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Hear First Hand From a Co-Op Student

Hear First Hand From a Co-Op Student

By Engineering Co-Op student, Margaret Hannasch

I first met my current boss at Daikin in a Japanese Language club meeting. It was a few weeks into my first project as a cooperative student, and all I knew was that Stefan’s skills were far above my own. He and the rest of the club members were admirably patient (“No prior experience required!”), and I was relieved to find a low-pressure activity in a high-pressure job.

It wasn’t until later on that I learned the people I was stumbling through “Watashi wa Margaret desu” with – the friendly, tolerant, inquisitive people who spent lunch on Tuesdays learning Japanese – were also the people who had private offices. They were project managers. They were senior engineers. They were, in short, the same people I had been sure would fire me if I messed up.

This was my first introduction to the culture at Daikin: in a word, open-minded.

As an engineering student who had completed only three semesters of college, I was awed and a little intimidated that I would be expected to hold my own among these vastly more experienced engineers – even my fellow co-ops and interns were older and wiser than I was. Coming from an Environmental and Ecological Engineering program, with the goal of gaining experience with sustainable packaging and building energy use, I felt out of place in a company that hired mostly heavy-duty engineers: mechanical, electrical, industrial. Despite my doubts, I was rapidly installed in my new cubicle and given free rein to learn whatever I needed to learn to get going on my first ever real-life, “grown-up” project.

Over the course of those first few weeks, I realized:

  1.  “whatever I needed to learn” was approximately everything
  2. Daikin’s open-minded, friendly social culture was an accurate reflection of its business culture.

In my seven months at Daikin, I have been given the opportunity to work on two major projects, neither of which did I have any direct experience – yet with the help of many mentors, I have been able to achieve much more than I had hoped. As far as the company was concerned, my interest in the work and my ability to learn as I went were more important than the technical skills I was afraid I lacked. I found it both terrifying and motivating that I would be trusted to set my own course in the project, to bring my own perspectives to the problems at hand, and to take the initiative in finding answers. Far from being confined to trivial tasks, I got to set up and lead a relationship with an outside supplier, learn how to write code in Python and VBA, write test plans and procedures and make recommendations based on my own conclusions.

Working at Daikin has provided me unmatched opportunities, especially at this early stage of my career. Besides allowing me to gain a variety of skills – technical, interpersonal and professional – I have had the ability to explore, to set career goals, to learn what my future may be as an engineer. I have also had the rare chance to tackle real-world problems before reaching my junior year in college, a level of trust and opportunity that is hard to find in a classroom. Daikin’s program offers a welcome challenge and a welcoming environment and an experience well beyond my expectations.

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