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AEC Industry Internship Takeaways, Reflections and Tips

September 2, 2022      By Tyrone Broxton

Tags: Transportation, Corporate

As you near the end of your college career, an internship is a valuable way to take the lessons you’ve learned in the classroom and put them into action. It allows you to jump into your chosen career field, get hands-on experience and connect with key people within your chosen industry.

This summer we had a record-breaking internship session with 52 interns representing 27 colleges and universities and one high school. Whether it was learning a new skill or joining each other for a mid-day coffee break, our interns went above and beyond to make the most of their summer internship.

We’re proud to announce that in addition to earning Top 100 Internship Program recognition, 5 of our interns were named to WayUp’s 2022 Top 100 Interns List. As the summer is winding down, we were able to catch up with this group to chat about their internship experience and what they will take with them throughout their careers.

Our 5 interns named to the list were:

  1. Alex Scherzer, Electrical Engineering Intern
  2. Bekah Leonard, Civil Engineering Intern
  3. Melissa Phillips, Communication Intern
  4. Natalie Saldana, Civil/Electrical Engineering Intern
  5. Samantha Solis, Civil Engineering Intern

What was the most surprising aspect of your internship experience?

Melissa: To me, the most surprising aspect of my internship experience was enjoying the work that I did. You hear a lot of internship experiences be the mundane coffee runs, busy work and mind-numbing assignments but instead, I was met with projects that meant something. Another thing that surprised me was the environment that RS&H provides. RS&H provides an inclusive culture and a progressive perspective on what it means to be an equal-opportunity employer. Through RS&H’s guidance and support, I was able to gain not only professional experience but also personal growth.

Natalie: The most surprising aspect of my internship experience is the insight into what my future career will be like. I have worked since I was 16 years old, and I have worked hard to get educated and start a career that I love. Once I stepped into RS&H I was treated with respect, and I was treated like a professional. I came into this internship with no engineering experience and everything about my role was nothing like I expected. It was better.

Samantha: I thought I would gain some skills that would make me more marketable on my resume, but I learned a few surprising things throughout my summer internship like just because you learned one thing in school does not mean that is what you must do. Even though the concentration for my civil engineering degree is a structural focus, I’ve learned that I am really interested in pursuing my career in the aviation discipline, which I knew very little about when I started my internship.

How was your internship beneficial to you and your career?

Alex: This internship was beneficial to me and my career because, at Old Dominion University (for electrical engineering specifically), the coursework is based on work in the “micro” world; I was unsure if a “macro” application of my education was a feasible career path, but now I see that a “macro” application of my education is a realistic career path.

Samantha: My internship gave me valuable work experience, as well as helped me explore the career path in the aviation discipline. It helped me develop and refine my 3D software skills throughout the summer, as well as other skills. It was also beneficial as I got to network with many professionals in my field.

Natalie: This experience has been very beneficial to me and my career by motivating me to get to the finish line so I can be a part of this great company. I am surrounded by engineers who help me every day and I can’t wait to be just like them. The engineer that mentored me is very knowledgeable and I have learned a lot from him. All the knowledge that I have acquired here helps me be a better student because what I am taught at school I can visualize from experiences at work. I have learned what I want in my career and what environment I want to be in after finishing school.

What was your favorite experience this summer?

Alex: My favorite experience during my internship was a combination of attending Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) events, hardhat tours and collaborative discussions with the personnel in the Norfolk Office.

Melissa: My favorite experience over the duration of my internship was getting to meet those whom I had been working remotely with in person in Jacksonville, Florida. RS&H was generous enough to fly me down to their headquarters in Jacksonville for a few days to meet my team and see both the environment and the people that represent RS&H. During this trip, I had the pleasure of getting to know my teammates better and visiting the office. Working remotely is not always easy so it was awesome to be able to see everyone I knew online, in real life!

Bekah: My favorite experience as an intern was traveling to Orlando, Florida to attend the leadership meeting that was held there. I was able to meet employees from all over the country and get their unique perspectives of their time at RS&H. I also got to visit a project site that was so much different than the bridges I see in Michigan. It was a lot of fun being able to witness how projects can differ from state to state.

What’s a key takeaway or lesson learned from your internship?

Alex: A key takeaway that I gathered from my internship is that collaboration is key – an individual can be the most skilled or knowledgeable engineer in the industry, but without effective collaboration, that engineer’s project will suffer dramatically.

Bekah: One key takeaway that I have learned here at RS&H is the importance of both written and verbal communication skills. In my experience, one of the most crucial skills to have is being able to communicate well with the people you’re working with. Whether you are writing an email, text message or giving a presentation you need to be able to put out clear information to a wide range of people. It has been really helpful being able to practice these skills often and so early on in my career.

Natalie: A lesson that I have learned at this internship is “there will always be comments”, meaning that you shouldn’t be discouraged when you get feedback or markups. This is very important to me because at school you are graded based on right and or wrong. It was very interesting to come from a grading system where you want to get everything right and get a good grade to an environment where everyone gets comments, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong.

How did this summer internship change your perspective on the Architecture, Engineering and Consulting Industry?

Melissa: Prior to my internship, I had little to no knowledge about the AEC industry. I was given tasks and assignments that made me learn more about it and as the summer went on, I began to understand that RS&H is not just a company that works on roads and bridges. They are a company that is unique in their development of projects and committed to their clients, beginning to end. The commitment to their clients is not only visible on-site but behind the scenes as well. I think that this makes RS&H a unique company in the AEC industry.

Samantha: This Internship changed my perspective of the AEC industry as it showed me that it’s a very welcoming experience and place. Everyone is always learning new topics and always willing to help, if you show enthusiasm to learn and give your best you’ll always be welcomed and do great.

Bekah: Prior to interning at RS&H, I had no idea how close everybody in the AEC industry worked. I knew that architects, engineers and construction employees all worked together but truly one could not exist without the others.

Do you have any tips for those looking to participate in RS&H’s internship program?

Alex: The tip that I would provide to those looking to participate in RS&H’s internship program is very simply put “be a sponge”. That phrase has stuck with me throughout my military career and applies throughout life, particularly professional life. A professional never knows everything and is constantly bettering themselves – as a new member of that environment it is your responsibility to continuously better yourself. Nobody cares about your career more than you.

Bekah: My tip for anybody who would want to pursue an internship at RS&H would be to be brave, bold and go for it! You write your own success story, and the only person holding you back is yourself. There was not a single person that I encountered at RS&H that wasn’t willing to help me out at any time, and the community is full of honest and amazing people.

Natalie: One tip that I have would be “do it!” and work hard while you do. RS&H will give you the tools and it’s up to you to become the best you can be.

As our interns return to class, we’re excited that 34, including the five featured, were extended through this fall. Meanwhile, six others will return to their internship posts next spring and summer. Of those graduating at the conclusion of the Fall or Spring semesters, many may earn a full-time position as an entry-level associate.

If you’re interested in an internship with RS&H, explore our award-winning internship program. Our program gives you the opportunity to gain exposure to a diverse group of markets and specialties while working with the industry’s best and brightest.

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