Written by Fatemeh Dalilian, Manufacturing Engineer Intern
I have always been a fan of running a business and managing things since I was a child. Sounds like a boss baby, right? A boss baby I was! One of my childhood dreams was to own a big library because I loved books. At the time, I had many more books than all my friends. So, at the age of eight, I opened my own library! I even had designed membership cards for my friends and had numbered all my books. Of course, all my customers were my close friends and I was not charging anyone for my library membership, but I was enjoying running my little library and that mattered the most to me! Other than having zero revenue, I had a very successful and growing business with happy customers and a big sense of accomplishment 😊!!!
Years later, when it came time to choose a career path, it was clear my passion was leading me towards a career where I could optimize, manage, design processes and solve problems. In pursuit of my passion, in the summer of 2017, I started my internship at Schneider Electric’s Smyrna plant. But how did I hear about Schneider Electric in the first place? Well I’m glad you asked! In my Six Sigma class, I was assigned to a team project to find the root causes of missing spare parts at the company. I was working on my Six Sigma Green Belt project at the time, and this was a perfect topic – because it’s a process nerd’s dream to find a problem and go after it!
An early stage of the project was to create a project charter, and so we set up a meeting with the quality team at Schneider. The team was awesome to work with – they were very responsive in providing the information we needed and very helpful in giving us feedback about our project. Accordingly, this project became one of the best and most thorough Six Sigma projects in the class. Throughout that semester, I met with the team several times after each milestone to get everything accomplished. It was then that I experienced the company’s atmosphere and how they take each and every input seriously. After presenting our project solutions to the quality team, their manager advised us to apply for an internship with Schneider.
From my experience with this school project, I saw firsthand that the work that interns do at Schneider is integral to the company’s success in its future. Therefore, when I learned about the open Manufacturing Engineer internship position at Schneider Electric, I applied for it without hesitation. I really wanted an internship where what I did mattered and where I could learn more while feeling a sense of accomplishment, just the way I felt it when I had my little library as a child! As an adult though, I was also curious about how Lean and Six Sigma principals are carried out in production of such complex highly customized products. When I received word that I was hired, I was thrilled! Having already known a bit about the company, I knew I was going to fit in just fine.
Why Intern with Schneider?
There are various reasons to consider interning at Schneider Electric, but perhaps the most worthwhile is being part of the company’s significant projects and making meaningful contributions while learning new things. Through the tasks I performed, not only was I continually acquiring essential skills that were directly connected to my previous training in my master degree, but I also further extended my understanding on key concepts and theories.
For example, I have been involved in quantitative analysis of data on complexity mixes of orders, historical usage of sub-assemblies, and labor hours needed per one unit. Analyzing data for an “Engineer to Order” type of production was entirely different from the processes which I had learned in school with a clear lead time. However, through my internship experience, I got to learn new analysis methods that dealt with more complex processes and applied them to real world problems.
Besides the technical skills, one essential component of my tasks involved direct interaction with other employees. I would inquire for detailed information, work with people from different backgrounds, seek other’s opinions and ideas as internal customers while getting their buy-in on the changes my projects would cause. These interactions have been valuable as they have provided me with an opportunity to enhance my communication skills in interacting with people with similar backgrounds and similar tasks as well as people with different backgrounds and completely different skill sets. For example, I soon found out one of the projects I had been working on for a few weeks painfully didn’t work, because I should have first understood the needs and concerns of the people who were going to use the result of my project and got them to buy-in. That’s when I started to talk more about what I was doing, how it would benefit us all as a team, and incorporated others’ ideas in my project.
During my internship, I also attended several Kaizen sessions where I had the experience to learn the value of incremental changes and continuous improvement to achieve results. These sessions taught me what teamwork is all about as cross-functional teams with different mindsets and expertise got together to solve common problems. In Kaizen sessions, I had the chance to see how my manager was constantly directing the team so that everyone was on the same page while performing different tasks. Also, he welcomed and encouraged new ideas and took notes of them on a board for all to see. I can say these sessions were truly a practical example of skills I was taught in my leadership class and believe I am going to use these methods in my professional as well as personal life.
A Unique Experience
One of the factors that made my internship a very unique experience was meetings with the CEO (Ms. Clayton) and the Senior Vice President (Mr. Tamoud) of the company during their visit. How cool is that? Not many interns in huge companies like Schneider Electric find the chance to meet with executives, so it was really cool. I was nervous, but really, I was more curious to see what people in higher ordinates are like… I know they are not aliens, but I had a million questions in my head about them: How they treat people? Are they friendly or intimidating? What made them to be so successful in their career? What made them good leaders? Are they going to talk to us interns as well?
During the CEO’s plant tour, I presented what the other interns and I have been working on. Ms. Clayton asked me some questions about my projects and acknowledged the significance of the interns’ work in the success of the company. I found her to be a friendly and inspiring woman, and her questions to be detailed and specific, yet simple and to the point. The experience of interacting with ordinates in higher ranks was so encouraging, and the way they treated us as interns made us feel that we truly belonged to the company and were a very important part of the Schneider Electric family.
Overall, my internship at Schneider Electric helped me learn to think in a different way about solving problems. While I felt I had strong problem solving technical skills going into my internship, I learned the importance of paying attention to teamwork, communication, and having a constructive attitude. For example, my mathematical academic background has always helped me to better analyze data and take a quantitative and mathematical approach to solving problems, but has probably lead me into putting excessive emphasis on the development of these skills. After this internship experience, I realized that besides science, computer software, data analysis and all the complex methods that we learn in our courses, critical thinking skills, effective communication, work independence, and teamwork are essential skills to develop.
Overall, this internship gave me the sense of accomplishment which I had felt at the age of eight when I opened my little library! This experience opened my eyes to new opportunities and positively changed my ambitions for my career goals. In addition, it provided me with an exceptional opportunity to assess my strengths and weaknesses and to explore and discover areas of interest – which can greatly help me in choosing a career path that is a better fit for me. Now, I know what functional roles in a company can better match my skill set and my personality which will help me peruse my long-term educational or career goals with a brighter and broader view.
About the Author:
Fatemeh Dalilian is a Manufacturing Engineer Intern at Schneider Electric, Smyrna, Tennessee. She graduated with a Master of Professional science in Engineering Management from Middle Tennessee State University in December 2017. Fatemeh loves to work in cross-functional teams and has a true passion for optimization and building decision making models. She is going to pursue her passion through doing a PhD in the field of Industrial Engineering. In her free time, she likes to swim, hike and spend time with her family and friends.
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