Internships: RiceLink delivers for Smith
Senior mechanical engineer Steven Smith spent the summer working at the ExxonMobil campus in The Woodlands, as the company’s machinery intern in upstream facilities.
“I was impressed with the people I got to work with, and I was involved in big, multi-billion dollar projects,” he said. “They really gave me the freedom to find my own solutions.”
The Atlanta native found the internship on the Center for Career Development’s (CCD’s) RiceLink website. But prior to applying, he’d gone to an ExxonMobil information session at Huff House, where he met with representatives from the oil and gas giant who gave a presentation on the kinds of careers available for engineers.
Over the summer, Smith worked on two projects. His main job was in ExxonMobil’s liquid natural gas plants, investigating the possibility of eliminating suction drums from the boil-off gas compression modules.
“This project will help eliminate unnecessary cost and weight,” he explained, “and decrease the cost of maintenance associated with the machines. I learned a lot about compressors and suction drums, as well as the liquid natural gas process. When I first started, I had to look up a lot of things in my fluids and heat transfer textbooks, but as I researched, I was able to find feasible solutions. It was cool to see how this project fit into the company, and the impact it might have.”
His second project was implementing online surveillance screens to monitor the health of a plant in Wyoming.
“It was a great opportunity to learn about process engineering, and some different software,” he said. “I learned HYSYS [a software used for simulating flow through a plant] and software for data acquisition and real-time processing. I also learned the way a lot of different machinery worked.”
When Smith first arrived at Rice, he hadn’t considered a career in oil and gas at all. But his internship last summer with GE Oil and Gas gave him a taste of what the sector could be like. After that internship, he could see a future for himself in the industry.
Over the summer, he had the opportunity to put into practice the problem-solving skills he learned in his classes. And being on the job taught him something else:
“I learned to keep an open mind about things,” he said. “And I had some great mentors: Steve Judd, senior machinery consultant, Steve Wright, process engineering advisor, and Keith Felton, project engineering manager. They treated me like any other employee, and encouraged me to find my own answers to challenges.”
Smith’s experience at ExxonMobil led to a job offer. He has until the end of October to decide if he’ll accept the position as an upstream engineer, which would mean a six-month assignment in the field, before a permanent placement.
“[The interns] were told at the beginning of the program that this was a three-month job interview,” he said. “And it was a two-way street; ExxonMobil got to look at us and see what we could do and we had the chance to see if the company was somewhere we wanted to work.”
Smith feels proud and honored to have been offered a job, especially since the hiring managers at ExxonMobil told the interns this was “an extremely competitive year.” He’s currently taking his time to decide on whether to accept the offer, and has been talking to the staff at the CCD about negotiating and other further actions. Smith says the CCD has been an excellent resource.
“I recommend students use the CCD,” he said. “Go to the information sessions. Complete online applications—and write a cover letter. It’s easy, and companies will take you more seriously if you write one.”
As he considers his options about the job offer, he’s also working on his senior design project—actuated fins for stabilized rocket launches—with members of the Rice Eclipse team, and taking classes in thermal systems and aeronautics. And he knows the experience he had with his internship will be with him throughout his career.