10 things i learned as an engineering intern

1. Interview and actual working style can differ

You walk into the interview room, the interviewer is nice, amicable and friendly. Feels like the internship is right fit and many of the plans he/she has for you during your stay struck some chords in you. Turns out, he/she lashes at you 5 minutes into the job and says that what is mentioned during the interview might not be strictly followed.

Never expected, but it happens. Don't get your hopes too high on the first day at work. Play by ear and adapt with the situation.

2. Protect your deck, play your cards

There's no need for you to publicly announce how much savings you have in the bank or who your family members are and what they do for a living. Same goes for work. Be hungry for knowledge and learn well but hold your horses when it comes to sharing them. You may see it as openness to share but people often read it as a show-off move.

All your knowledge will come to good use as you strike off one project after another on your task list. People who interact with you will start to realize that you seem to be equipped with good knowledge based on the quality of your work. So leave it unspoken and play your cards right.

3. Experienced does not mean better

You will be surprised that people who claim that they are good in A, B, C and so on, doesn't really know much about it. Talk is cheap so take them with a pinch of salt. Don't make your judgement too early and invest full confidence in that person right from the beginning.

Stick close to sound engineering decisions and rely on technical drawings/calculation and specifications. With that, you won't go too far wrong when people provide their advice based on experience to you as reference.

4. Safety comes first

At all times, look out for your personal safety. Wear your personal protective equipment whenever required and not rely on advice given by others. As people work, they tend to take shortcuts like not wearing a N95 mask in a dusty environment or leave out the safety glasses as it uncomfortable. Just remember that no one except you and your family will live to suffer should an injury occur. Be safe at all times!

5. Technicians are your best friend

Technicians are an interesting bunch of people. They love their job and gained lots of experience over time. Keeping their knowledge a secret is not their practice unlike those ancient masters we hear of in the past. You have to show your passion for the job, be there when you want something done and they will be your extra pair of hands. Never expect things to be done simply by dropping them a message at your comfy office. Show them that you are willing to do it with them and they will be there when you need them.

6. Unconventional is not desirable

You will be surprised that things like Dropbox or web applications are new to people working in the industry for some time and their willingness to adopt or try out new technology is er, low. Things like Windows 2000 machines or 2003 software is a common thing that is hanging around the office and getting one software update for Microsoft Office can be a 6-month battle.

Never stop exploring, though. There will be someone in the organization who will buy your story and give you the green light to disrupt the old, with your new.

7. Always be sincere and humble

There will be many new people you work and meet in a new environment. Always be genuinely sincere and humble towards others. Humans are social creatures, we can feel and "tell" based on our interaction and body language. You will find that work is fun and more enjoyable with a team of people whom you can rely and learn from. There's nothing more important than giving people the respect they deserve when you come in as the new guy. Learn from them well and the knowledge is all yours to keep.

8. More does not mean better

We tend to overkill things as an engineer but the smart way to do things is to fulfill the requirements instead of over-fulfilling them. There was once i programmed some fancy code to draw black borders around the table for an excel report and that took me almost half a day. Turns out, the senior engineer preferred things clean and simple with borders drawn using built-in lines.

There's no end to feature improvements and we can go on and on with adding features but that's not how we should approach the problem. See that your user's needs are fulfilled as the priority.

9. Documentation is king

Be sure to write down and document your daily progress or risk scrambling with your report writing. We probably cannot even remember what we ate for breakfast the day before so don't be surprised if you forgot that you did at work. Besides documenting down your progress, keep notes on what you did what you did and where the information came from. There are times you might need to refer back to some manual or guide and these notes will come in handy.

10. The more the merrier

Never be afraid when people push things in your direction. Manage it well and learn something along the way. Many may argue that we should not take on more work beyond our job scope, but what's going to set you apart from the rest is the extra mile you go when it comes to learning. The more you learn the better you become so see it as a learning opportunity and not people pushing work around.

Here's the summary of the 10 points:

1. Interview and actual working style can differ
2. Protect your deck, play your cards
3. Experienced does not mean better
4. Safety comes first
5. Technicians are your best friend
6. Unconventional is not desirable
7. Always be sincere
8. More does not mean better
9. Documentation is king
10. The more the merrier

love,

ken