Join groups and follow companies. Comment and engage with others on these platforms. You will get noticed.
  • LinkedIn is a professional platform. Do not spam or harass others. Post only work-place appropriate materials. This is not Facebook – respect the rules.
  • Recommend others (and get recommended in turn). Recommendations support your claims about skill level and professionalism in the workplace. Always offer to write one before you request one of others.
  • Don’t forget about the Skills & Endorsements section – google industry competencies and list the ones you possess.

 

NOTE: Remember to update your LinkedIn every few months. Never let the information get stale!

 

Additional Resources

Student sample LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/studentsample/

Examples of great LinkedIn “About” sections: https://www.linkedinsights.com/4-stunningly-good-linkedin-summaries/

How to write a good LinkedIn Headline: https://firebrandtalent.com/blog/2015/04/how-to-write-the-best-linkedin-headline-and-why-it-matters/

 

To make an appointment with your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor call the front desk at 617 989 4101 or stop by during Fall 2019 Drop-In Hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 1:30pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

Co-op Stories: Caleb Grenier

By: Caleb Grenier

Before Caleb Grenier left campus after graduating in August 2019 from the Biomedical Engineering program, he graciously shared about his co-op experience with CO-OPS + CAREERS.

Caleb Headshot in CEIS Lobby

  • Where was your co-op?

My second co-op was a return to IDEXX Laboratories Technical Manufacturing department which I worked at during the optional co-op semester. My role was to investigate and update an SOP purification for Avian Influenza.

  • Why were you interested in returning to IDEXX Laboratories?

IDEXX’s R&D department is well known for developing revolutionary testing methods for diseased animals and livestock. The idea of working in a lab performing biochemical processes that contributed valuable research really sparked my interest.

  • What was a typical day like at your co-op?

I would get free coffee from the cafeteria when I arrived. I would then sit down and drink my coffee while either looking over any data I collected from the previous day or planning out an experiment for the day. I would then connect with my supervisor to see if he was okay with the procedure I came up with. I would then perform the experiment(s) for the rest of the work day.

  • While on co-op, what project(s) were you a part of that inspired you?

I was able to collect a lot of important data for the update of the Avian Influenza purification. I was truly inspired by the project and the people I was working with. At the end I gave the biggest presentation of my life to date. I felt a sense of accomplishment because I felt like I was able to contribute valuable work and knowledge to the team.

  • What did you need to focus on inside or outside of the classroom to be successful as a candidate?

Practicing professionalism and networking often outside of the classroom was important to securing this co-op in particular. In terms of being in the classroom, Biochemistry was the most important class I took before this co-op. It helped me have intelligent conversations about science, but it also helped me think critically about experimental design when it came to purification of virus.

  • What advice do you have for students interested in Bio Analytics and working for a company like IDEXX?

Unexpected experimental results are not indicative of failure, in fact unexpected experimental results are what makes you grow and think in ways that the past version of you didn’t.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Caleb! Be on the lookout for our next co-op feature. If you would like to share your co-op experience with us (positive or not-as-expected), or have any questions about the co-op process, please email us at coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

As always, to make an appointment with your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Fall 2019 Drop-In Hours: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 1:30pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

Mock Interview Day 2019

By: Kristen Eckman

Our annual Mock Interview Day was held on Tuesday, October 22nd from 3:00pm –6:00pm in Watson Auditorium. The day consisted of five rounds of 35-minute interviews conducted by 20 employer representatives from companies across multiple industries. Of those 20 representatives, 6 were Wentworth alumni and 4 were Wentworth staff who helped to cover for employer cancellations.

In total, 68 students participated in 97 interviews out of a possible 100, providing an option for some students to conduct more than one practice interview. Many of the employer volunteers were impressed with the caliber of mock interviews and will be inviting students back for formal interviews.

Mock interview day

If you are a student who attended Mock Interview Day this week your next steps should be to follow up with employers by:

  • Sending a thank you email to the employers with whom you spoke. Find our guide to thank you notes here.
  • If a recruiter gave you specific instructions, be sure to follow through on those items and then follow up with the recruiter.
  • Unable to send a thank-you note for lack of contact information? Connect through social media by finding the company and the person you spoke with on LinkedIn or Twitter. Follow their feeds to stay up to date with new openings and other news!

Mock Interview Day

If you were unable to attend Mock Interview Day, be on the lookout for future opportunities to engage with employers and don’t miss the spring CO-OP + CAREER Fair, date TBD. Check WITworks as we get closer to the Spring Fair for updates on employers attending.

