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Author: Sain Admin
Have you noticed it? The leaves look a little greener, the days feel a little longer and the temperature is noticeably warmer. You know what that means: it’s intern season. Intern season, as it’s playfully known, is typically when college students are out for summer break, and they take to the “real world” to continue their education outside of the classroom. With this exciting season right around the corner, we thought we’d ask one of our youngest employees, David Coggin, to weigh in on what being an intern is really about.
David, a Traffic Designer/Graduate Engineer, graduated from the University of Alabama with his Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in May of 2016 and once again with his Master’s degree in Civil Engineering with specializations in transportation engineering and construction engineering in December of 2016. During that time he completed three different internship experiences which helped him prepare for a position with us at Sain Associates!
Q: Where did you complete your internship experiences?
A: My first two internships were with CB&A Project Management Services (located in Birmingham, AL). My third, and final internship was in Nashville, TN at the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) in the Strategic Transportation Investments Division (STID).
Q: Which was the most influential experience and why?
A: Each of my internship experiences were quite impactful, just in different ways. At CB&A, I worked alongside several family members, which taught me many valuable lessons about the industry that I wouldn’t normally get in other environments. At TDOT, I got a better grip on the transportation engineering process and I got exposure to many different types of projects. That was important, because I got to see what steps go into each one as well as accumulating valuable experience working on them.
Q: What did you learn during each of your roles as an intern?
A: The first thing I learned was that the professional environment is significantly different than the academic environment. Both environments stretch different “muscles,” but each has its own value. Technically speaking, I put in many hours in AutoCAD, MicroStation and other programs, which helped me bypass a bit of training time at the beginning of my job here at Sain. However, the things I learned in the field from my coworkers were the lessons that I would highlight as the most useful. Getting exposure to the thought processes that go behind many decisions in our industry was something that gave meaning to each decision made in the office. It helps to know why things are done a certain way, as opposed to memorizing instructions.
Q: Do you think that internships are valuable? Why or why not?
A: Yes, absolutely! I think an internship or co-op in your desired field gives you a serious leg up when it comes to finding a job that’s right for you. First of all, you get experience in the right place. Second, you get a preview of the work you might do someday, and the worst-case scenario is that you end up with information that helps you decide which direction to take your career after college.
Q: How did your internships influence your career path?
A: To add to my earlier statement, internships give you a glimpse into the future. Self-evaluation is important in an internship, and doing hands-on work in the transportation engineering industry helped me decide beforehand that I really enjoyed traffic engineering. That’s the direction I ended up taking, and now I’m here at Sain as a Traffic Designer.
Q: Do you have any advice for students who are pursuing internships or are in one currently?
A: Start early on in college with exploring options for internships. It is much better to be ahead of the game than behind. On the other hand, it’s okay to not know what you want to do for the rest of your life when looking for an internship. Be purposeful and calculated, but don’t put unnecessary pressure on this process or it may become detrimental. If you are already in an internship, learn as much as possible from your coworkers. Many of them have been working in their respective industries for years and years, and they have information and lessons that they had to learn the hard way. That is such a valuable resource that you normally don’t have access to in school.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add on the subject?
A: This may seem cliché, but just be nice and respectful to those you come in contact with. The ability to get along easily with others in a team environment may give you the edge over another applicant with the same skills and degree as you.