Whitaker internship at Emerson expands future opportunities

July 18, 2022

Daniel Whitaker is conducting an internship with Emerson.

Daniel Whitaker is conducting an internship with Emerson.

Internships help students grow as people and employees as well as explore new industries.

Daniel Whitaker, a senior in biomedical, biological and chemical engineering, is working at Emerson this summer.

We asked Daniel to tell us more about his experience.

Tell us about your internship at Emerson. What’s your role and primary responsibility?  

I am, by title, a Mechanical Engineering Co-Op in the Continuous Improvement Group. Since my business group is focused on Lean Engineering and Machining Quality my primary responsibilities tend to be focused on project/process improvement. Due to my studying chemical engineering, I specifically tend to assist in Environmental, Health and Safety projects. 

I assist in projects with many different groups of engineers, floor leaders, maintenance, etc. as well as managing a project of my own. Sort of a capstone-style project, I was given this project at the start of my Co-Op term and have been working on and managing its progress. Since I am a chemical engineer, my project has been focused on solving a problem in a chemical process, including root cause identification, research, experimentation, proposal, procurement and suggested implementation (it will be implemented next year).

What’s a typical day like?  

A typical day will usually start anywhere between 7 and 8 am, depending on when I get in. My morning will consist of working on current projects in the office or on the production floor, meeting with project owners, sampling and testing process chemicals and conducting safety/environmental compliance inspections.  

From 11:30 to 12:30 p.m., the engineering staff will help run the various assembly production lines during the workers’ lunch. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. By rotating stations every day, I have been able to see firsthand the process that goes into assembling a compressor. After this I eat lunch. 

The back-half of the day resembles the morning with more meetings and working on projects.  

On Wednesdays, salaried staff (and Co-Ops) sit in a safe production meeting from 4 to 4:30 p.m. to discuss safety hazards identified the week prior and the solutions being implemented across the plant. 

How did Mizzou Engineering prepare you for this internship? 

The multi-faceted nature of Mizzou Engineering and the gen-ed courses have been surprisingly helpful in preparing me for this position. I frequently find myself utilizing skills and knowledge from courses I thought were simply stepping-stones to the “real classes,” especially since my role uses very little of the knowledge from those “real classes.” In structuring my courses to include a wide variety of general skills, I have been able to work in teams of many different business groups and work areas. 

How did Mizzou Engineering Career Services assist you with securing or preparing for this internship? 

Though not directly involved in my finding of this position, the Mizzou Career Fair introduced me to Emerson through a different position in the Automation Solutions group (I’m currently in Commercial/Residential Solutions). After speaking with them, and unfortunately not getting that position, I was still interested in Emerson as a corporation and found this offering through their job portal. Without the assistance of the Career Fair to bridge the gap I likely wouldn’t have come across Emerson since my searches and efforts had been focused on traditional industries like Oil and Gas, Chemical Plants and others. 

What have you enjoyed most working at Emerson so far? 

Thus far, I have most enjoyed the variety available in my projects. I have been able to dabble in quality and lean engineering projects, mechanical and machine engineering projects, environmental and safety projects, chemical process projects and more.  

I have also been able to contribute to projects where I have relative technical experience and knowledge, as well as being a part of projects I have no prior experience in and am learning while assisting.  

What have you learned from your internship experience?  

Through my Co-Op position I have been able to gain experience working with programs I would otherwise likely not have been exposed to, like SolidWorks/AutoCAD and Minitab, as well as access to a 3D printer for prototyping.  

I’ve also been trained and certified in Hazardous Waste Management, DOT Hazardous Materials Transportation, OSHA Rigging and Signaling, OSHA Confined Space Entry and Rescue and both stand-up and sit-down forklift operation.  

More importantly, the most valuable thing I have learned is how to communicate, operate and behave in a business environment. It was surprising, at first, how different from my expectations and classes being in a work environment was. The most surprising difference (and the one I will miss the most) is that very few projects have hard deadlines. Those that do have deadlines tend to be on the timescale of one or more weeks. Coming from classes where projects/assignments are due the following period, this was a pleasant surprise and something I will dearly miss in classes this fall.

What advice would you give other students wanting to have a similar internship experience? 

Be willing to think outside the box and apply to industries outside the standard realm of your degree. I study Chemical Engineering but landed a Mechanical Engineering Co-Op in Manufacturing. I applied to the job due to it sounding interesting despite being out of the norm of my degree. Furthermore, don’t immediately turn down an offer, or not apply for something because it does not seem like you would be good at it. I came in my first day fully expecting to be a terrible Mechanical Engineering Co-Op since I had no knowledge of the area, but instead found that there were many projects that played to the strengths and skills of the degree I do have knowledge in. I have gained many skills in areas most chemical engineers likely don’t have experience in through participating in “normal internships.”  

In my opinion, the most important advice I can give was given to me by my boss. Very frequently, if an employer contacts you to set up an interview, you meet the qualifications they are looking for. Oftentimes an interview is the employer determining if they can work with you, and if you would be a good fit for their team. Be professional, of course, but be yourself in the interview since you never know what they are looking for.  

Additionally, don’t write immediately write off a prospect because of a bad interview or bad part of an interview. Due to a miscommunication, I was told my interview was in the evening but was instead woken up by the call. I expected to be immediately written off due to this, however I received a second interview and soon after an offer. 

Is there anything else you’d like others to know about your internship? 

This Co-Op has provided me with a variety of skills and a large amount of experience in areas I never expected and exposed me to many potential job opportunities and industries for when I graduate. Emerson offers positions for various degrees and in various locations year-round, and I would encourage people to apply, whether in Automation Solutions or Commercial/Residential. 

Thanks for sharing!


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