How different work is from school! The realm of academia seems to be increasingly preoccupied with memorizing facts and regurgitating information onto exam papers. This summer, while I have enjoyed using some university-aqcuired skills (like data processing and Six Sigma methodology), I have come to appreciate much more the “soft” skills required in the workplace, like collaboration, critical thinking, and initiative. It seems the role of Industrial Engineer is at a critical intersection of task and people: without buy-in from employees, process improvement is greatly impeded. I am learning that it is the culture of a company, and not just its strategy, that determines the quality of its outputs.
I have been working in the company’s continuous improvement department, creating and completing projects to improve processes in the manufacturing facility. My supervisor had given me free reign in discovering and pursuing projects that interest me, which has pushed me to practice initiative while navigating the unknown terrain of the manufacturing world. However, the freedom to initiate is accompanied by the weight of responsibility to produce value for the company. Not every possible project will add value and there have been a few days when I have felt like I was just spinning my wheels and going nowhere. As the internship has progressed and I have found my bearings, I have greatly enjoyed the experience of solving complex problems, searching out the information I need, and working with people in all departments of the business, from production to customer support.