PE: Where are you currently going to school and where are you interning?
Andrew Schulz: I am currently going into my senior year at Oklahoma State University, where I am studying for an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Petroleum Engineering. I’m interning at Burns & McDonnell in Houston, Texas this summer, where I am specifying pumps for various parts of the refining industry. I also interned at Burns & McDonnell in the summer of 2015, but at their world headquarters in Kansas City.
PE: What do you do in a typical working day at Burns & McDonnell?
Andrew Schulz: I work out of our midtown Houston office and my entire day is focused on problem solving. What’s really great about our office is that we have our electrical, mechanical, chemical and process engineers all on the one floor. It’s really useful to have all of these experts nearby when you need to ask questions, especially when getting things together for your pumps and rotating equipment. For example, when you’re just starting out you may submit something that you think is perfect, but five people may then point out problems with it. It helps because you develop a baseline for how to fix a particular problem. Being a consulting company, we work with so many different companies and clients who might want a specific type of lubrication, for example, or a certain vendor, so you have to make sure that everyone is happy. With that, compromising comes into play in several different ways. Part of my day is then filled with meeting the client or meeting those who are fabricating or delivering the equipment. Overall, that’s my typical working day. Once in a while, more urgent situations may arise and then we might visit our client site. Overall, it’s a really great experience.
PE: What sort of responsibilities do you have onsite?
Andrew Schulz: As an intern, what’s nice is that I can go onsite for one of two reasons. One reason is: “Hey! Let’s show you what an onsite experience is. Let’s have you shadow the Project Engineer.” The onsite engineers really give you a scope of everything you are going to be doing when you go full-time in this industry. The second reason I go onsite is if there is an issue with a piece of equipment. As an intern, I’m not responsible for that, but I will go with my mentor. In the summer of 2015, for example, I went to a fabrication site quite a lot to do witness testing, such as hydrostatic and vibration tests. What’s weird is that when you get back from your trip, everyone asks if the trip was exciting. If you say no, it’s actually a good thing because if it was exciting then something must have went very wrong.
PE: What do you enjoy the most and what do you find the most challenging?
Andrew Schulz: There is a learning curve to everything. It’s true when they tell you that 90% of what you learned in college is about problem solving, as opposed to doing an equation in a text book. While I’m comfortable with problem solving, I’ve had to learn a lot about the company’s culture, such as how to send emails, who to cc’ or who to ask when you’re having a particular pump problem. Burns & McDonnell is a 100 percent employee-owned company, so everyone has ownership in the project and is passionate about making our clients successful. I’ve also been doing a lot with piping, which has been a huge learning curve. With pumps, you have classes in school, but we don’t have anything like that for piping so it’s really baptism by fire. One thing I enjoyed last summer was being involved in designing a vessel. Later, I also got to do the hydrostatic testing. When you’re on the computer program, you can see this giant vessel that can contain 20,000 gallons, so it’s exciting when you get to go and see the whole thing built. It was really gratifying to see my work. It wasn’t typical “intern work”, but I was lucky to have the same experience as a full-time employee.
PE: As a person that is new to the industry, have you found that there are many programs similar to your internship at Burns & McDonnell?
Andrew Schulz: Burns & McDonnell has an incredible internship, as well as a new employee owner program.
I’m a talker and my mentor has been there to answer my questions from day one. At the beginning I had 100 questions, but I’ve noticed every week that it goes down. My mentor has been in the industry about 4 years, her mentor has been in the industry for 6 years and then we have our subject matter expert who has been in the industry for about 25 years. This chain of learning is filtering down, so if there is ever an instance where I don’t know something, the knowledge is readily available.
If you would like to read more of this article, please contact the editor Deirdre Morgan.