How a Summer Internship Gave Me Confidence as Female Engineer and Technologist

Lauren Prince presenting her findings.This year is my senior year in Chemical Engineering and though I’m still a student, I know that STEM is still a largely male-dominated career field. This might come as a surprise to some due to the continued publicized progressiveness of the Women in STEM movement. However, a study published this year by Stanford CEPA showed that we still have a long way to go. The study states that even school districts with favorable teaching resources and support still have gender gaps that favor male students in math. It’s due to these systemic gender gaps, I was hesitant to pursue a career in STEM. I was worried that I wouldn’t be given the same opportunities to work on projects or have equal advancement opportunities as my male counterparts.

This summer I set my fears aside and pursued a summer internship with Emerson Automation Solutions as a Process Control & Business Development Intern. From my very first day, I was given responsibilities and opportunities to make a difference -- despite the fact that I was (and still am) a student. Everything I worked on was focused around improving the experience for Emerson’s customers or improving the technology in the Integrated Operations Center (iOPs) in their Round Rock, TX office.

One accomplishment I’m most proud of was working to help ease internal work with the iOps Process Skid. I created proper documentation on all its components so that it was easier to understand and follow. Using this documentation, I was able to work on updating the process skid to implement components that improved accuracy and production efficiency. My managers not only gave me the knowledge and tools necessary for success, but empowered me to take ownership via assignments that let me prove myself and my abilities. They also encouraged me to sit in on influential meetings (such as those of Emerson’s Women in STEM group), which helped me mitigate my fears that as a woman I won’t have a voice or the same opportunities in my place of work.

My internship is one of the best experiences I have ever had because not only did it let me build muscle in skills that I already knew, but it taught me new ones too.  As a chemical engineer, I never thought that an internship would provide me an opportunity to learn so much about cutting-edge technology outside of the lab. During my tenure, I learned to code and created an app for employees. I initially thought that coding was only used by programmers and IT professionals!

Overall, the most valuable takeaway from my internship has been to continue to be open to new projects, teams and experiences (and to not let my fears get in the way.) In fact, this is the very reason I chose the ever-changing field of engineering in the first place. I look forward to continuing to be part of the Emerson team while I finish out my degree and become more engaged with their powerful Women in STEM group.

Have you had an internship that challenged your expectations of yourself or opportunities that helped you grow? Share your experiences in the comments below.