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Summer Internships Provide Opportunities For Junior Members And Alumni

By Noah Grant ’19 and Don Thoma ‘83

The Intern Perspective

At RPI, the importance of an internship is stressed throughout the curriculum of Mechanical Engineering. As an undergraduate, it gives us a chance to experience industry practices and begin to build a strong professional network. I spent much of the Fall semester of my Junior year applying to internships where I had no contacts or little networking opportunities before interviewing. During this process, I was blind to the fact that I was already part of an extensive professional network through RSE. Networking has never been first nature for me, however, my communication and conversational skills have vastly improved since pursuing a leadership position within RSE. When I became the JM Table Manager that Spring semester, I began having professional conversations with members of the RSE network.

I met Don that Spring and we had a conversation about my career interests and the industry his company Aireon is involved in. After a constructive conversation, he helped me get the ball rolling by putting me in contact with the Aireon engineering team. This contact proved invaluable as I was able to have a direct conversation with their lead Software Engineer and articulate my experiences and talents without the constraints of an online application. After several conversations I earned the internship position as a Software Engineer for Aireon.

This was the first major step I had taken in career development and I was fortunate enough to work under Don. As an intern at Aireon, I was given the chance to creatively implement my technical skills and challenge myself day-to-day to work on my networking skills. Working in Software Engineering allowed me to significantly expand my Mechanical Engineering knowledge from RPI. Every day, Don showed me through action what it means to be passionate and dedicated to your career. It made me confident and charismatic to work under someone with similar interests and experiences.

By the end of the internship, I was able to complete multiple programs capable of analyzing terabytes of data on aircraft movement via satellites. Perhaps most importantly, with the communication and leadership skills I have built during my time at RSE and this internship, I was able to effectively communicate the results of my project to a large range of employees at Aireon.

24 Hours of Global Aircraft Movements

This experience has made it clear to me that the Junior Membership needs to construct a better system for getting in contact with members of the RSE network. Furthermore, we want to build a database containing resumes and biographies of JM’s for members of the RSE network to browse. It is increasingly important to leverage the unique connection we all share through RSE and to have a strong communication line between JM’s and the RSE network.  

The Alumni Perspective

Internships are an important part of an undergraduate’s career preparation and they are also an important pipeline of future engineers for companies.  We all forget, but RSE is an impressive network of over 800 technical professionals and students that are connected by the common bond of our time at the House.  This network is a resource for Junior Members looking to launch or further their careers.  For alumni, RSE is a source of new talent in fields where it is getting increasingly hard to find good people.

Our team at Aireon saw that he had the technical chops to help us out with our project during the summer. It was interesting to me to watch Noah attack the project, putting structure around the task, developing innovative tools and presenting the results to members of the engineering, operations and marketing teams with poise, clarity and confidence.  I think this is a direct outcome of his participating in leadership roles at RSE.

The experience proved to me the value of our RSE network and the importance of creating these opportunities to fully utilize the professional and personal power of the RSE brotherhood.

The Junior Members are making a major effort to reach out to the RSE Alumni Network during their job search process.  You will see a lot more of this in future newsletters, LinkedIn and Facebook.  I encourage all the Alumni to get involved and start leveraging the power that is the RSE Network.