Employers – invitations for the spring CO-OP + CAREER Fair will be sent out in the new year. As always, stay up-to-date with news from CO-OPS + CAREERS and events happening on-campus through coopsandcareers.wit.edu.

Thank you to all students and employers who joined us on October 22nd to conduct practice interviews!

As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Fall 2019 Drop-In Hours: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 1:30pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.

Co-op Stories: James Bednar

By: James Bednar

James is a Wentworth senior in the Electromechanical Engineering program with minors in Applied Mathematics and Physics. He graciously shared his recent co-op experience with CO-OPS + CAREERS:

  • Where was your co-op?

My co-op this summer has been at Hanscom Air Force Base, which is predominantly located within the city of Bedford, Massachusetts. I’ve been working as a SMART Program Intern for the Enterprise IT and Cyber Infrastructure Division of the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, and Networks (C3I&N) Program Office.

The majority of the work at Hanscom AFB is in support of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), which is responsible for acquiring, sustaining, and eventually disposing of complex systems utilized by the Air Force.

Within my assigned organization, engineers are responsible for ensuring that IT and cyber systems are designed, acquired, and sustained in a manner that allows the entire Air Force to benefit from modern information systems. This poses a unique challenge, especially for organizations as large and geographically dispersed as the U.S. military.

 

  • What was your search and interview process like?

My co-op search was unique in the sense that it mainly consisted of a traditional scholarship application. After collecting the references, transcripts, and essays required to apply to SMART, I waited to see whether or not I would be offered a place within the program.

While applicants can list their preferences for potential work assignments, there’s no guarantee that they will get assigned to any of their top choices. I ended up being very fortunate, as I was both offered a spot in the SMART Scholarship Program and assigned to AFLCMC at Hanscom AFB, which was my first choice when applying to the program.

  • What is the SMART Scholarship Program?

The Science Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service Program is an initiative led by the Department of Defense seeking to provide college students with a pathway into civil service. The SMART Program offers college funding opportunities at the Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral level in exchange for working as a Department of Defense civilian employee for a few years upon graduation.

When explaining the program, I tell people that the SMART Program is analogous to a civilian ROTC program, where students are contracted to work for one year as a civilian engineer for each year they receive financial assistance from the program. It’s an imperfect analogy, but helps to capture the fact that program participants typically want to pursue civilian service as their chosen career pathway.

  • How did you learn about SMART?

I learned about the SMART Scholarship Program shortly before entering my freshman year at Wentworth. Initially, I was accepted and planned on attending the United States Coast Guard Academy but was medically disqualified at the last minute due to an injury received during basketball practice towards the end of high school.

Wentworth was always my top choice outside of Coast Guard, so I decided to move out to Boston with the hope of finding another way to pursue service in a civilian capacity. After eventually settling on the major of Electromechanical Engineering, I decided to apply to SMART during my sophomore year and was fortunate enough to be accepted into the program.

  • Why are you interested in this work/completing your co-op with your employer?

I have wanted to pursue service in some capacity since my freshman year of high school. The SMART Program provides a great introduction to government service within the Department of Defense, which I hope to build upon as I continue throughout my career.

Long term, I want to apply my technical experience to the field of public policy, and starting my career at Hanscom AFB will provide a great introduction to the crossroads of engineering and acquisitions policy as it pertains to the Air Force. Furthermore, I hope the opportunity to work on enterprise information systems will help inform my decision as I look to study either Applied Physics or Systems Engineering in graduate school.

  • What is a typical day like at your co-op?

A typical day will vary widely depending on what stage a system is its lifecycle. While I’ve been focusing on getting a feel for the organization on-the-job training and shadowing during this co-op, I’m looking forward to working on some exciting systems as I move forward at Hanscom AFB.

  • What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing the SMART scholarship?

First, I would encourage students interested in pursuing this opportunity (or work as a technical professional in any government organization) to “know your why”. Working as an engineer on the civilian side of the Department of Defense (or any area of the government) offers some unique opportunities you simply will not find anywhere else, and the work can be very rewarding. However, working as a civil servant is different than a career in private industry. Knowing why you decided to pursue civil service can help provide perspective when you have those inevitable “what if” moments when talking to friends working in private industry.

More importantly, if you’re truly interested in what the SMART Program has to offer, my biggest advice would be to go for it. The SMART Program provides a fantastic opportunity, and it would be great to see other Wentworth students pursue the program along with me. If anyone out there is interested in SMART or has any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, either around campus or via email.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, James! Be on the lookout for our next co-op feature. If you would like to share your co-op experience (positive or not-as-expected), or have any questions about the co-op process, please email us at coopsandcareers@wit.edu.

As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.

Fall 2019 Drop-In Hours: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 1:30pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.