Interning at Cyclone Energy Group: The Gateway To My Career
Before I began my internship with the commissioning team at Cyclone Energy Group, I barely knew anything about commissioning, or that it even existed. During my time with Cyclone, that definitely changed. I helped the commissioning team prepare test scripts for on-site visits, test mechanical equipment for luxury apartment high rises, and assist in proposals and reports. I observed the way commissioners interact with building owners, building operators, and contractors simultaneously and manage to navigate through the chaos. It is truly an art. Getting out in the field and matching abstract mechanical drawings to physical HVAC equipment I could actually touch was an important way for me to learn HVAC systems. As I reflect on the internship, I realize how formative it has been to my academic career, experience, and has acted as a foothold in the design and construction industry. The internship equipped me with hands-on knowledge of HVAC systems and equipment, but it also gave me quality relationships with passionate engineers and the confidence to pursue a career in engineering. The team at Cyclone treated me like an equal cohort. One of my supervisors stopped by my desk one morning and gave me a box of baked goods and said, “Happy Birthday, Ann. I hope it didn’t get squashed on my commute here.” The camaraderie and office culture is the cherry on top of the whole intern experience.
For students, I highly recommend finding an internship to work throughout the school year so they can immerse their coursework into their internship and vice versa for the optimal complementary education. It has benefited me in many ways. For my Construction Cost Estimation class, an assignment called for a cost estimation of an entire hospital building. I reached out to my supervisor for some guidance and he swiveled over a chair and said, “Oh I should have gone over this with you a long time ago.” He spent the next hour going over the electrical and mechanical drawings to get me started on the monstrous assignment. For my Applied Building Energy Modeling class, I had messaged one of the building energy analysts because there was something wonky going on with my energy model at the school’s computer lab. He called me immediately and gave me methods on how to solve it. Minutes later I had fixed the model geometry and, at the same time, learned something new. I thought to myself, “Is this how Cyclone’s clients would feel after a consultation? 100% SATISFACTION?!”
For my senior project at school, we participated in the 2019 ASHRAE HVAC System Competition and scheduled a brainstorming session with Cyclone for professional input. It was crucial step for the progress of our project. One of our team members could not make it and was adamant that we pass along his questions to the mechanical engineers and building energy analysts. After we left the office, one of my team members was so astounded by the wealth of knowledge and experience of Cyclone’s engineers that she grasped me by the shoulders and said, “ANN. I want to sit down with that engineer and hear everything he knows about mechanical systems and energy modeling and say to him…‘TELL ME EVERYTHING.’ ” Later, we would be informed that our project was selected as the best submission in the Illinois Chapter. It was fulfilling to see how academia and industry go hand-in-hand. I began to discover the tightly knit engineering community when I realized my professors worked on projects with some of the team members at Cyclone Energy Group. The gap between academia and industry narrowed at this internship.
When I went to construction sites for commissioning, I felt small. It is hard not to scan the premises to look for workers on the site that look like me. I think one of the biggest challenges was not to compare myself with others and feel inadequate from social norms about women in engineering. This is why I appreciate interning at Cyclone even more because they advocate for women in the workplace and in engineering. After going to the Women in Green Luncheon at the GreenBuild Conference that my supervisor encouraged me to attend, I felt validated. I heard many stories about what it is like to be in a male-dominated industry. The women around my table shared tactful ways to handle circumstances whether it be from the small day-to-day things or larger scale. It made me realize something – I do not have to pretend that it is not hard, but that it is okay to be vocal about some of the hardships we face and share these stories with colleagues with grace and gradually implement change.
Having recently graduated with an Architectural Engineering degree, I have developed my skill set and experience through my internship. Without it, it would be hard to say if I would be given opportunities in the design engineering field. It would be much harder if not for the networking, resources, and mentors from my time at Cyclone Energy Group. The internship really redeemed my hard experiences at school and has been nothing short of an amazing experience. It was my gateway to the industry and it gave me the confidence and resilience to pursue my PE in the near future.
My coworker said something once that has stuck with me: “It is such a miracle and pleasure to be part of a group that is cohesive and shares your values and goals…you will probably be friends with them forever.”
Thank you, Cyclone Energy Group.