Gaining experience helps interns plan next stop

For mechanical engineering major Kyle Bandtel, an Oregon State junior, it’s been a summer of travel.  Not leisurely travel, mind you, but travel along Oregon roads with another intern, collecting data on the stripes along that road.

Data on stripes? Yep, we have a way to do that, to make sure the reflective material is doing what it’s supposed to do.

Michael Snider, a University of Nevada-Reno graduate with a civil engineering degree, partnered with Bandtel, both serving as interns in the Maintenance and Operations Branch in Salem. The work didn’t necessarily involve his education, but it was enlightening.

“Each line has these little beads in them – most people don’t know that – and that’s what you see when you drive along the road,” Snider said. “We’re seeing if they meet the requirements.”

Snider has enjoyed the opportunity to work with ODOT employees and contractors, and his career goal is to work at a water treatment facility or something similar. Bandtel is aiming for aerospace engineering; he became certified in flying unmanned drones from his time in the service, and he’d like to work that experience into a career.

Interns bring geographic diversity

Steven Tjoelker grew up in California and Zaid Alajeel grew up in Baghdad, Iraq. Both spent time in the field on their internships this summer. Tjoelker worked out of the Corvallis office as a project inspector, and one of his responsibilities involved ensuring contractors placed the right quantities and quality of pavement. His career goal includes building something he can be proud of.

Alajeel, on the other hand, is wide open for suggestions in his career.

He has a degree in civil engineering and served as a load rating intern in the Bridge Program. He’s doing everything he can right now just to gain experience: that, he says, will be the key to his next step.

Bridge Program Unit Manager Bert Hartman is Alajeel’s supervisor, and he can relate to the goal of just getting experience under your belt.

“I remember thinking, ‘Who’s going to hire me if I don’t have any experience in engineering?’ So I started my career in mapping and just grew from there,” he said.

Putting concepts to work in Audits

Audits Intern Grace Park

Grace Park is working on her Masters of Public Administration at the University of Oregon, and she joined our internal auditing team for a summer internship. She’s assisting the team in the fieldwork stage of an ongoing audit.

“In school, our courses focus on evidence-based decision-making, data analysis, and equity driven service. Being able to use these tools in actual auditing work for the state has felt like a fruition of the topics I have been learning in theory,” she said. “This internship experience has confirmed my desire to pursue performance auditing as my long-term career.”

She was surprised to learn that not everyone clams up when they hear the word audit.

“Prior to my internship, I thought people mostly viewed auditors as adversaries due to the nature of our work,” said Park. “I was pleasantly surprised to see that auditing can actually be collaborative and positive.”

Work and fun can go together

Park, Alajeel, Tjoelker, Snider and Bandtel were among nearly 60 attendees at this year’s Transportation Day for interns. They came from all over the state, from all different sections, and some brought their mentors, like Alajeel and Hartman.

Among the day’s guest speakers was former intern Ashan Fernando, a project coordinator in Region 1. He started early, joining ODOT as an intern in high school. He continued interning through college and had such a successful experience at ODOT, he even changed his major.

“Initially I was going to study mechanical engineering but I decided to go civil after working with my mentors at ODOT,” he said. “Whatever you do, be sure to reach out and find mentors.”

In 2013, Fernando served as project inspector on the Sunrise Highway and he can now say he played a key role in the first new highway that state had built in 20 years.  That project included five bridges so he gained a lot of experience to help him move along in his career.

Experience is critical, he said, but his final advice for the interns may have resonated the most:

“Have fun wherever you get planted,” he said, “Enjoy what you do!”

At ODOT, we celebrate the accomplishments of our interns from all across the agency each year on Transportation Day. This year’s event was held at the Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry, with more than 50 interns, mentors and guests in attendance. Thank you, interns and mentors, for your commitment to excellence in Oregon transportation!

If you know someone who is interested in interning with ODOT, check out our job opportunities page.

Transportation Day 2018