Engineering Degree Takes on New Meaning

By Timi Boyo, BSc Eng’15 

Learning the fundamentals of solid mechanics, machine design, and materials processing is fascinating, but how do they all fit together and how can I apply them? Do I really need to know these equations? What are some of my career options after school? These were just some of the many questions I asked myself as I sought to connect my academics to “the real world”. Unfortunately, the answers to these questions were not in the back of my third year textbooks nor were they straightforward. I knew I wanted to apply my engineering knowledge to solve problems while exploring the different career paths available to me as a Mechanical and Materials Engineer. But would I be able to gain experience in the field of my interest before completing my undergrad? Where would I get the information I needed to get started? And so the list of questions kept growing.

Timi Boyko stands, wearing a suit, and with his arms crossed

The last question took me to the Queen’s Career Services office where I discovered QUIP, the Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program. The program promised to answer all of my questions while providing me with long-term and invaluable experience in the area of my choosing. As I explored the job openings designed specifically for QUIP students, I was thrilled when I came across a 16-month internship position with General Motors of Canada (GM). I had always been interested in the automotive industry and the opportunity to design and test vehicles was one which I could not forgo. It was time to update the old resume and cover letter!

"Before I knew it, I was loading up a U-Haul trailer and preparing myself for my first day at GM."

What seemed like an arduous task was made effortless by the QUIP staff who guided me through the entire application process. From resume and cover letter workshops to interview tips, I was provided with the tools and resources I needed to get the job I wanted. Before I knew it, I was loading up a U-Haul trailer and preparing myself for my first day at GM.

Aside from arriving at the wrong building at the right time, my first day went off without a hitch. That day, and the days that followed were filled with new and exciting information. Information that was directly related to what I had been exposed to in my engineering courses. It turns out those equations I had memorized did in fact come in handy. As an engineering intern, I was responsible for designing, modeling, and testing brake and suspension systems for future vehicles. The projects I was assigned to were meaningful and I was pleased to see that my efforts contributed to the organization’s strategy and vision. From spending days testing vehicles in a climatic wind tunnel to conference calls with senior
management, I had great exposure to the R&D and business sides of the organization. Not only was I part of a world-class team, but I was working on some of the most challenging automotive design and engineering problems. Not bad for gaining experience before graduation!

"…the days that followed were filled with new and exciting information. Information that was directly related to what I had been exposed to in my engineering courses."

I truly enjoyed my internship experience and as time went on, I was developing my analytical, communication, and interpersonal skills. Despite being a student at GM, I had the opportunity to lead long-term projects, travel, and work with a global team. Most importantly, I was making the connection between my academics and “the real world”, having fun, and uncovering the potential of my engineering degree.

Leaving school for 12 or 16 months might seem daunting, but it is well worth the time investment. The internship program “eQUIPs” you with the skills you need to be successful in the workplace and sets you apart from other students. As a graduate of the program I have experienced first-hand its value and would recommend it to other undergrads. Some students worry about the transition back to school. However, upon my return to Queen’s, I found classroom discussions were richer and I was better prepared to tackle my fourth year design project. These were benefits I had not anticipated but which made my fourth year more enjoyable.

Furthermore, the time and project management skills I had picked up while on internship also meant that I could take on a position as Project Manager for first year engineering 10 QUIP students. It was a great opportunity for me to help students connect the engineering methodologies they had been introduced to with first-hand examples of their application in industry.

"With QUIP, one opportunity leads to another."

With QUIP, one opportunity leads to another. After I graduated in the Spring of 2015, my experiences at GM and as a Project Manager led me to Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm. During my internship I became interested in organizational strategy development and execution. Now, as a consultant with the firm, I am able to interact with clients in a number of industries while helping them solve some of their most challenging problems. Before visiting the Queen’s Career Services office or taking part in the internship program, I could not have imagined an engineering degree taking me down such a unique path. With QUIP, the program is just the beginning of many career opportunities. Whether you find yourself working for a telecommunications company, a financial institution, or an automotive manufacturer, the skills you develop are universal and can be applied to various fields. QUIP is a great way to start your career. For me, it was also a perfect way to get answers to my many questions. However, the question that remains is: where will your internship take you?

Timi Boyo is a BSc Eng‘15 graduate of Mechanical Engineering and is currently working as a Consultant at Oliver Wyman, an international consulting firm. This article was originally published in What’s Next? magazine, 2015-16, a Career Services publication.