Here's a quick snapshot of a intern's experience working professionally in industry. Learn all about Lauren's early career journey in engineering including the opportunities and challenges she's gone through whilst on the job.

Laura Nixon

Name: Lauren Nixon

Location: Brisbane, Queensland

University and Course: Bachelor of Electical Engineering and Mathematical Science (second major), Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Graduation: 2019

Where did you undertake your internship?

Urban Utilities (Water industry in the Infrastructure maintenance team)

Why did you choose to complete an internship early in your degree?

I wanted to gain experience as early as possible to learn how a business operates, develop confidence in the engineering industry and business acumen, develop technical skills, and gain real world experience while working on exciting projects.

How did you obtain your first internship in the early stages of your studies?

I arranged to do unpaid work experience at Urban Utilities during university holidays for 4 weeks and that turned into a paid position.

What opportunities has completing your internship early in your degree given you?

The unpaid work experience gave me an opportunity to use university knowledge in a professional environment, learn about opportunities available at the company and build a professional network. Fortunately, this turned into a paid position and I worked full time during university holidays and part time during the university semesters. I had the opportunity to work on large scale projects with a multidisciplinary team, visit some of Queensland’s largest water and wastewater infrastructure sites, develop my knowledge of Australian standards and apply university learnings to real world projects. This opened the door to join relevant industry clubs, seek out mentors in the industry and identify career path opportunities. I was able to secure another internship at a consulting company in the same industry which was a good opportunity to work on a variety of multidisciplinary projects and understand how a consulting business operates.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during your internships?

As an intern, it took me longer to complete tasks than experienced engineers in the team. I saw this as an opportunity to learn from their experience by asking questions, and everyone was willing to pass on their knowledge and advice. Initially it was out of my comfort zone to approach an engineer and ask for help, but this became easier when I quickly discovered how supportive the team was. A good attitude goes a long way and most technical skills can be learned.

What was the main thing that you learnt during your internship that you've since been able to apply to your professional life/studies?
  • Be curious, seek out opportunities to get out of the comfort zone and learn new things. Take up any opportunities for training or personal development. A good attitude goes a long way and most technical skills can be learned.
  • Get involved in company events and meet new people, even if they work in a different team or an unrelated role. It can be helpful to know other people's journey and the options available. Most people are happy to share their advice. We all start somewhere!
  • Hard work will be rewarded, and short-term sacrifices are worth it for the long-term gain. Even unpaid work is good experience to gain relevant skills, learn about how a business operates and to open doors in the future e.g. I am working in a different industry now but still draw upon things I learned while working in the water industry.