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My internship at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Sasha Omadally, Honors College and mechanical engineering student

My internship at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

October 19, 2020 at 12:00am

Name: Sasha Omadally

Hometown: San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago

What is your major? Mechanical Engineering

Where did you intern? What was your role there?
I was a product development engineering intern at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) this past summer.

How did you get your internship?
I attended the FIU Career Fair in 2019 where I met with a representative from FCA. He was friendly and asked me questions about my resume. At this point, I did not have much to talk about with respect to previous jobs and research. So instead, I spoke in detail about being a member of Engineers without Borders and my research on electric vehicles that I did for my Honors Innovation Project as a freshman. Later that day, I got a call from FCA for an interview the next morning. The interview consisted of about five questions in the situation, task, action, result (STAR) interview format. About two weeks later, I got an email for a job offer at FCA.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process?
My advice is to be open-minded when you are looking for internships or jobs. I got my internship knowing barely anything about the automotive industry and cars, and it was not a field that I ever thought I'd consider, but it was one of the best experiences I've had.

What projects did you work on?
I was part of a project that FCA had specifically designed to be done virtually. It was called the Design Thinking Challenge where we had to apply the design thinking methodology to find a solution for a problem. The problem that my team and I had to solve was reimagining alternative propulsion [i.e. batteries and fuel cells for electric]. At the end of the internship, we presented to a committee that consisted of senior leadership within the company such as the chief information officer, the head of U.S. sales and the head of the powertrain engine division. We proposed a high-performance electric vehicle and had to create an exciting marketing video and a business plan for the idea.

How does your internship connect back to your coursework?
During my internship I had used knowledge gained in my engineering dynamics course to do calculations for the horsepower and torque of the vehicle. When coming up with the business plan for the proposal, there were a concepts that were important that I learned about in my engineering economy course. I also utilized my Honors College digital marketing course, which helped when creating a persona to whom we would target the product and when understanding what is needed to attract customers to a new concept.

What was the coolest thing about your internship or that has happened during your internship?
I think the coolest thing about the internship was the presentation at the end of the program because when my team and I pitched our idea to the committee members, they were all very proud and excited. Someone asked, “Can this be done?” and the head of the powertrain engine division said it was possible. I think that the committee was as excited about the idea as I was.

What are you learning about yourself or how is the position increasing your professional confidence?
This internship helped me feel more comfortable with being a female engineer. I met with some amazing female engineers at the company who mentored and supported me throughout the summer. They spoke about their experience in the automotive industry and gave me advice. A couple of things that I have been trying to practice are being more assertive and not being afraid to ask questions.

What is it like to have a “virtual” internship during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Initially, I was a bit hesitant about having a virtual internship, mainly because I have a really loud family and a dog, but after a little while I adjusted, and I became a lot more comfortable with the situation. Everyday, I would have a virtual meeting with my team using Google Meet. We would use this time to talk about the project and get the majority of the work done. I would also use this platform if I had any other meetings or training. Sometimes, I would get tired of sitting or being behind a computer all day so I would have to walk around or play with my dog. There were both pros and cons for a virtual internship, but I think that FCA was successful in making it a great learning experience.

What tools were you provided with to succeed in a virtual internship?
I was given a laptop which had the ability to access FCA software, as well as training on how to access and use the various websites and software that were needed for the internship. I also had a peer mentor who supported me, guided me and connected me to various people at the company. I was also given various training such as design thinking, manufacturing, and safety.

How did you connect with colleagues and build connections through a remote work environment?
It was a bit more difficult to meet people when working virtually because if you don’t know someone’s name or job, you’re probably never going to meet that person. Most of my networking happened because I was talking to someone and they would say, “I know someone who can help you. His/Her name is…” and I would find the person in the employee directory and send them an email. Sometimes they would respond, other times they wouldn’t. It was also a bit more difficult to connect with my team because we were only meeting during office hours, whereas if it was in person, we would be going out for lunch or coffee. But I think that I made the most of the situation.