Steven Bohlemann is a senior in the Aerospace Engineering program, concentrating on Propulsion with a minor in Aircraft Maintenance Science at the Daytona Beach campus. Through his minor, Steven is working on his A&P license. Steven has completed two internships to date and just started his third. His first internship was completed with GE Global Research in Munich during his junior year after a semester of Study Abroad in Germany; his second was with Lufthansa Technik Aircraft Component Services in the United States. Steven will be spending this semester working as a Service Engineering Intern with United Airlines in Houston, TX.
How did you land your internships, and how did you navigate the process?
I obtained the internship with United Airlines in their Service Engineering Department in Houston, TX as a result of the Industry/Career Expo. Make sure to go prepared to the interview; you don’t need to be an expert about the company but know simple facts. Also, the most important advice, I unfortunately realized a little late, is to BE YOURSELF in the interview. I used to think I would have to be exactly who I thought they were looking for, and this always made me really nervous. In my experiences, I have accepted three internships and been offered more; I found I had the best results when I prepared for the interview. While I change my daily attire and behavior to fit the formal occasion, I do not hide who I am. I clearly tell them what I love to do and why I am passionate about it, and if they ask, I tell them my deficiencies as well as dislikes. Remember if you play it safe, like I used to do, you will never be put at the bottom of the pile, but you will remain safely and jobless in the middle of the pile of applicants. You have to stand out. All of us, even us engineers, have unique personalities and sets of skills; let those shine through in an interview.
What have you done, and what will you be doing on your next internship?
I completed my first internship my junior year while I was having the time of my life studying abroad in Germany. I studied there for a semester, and the following semester, I was lucky enough to get an internship with GE in their Research Center in Munich, which at the time was one of their four Global Research Centers in the world. These research centers were where the next leap of technology were created, and it was incredibly awesome to work with those people. I worked in the energy production system department. I learned so much from this internship and really loved it. I became hooked on the internship experience.
My second internship was with Lufthansa Technik Aircraft Component Services in the United States. This one was far less technical when compared to my GE experience, but it was great to get another perspective on how the business and technical world coexist. I did a lot of reliability and performance studies of various components which was then presented to customers where financial consequences were discussed.
My third internship will be with United Airlines with their Service Engineering Department in Houston, TX. I am really excited to be able to call a hangar filled with airplanes, including the new 787, the office where I work.
What advice do you have for students seeking an internship?
Do not wait; I regret not going to Career Services my freshman and sophomore years and not attending the career fairs. While you most likely will not get an internship your freshmen year, get out there and practice. I used to be a very shy person and was super awkward in these type of situations. The only way you are going to get over those feelings of fear and intimidation is to PRACTICE. Put yourself in uncomfortable and foreign situations; you will inevitably learn and grow from the experience.
Did your international status cause you any challenges in attaining an internship in Germany?
It was hard to get an internship in Germany as my conversational German was pretty fluent, but I severely lacked technical German language skill, which made it harder, but not impossible, to get a position. Where there is a will there is a way, and I got an internship and overcame the language barrier. My co-workers were patient and very helpful. I was even able at the end of the internship to give a 15 minute technical presentation in German, all thanks to their help and patience with me during my internship. Here in the US, I had no problem as I am an American citizen.
What are your career aspirations and have they changed since you started your internships?
Other than being able to accumulate technical knowledge and skills from internships, these experiences have also helped me decide what I want and what I do not want to do. For example, I never thought I would’ve liked to work in Research and Development, as I mistakenly used to think it would be boring and not hands-on enough for me. I was hesitant to accept my internship at GE’s research center, but ultimately I said, I am here in Germany to expose myself to new adventures, so I decided to accept the offer. There is almost no other event in my life that has influenced me more professionally and personally than my internship at GE. I desire to ultimately work in field service/support engineering or R&D. I like that both career paths are exciting in their own respects. I would either like to be part of a team in R&D which may develop the next technological breakthrough or in field service engineering where you never know what you will be doing that day, as you cannot predict the problem that lands on your desk. From my own experiences, I have realized I love creating and building devices which are solutions to difficult, out of the norm problems, and I enjoy thinking outside of the box.
What advice would you give students who are contemplating doing an internship experience?
Umm…why in the world is someone contemplating if they should or should not do an internship? As respectfully as possible, I would say it would be ridiculous and, frankly, not smart to pass up the opportunity to do an internship. The whole purpose of going to school is to become educated to ultimately land a job in the real world. While school gives you a great foundation, it amounts to very little if it is not coupled with real world, practical experience which can be achieved through an internship. Through an internship you convert the raw knowledge learned in school into practical useful knowledge and a set of skills for your career. Doing an internship does not remotely guarantee a job; it does provide you the opportunity to set yourself apart from the next candidate, and hopefully with some luck, it is enough to get your dream job.
Please tell us about your learning experiences, both professionally and personally. What are the benefits you will take away from these experiences?
I have been at ERAU now for 5 years; I am pursuing my Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering with AOC in propulsion and a minor in Aviation Maintenance Science (obtaining my A&P License). When I look back on my college experience, I think of all the fun I had being part of the university soccer team, going to study abroad, great memories from various clubs, fun times with friends, and my internship experiences. These are the best times of our lives, so I cannot say enough, we should get out there and experience all that we can. Now is the time to try and pursue your different interests and truly see where your passion lies.
I can say my life changed when I went to study abroad, an experience which is by far the best decision I have made in my life. Not only did I have the most fun of my life, I grew as a person academically, professionally, and personally. My internship at GE Global Research Center in Munich was a great learning experience, as I was working for an American company in Germany, and my colleagues were from all over the world, to just name a few: Spain, Ireland, England, Germany, America, Kenya, China, Mexico, Italy, Singapore and many more. This proved challenging in the beginning, as each culture was different, but what I took away was there were many different ways to get to the right answer, and you didn’t always have the right one. I learned how to work with a group of multicultural people and concluded that a diverse team may have initial short term obstacles, but I believe they are more effective and stronger in the long term than a culturally homogenous team. When employers ask me about a hard experience I went through or why I think I am a strong team player, I have a myriad of stories to provide them of evidence through the EXPERIENCE I had of living, studying and working abroad.
At GE, I was lucky to work as part of a team of scientists who took me under their wings, and they strongly impacted the person I am today and the professional I hope to be one day. I can say, I got my second internship as a result of my study abroad experience; they really liked that. I took the lessons from GE to Lufthansa Technik, where I was mentored as well and was able to continue to develop my professional skills. These skills are invaluable to my career, and you do not learn these in school. You have to go out and experience these lessons, and hopefully, you do this before you begin your full time career.
Also, from my internship experience and help from my advisor, I realized it would be a good choice for me to get my Airframe and Powerplant license to complement my engineering degree. I would have never done this had it not been for my time at GE, where I saw the value of not just designing some theoretical device, but also the ability to build it and comprehend the difficulties that come with constructing and maintaining components. I have definitely seen the benefit of pursuing my A&P license along with my engineering degree from employers this past career fair, as this was often the topic of conversation when I conversed with them.
I hope more students embark on adventures while in college, if that be through studying abroad, getting an internship, or putting themselves in some type of new foreign environment/experience, because not only will this make them a better professional but also a more well-rounded person. One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I believe we should live life to the fullest and experience all we can while in college, and that includes doing an INTERNSHIP!