Rafael recently completed his BSMP grant at the University of California, Davis, where he studied Automation and Control Engineering. During the summer of 2014, he interned at MAHLE in Morristown, Tennessee.
How did you find your AT?
I had been thinking about AT even before coming to the U.S. My goal was to work in a company and I experienced a lot of challenges before securing an internship.
My first approach to contacting companies was through my college’s website. UC Davis has a system that connects students and companies by posting employment opportunities, which allowed me to apply to summer internship positions at several companies. I did my own research on Google, by looking for companies I was interested in working with and that offered programs that fit my interests. I also talked with my professors and friends from Brazil and asked them if they could recommend companies where I could intern.
I ended up contacting MAHLE, which is known for being one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world. There is actually a MAHLE plant two streets away from my house in Brazil. After I interviewed, they gave me the good news.
Rafael at the MAHLE office in Morristown, Tennessee
What projects were you working on at MAHLE?
I worked in the Sales and Application Engineering department where I had the opportunity to engage in several different activities. I created cost breakdowns and gathered information for the company’s system. I also worked with the opportunity managers on their projects.
What are some of the most important things you learned while engaging in your AT?
With this opportunity, I have learned so much. I was able to experience the day-to-day routine of a company as well as work with a team where everyone contributes to a larger project. I also learned about the automotive market and about the parts in which MAHLE is involved specifically. As my duties required me to be in contact with several people through emails and over the telephone, I also improved my communication skills.
Of all the things I learned, the most important thing was how to solve problems in the face of real challenges. The things I learned by working in the industry went beyond what I learned in college; this is what really attracted me to MAHLE.
Can you compare what you thought about the Automation and Control Engineering industry before working with MAHLE? Was there anything unexpected about the industry?
I knew what to expect at MAHLE, considering the large volume they produce around the world. I expected a highly automated, organized plant, and MAHLE did not disappoint. The robots and the sensors used in the projects are able to provide parts with defect rates very close to zero. The quality system also oversees the production to guarantee the best performance possible.
Something that really caught my attention was the company’s focus on always improving processes and working to provide the best product on the market.
Rafael with one of his colleagues, Charlie Sikes
How have you used what you learned at MAHLE since you have been back at school and how do you plan to use it during your career?
Working at MAHLE made me realize that I like the Sales and Application area. I not only plan to use what I learned at MAHLE in my career, but I want to continue working in this specific area. Because of MAHLE, I was motivated to come back to school and direct my studies to this specific area in order to prepare for my career. What I learned during my AT is already being applied in the classes I am taking this period.
What was the coolest thing you did during your AT at MAHLE?
Solving challenges under time restrictions while working with the team. It was very rewarding to be able to see someone else benefiting from my contributions as well as seeing my role make a difference in the final result of the project.
What advice can you give to future BSMP Automation and Control Engineering students for their AT search?
Start searching for AT even before coming to the U.S. Finding a summer internship is something that is not easy, even for American students. The earlier you start, the more chances you have to find an opportunity that you like.
Also, do not restrict yourself to a specific area. If the exchange program allows you to go to another region, do not limit yourself in the search. In my case, I went from California to Tennessee, and I learned a lot from living in these two different areas.
Rafael and Wendy Harbin at Rafael’s going away party. Rafael noted Wendy as someone who helped him a lot while he was in Tennessee.
Some of the feedback we received from your supervisor and coworkers said that when you were on conference calls with people from other offices, you sounded like an account manager rather than an intern. How were you able to do your job so well and be so confident? What can other students do to have such a successful internship as you did?
There are two main reasons why I performed so well. The first and most important is because the team supported me. They taught me what I needed to know and after that they trusted me and gave me the freedom to do it on my own. I would not have been able to accomplish what I did without them.
The second reason is that I never considered myself an intern, I loved what I did and I wanted to contribute everything I could to the company. Because of this, I worked to exceed the expectations and to get the best results in every situation.
To connect with Rafael on LinkedIn, go here.