A day in the life (of an intern)

Because I procrastinated writing these blog posts (totally not posting three times in one day), you now get to deal with a post-exam Sarina who’s already a month into her internship. Lucky you!

I’m currently a Systems Engineering Intern at Beca as part of the Beca Applied Technologies, commonly abbreviated as BAT. They’ve kinda taken the Batman symbol and made it their own. (To be fair, they could probably make the Batmobile if they tried.)


So, what is Systems Engineering?

Although systems engineering can be pursued by all sorts of engineers, quite a few with a background in mechatronics land up in systems engineering. Their multidisciplinary background and broad technical understanding proves to be valuable when increasing the efficiency of systems and optimising solutions. 

BAT does all sorts of cool stuff I never knew Beca was involved in; somehow I landed up pursuing my interests by accident! (Psst… I actually got my internship through MECHA Speed Interviews in sem 2. It’s also a great event to practise those interviewing skills, especially if you’ve never had an interview before. They’re run by many different clubs and organisations, and I’d recommend giving it a go!)


What do you do in a day?

One of the cool projects I’ve been working on is the Seasprite Helicopter Simulator. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the software testing team for the simulator, intended to replicate the experience of flying a real helicopter. I also spend a lot of my time doing project management for the Defence Estate and Infrastructure (DEI) Alliance with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). The BAT team does a fair amount of work with NZDF, such as with the recently retired P-3K2 Orion for the Royal NZ Air Force (RNZAF), and HMNZS Aotearoa with the Royal NZ Navy (RNZN). I’ve had some pretty epic opportunities in the first few weeks of my internship, such as touring the inside of a P-3K2 Orion, sitting in the captain’s seat of a massive ship, and trying my best to not crash a helicopter. There are thousands of cool projects going on within Beca, and I’m particularly grateful for the flexibility I’ve had being able to jump onto whatever caught my eye. 

For instance; anytime I hear about a cool project from a discussion, I ask if there’s any opportunity to get involved. The response I receive is usually along the lines of “Sure! Grab a chair and get over here.” A lesson I’ve learnt in my time here is that sometimes, you never know unless you ask (and the worst you can be told is no!). Particularly to my fellow women, have a little confidence and put yourself out there! My five seconds of being cheeky and asking about the possibility of an internship in BAT, resulted in a whole summer of working on some of the coolest stuff I might ever do. (Massive shoutout to Patrick and the rest of the team for getting me onboard, and giving me the chance to get involved in some incredible stuff!) 


Looking at internships as a whole though – as a mechatronics student, what can you apply for? 

You’ll notice it’s actually quite rare to find a “mechatronics internship.” One of the fantastic things about specialising in various disciplines means you can apply to all sorts of companies! It’s a great way to explore and discover what you’re interested in, paving your path and shaping your unique uni experience. On the downside however, some employers prefer students within strict disciplines – if they’re wanting a software intern, they might be more likely to take on a software student than a mechatronics student. Don’t let this get you down though – this isn’t the case for all employers, and you also get to apply for a much wider range of internships than students in any other specialisation! Furthermore, having a multi-disciplinary background in the industry is considered to be a major advantage, demonstrating a breadth of understanding and ability to think outside the box. 


And while I’m here, a few bits of advice:

  • Write a decent CV early. If you’re writing it from scratch, don’t worry if it’s kinda crap to start off with! The best CV’s are refined over time, and you gotta start somewhere. Drop into CDES to get your CV checked out, ask a friend to take a look, keep your LinkedIn up to date, and don’t sell yourself short!
  • As said before, go to speed interviews! Lots of clubs and organisations run them – MECHA runs them every semester in addition to Internship Insights in sem 1, WEN and Engineering NZ both run them as well. Not only is it a great way to practise your interviewing skills, but it’s also an opportunity to meet with companies and expand your network. 
  • With all due respect, have a life! Sure, GPA is great and all, but ultimately you can condense that down to a single number (mine isn’t the greatest you’ll ever see). Whether you’re doing a project, playing a sport, are part of a committee, volunteering, pursuing a passion, or doing literally anything that isn’t studying – keep that up! Not only does it make life more enjoyable, but employers love to see that you have a life outside of your studies. It gives you something to talk about in those interviews, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be related to engineering. 
  • Finally, don’t worry if you don’t get an internship in second year. It can be off-putting when everyone around you seems to be receiving offers left, right and centre. But the truth is, a large proportion don’t get their first internship until the end of Part III, and it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be able to graduate! You’ve still got the summers at the end of Part III and IV to get in those 800 hours, because can still get your practical work report in by March and graduate in the same year (y’all don’t officially graduate until the year after your final sem – you gotta hold out a little longer before getting that fancy piece of paper). There’s also the option to work part-time during the year if that’s something you’re keen for.

Bit of a lengthy one, sorry! As always, if you’ve got any questions (about internships, Beca/BAT, systems engineering, CVs, or whatever) – flick me a message and I’ll be down to chat!


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