hannah smith
Michael Mercier | UAH

Hannah Smith is a senior from Huntsville, AL studying Industrial and Systems Engineering. She shares how engineering combined her love for math and communication, as well as some of the lessons her internships, including her most recent internship at Dynetics, taught her.


1)  What made you choose your major?

I enjoy both math and writing, but I knew I wanted to major in an engineering discipline. Industrial & Systems Engineering focuses on the big picture of a project or a process and making sure it flows smoothly all the way up to fulfilling its ultimate goal, and this perspective requires both engineering knowledge and communication skills.


2)  What made you choose UAH?

I wanted to be close to my family here in Huntsville, I knew UAH had strong engineering programs, and I just felt at home at UAH through the several times I visited. I love this city and am very happy to be a student at UAH.


3) What has been the biggest lesson you have learned from your internships?

Engineering is completely dependent on communication, with all kinds of people, from engineers to customers to users and beyond. We engineering majors tend to disparage English and communication, but they are the backbone and stage of the engineering industry, along with culture and even politics.


4) What surprised you, if anything, about your internships?

I had no idea how important communication and cooperation skills are, particularly for Systems Engineering. You cannot go hide in a cubicle (as I would like sometimes), so you get to know people and learn more about engineering, your project, and life in general in the process. Also, no design is set in stone; you have to be flexible and continually update your plans.


5) What is one thing you wish you would have known before you started your internships?

I probably should have thought of this beforehand; but, like any job, an internship can be boring sometimes – especially if you are just continually updating the same information or performing the same tasks repeatedly. However, the times of sitting in front of a computer for hours make the expected or unexpected changes in schedule, such as meetings or travel, all the more exciting and interesting. You then look forward to using such opportunities as learning experiences and go back to your desk ready to apply what you have learned.


6) What is one lesson you had to learn the hard way?

If I can’t do something – whether I don’t have enough information or I have taken on too much responsibility, in an internship or in school – I tend to just keep working and not ask for help. I have left people hanging and wasted a lot of time because I was afraid to ask (and to potentially look silly) and wanted to figure it out on my own. I have not quite learned this lesson yet; but, like all of us, I am still learning.


7) What is one thing you would tell someone interested in obtaining a co-op or internship?

Do it!! I would not the be the student I am without my internship experiences. A co-op or an internship is valuable career preparation as you engage in work in industry alongside your academic studies. You get a little taste of the “real world” along with the fun of college life. You learn what you like and what you don’t, and you often make some money in the process. And you become even more excited about your field when you hear some of the same ideas or terminology from class at work or vice versa.


Once a month we want to bring you a student's perspective to share insight into the what and why of co-ops and internships. Be sure to continue checking out our posts and taking advantage of the resources we offer!