Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Lessons from the workplace

More than a year ago, I was preparing to start an
electrical-engineering internship with a paper company in Green
Bay. So many thoughts ran through my head. I was excited, yet very
nervous at the same time.

I was preparing to move to an unfamiliar town, away from friends
and others whom I relied on for support. I faced many unknowns. I
had no idea what to expect of my colleagues, nor did I know what
they would expect of me.

As it turns out, everything went quite well, and it was
undoubtedly the best overall experience that I have had while being
in college. Most of all, my internship was a learning experience.
It certainly enhanced my education in electrical engineering, but
more importantly, I learned many important lessons applicable to
any professional setting. As many of you will start internships or
permanent positions during the next several weeks, I would like to
share a few of these lessons here.



1. The purpose of business is to make money.

This is one of the first things that the mill manager told me
when I met with him on my first day on the job. The only reason
that companies hire employees, regardless of the position, is to
increase earnings, cut costs, or do both. For this reason,
employers will always expect you to find ways to improve
efficiency. This applies to personal productivity and to the
processes in place at your corporation.

In some cases, employers may not clearly lay out the goals and
objectives of the tasks they assign. I found that one of the best
ways to improve personal productivity is to have a clear
understanding of the expectations before beginning any task. In
most cases, like the old saying goes, the only stupid question is
the one that isn’t asked. In a fast-paced corporate environment,
several small mistakes can be very costly and time-consuming to


2. True learning occurs on the job.

The purpose of going to college is to earn a degree and to get a
job after that degree is earned. For this reason, earning a degree
means that one knows everything necessary to start a job, right?

College does not teach facts and answers. Rather, it teaches
concepts and methods of finding these answers. After graduating,
one enters the job market with an intellectual toolbox. However, in
this age of specialization and narrow training, many of these
“tools” only scratch the surface of what may be required. An
undergraduate degree, in many cases, teaches a small amount of
knowledge about many concepts. In the job market, however, a lot of
knowledge is often required about a relatively small number of

Because of this, the first few weeks of a new job can be a very
humbling experience. One must be willing and able to learn quickly
and accept a lot of criticism during this time. Graduating from
college does not mean that the learning ends — quite the


3. Good communication is crucial.

On the last day of my internship, my mentor, the engineering
supervisor, and I discussed my goals and plans for the future. My
supervisor told me one thing I will never forget. He remarked that
the best engineers he hired were not those with the best technical
training, but rather, those that could get on the phone and make
things happen.

Simply put, in any professional environment, one must be able to
think and work together with those who think and work differently.
My internship taught me the importance of communications courses
for engineers and the importance of statistics courses for those in
human resources management. A corporation must function as one
team, and not as separate departments. Without well-rounded
employees, communication is severely limited.



For those of you who will be entering the real world soon, I
wish you all the best. For those of you have a few years of
schooling left, I highly encourage internships and co-ops. Each
school and college here at the university has resources to guide
you in search of jobs within your career. Take full advantage of
these resources. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll
be happy you did.

Mark Baumgardner ([email protected]) is a senior
majoring in electrical engineering.

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