For many Park Scholars, a key benefit of being part of this program community is having access to now 16 classes of alumni who are eager to offer advice regarding careers and graduate study. The Park Scholarships intranet, SPIFFY, is one forum through which alumni share job and internship leads and where scholars of all classes can make professional connections.
Veronica Brumbaugh ‘04, an engineering project manager for Covestro (formerly Bayer MaterialScience) at its plant in Baytown, Texas, posted internship opportunities on SPIFFY back in 2013. Katie Nagley ‘16, a chemical engineering major, had identified Covestro among several companies that matched her interests of working in the plastics/adhesives industry for a company with a strong German influence. When Nagley reached out for more information about the posted internships, Brumbaugh provided feedback on her resume and circulated Nagley’s application materials with a recommendation. But despite Nagley being a strong candidate, the internship didn’t work out that summer after her freshman year.
“[The hiring team] really focuses on the student’s year of education when awarding internships and very few out-of-state interviews are awarded,” Brumbaugh said. “When the internships opened up again this year, I reached out to Katie to make sure she hadn’t been discouraged. We worked together more on her resume, and this time, I made sure her resume was seen by the right people.”
Nagley landed the internship.
“Veronica was very welcoming and helpful with my move to Houston,” said Nagley, a Virginia native. “My first day of work was canceled at 6:00 am because there was three feet of flooding outside of my apartment, and Veronica was actually messaging me at 1:00 am with flood updates to make sure we didn’t drive to work if it was unsafe.”
Though Nagley and Brumbaugh enjoyed an occasional lunch together, their work did not overlap.
“Project Management is really not what I expected,” said Brumbaugh, who has been in her current position for three years. She anticipated participating in process design work, estimating costs, making purchases and monitoring spending. However, her team handles these tasks. She coordinates design leads from the various disciplines to prepare a cohesive design, ensures the cost estimators have the information they need, verifies deliverables are completed on time, and aids her team in communicating effectively to execute successful projects.
“My project team is like the symphony, and I have the role of the conductor,” Brumbaugh said. “Without a leader keeping everyone in sync, even the most talented group of musicians can sound as disjointed as a middle school concert band.”
Meanwhile, Nagley was assigned as a unit engineering intern for the Methyl Diisocyante (MDI) train. Her projects varied daily according to unit status, but focused on equipment reliability and process improvement. Everyone in the unit worked as a team with the overarching goal of producing high quality product in a cost and energy efficient manner.
This type of work, with its focus on monitoring and improving process conditions and equipment, offered Nagley a different perspective than she received at her internship with LORD Corporation last summer. LORD, a global organization headquartered in Cary, N.C. for which a number of Park Scholars have interned and worked, is a diversified technology and manufacturing company that develops adhesives, coatings, motion management devices and sensing technologies. Nagley’s responsibilities at LORD supported the company’s research and development, making her role more hands-on and small scale. She met with customers, vendors, and formulation chemists on a regular basis.
“At Covestro, I got to see how one of the world’s largest plastics companies operates,” said Nagley, “When I went into the field, I had to wear a hard hat, steel toe boots and chemical exposure monitors. I also carried a small oxygen tank known as a ‘5-minute pack.’ Climbing up four flights of stairs and over and around pipes in the Texas heat gave me a better appreciation of the instrumental work that operators, maintenance crews and contractors perform. When you work in research and development, it’s easy to forget the human component that is needed to create a good product.”
While both very positive, Nagley’s disparate internship experiences are not unlike the varied steps along Brumbaugh’s professional path.
Brumbaugh, who also studied chemical engineering, spent the year following graduation as a Catholic Campus Minister for NC State. She then relocated to Augusta, Ga. to work as a process engineer for International Paper, where she learned about the papermaking process from the wood yards to the paper machines. Her next move took her to Baltimore, Md., where she took a job as a process engineer for a small plastics company.
“After three serious safety incidents in a matter of weeks, I resigned,” Brumbaugh said. “Still, the experiences I had there which put me directly on the production floor, performing hands-on troubleshooting and interacting with the roughest of operators, have really proven valuable even to this day.”
Brumbaugh said her career truly began to take shape a few months later, when she joined Grace Davison, a leading global supplier of catalysts, engineered and packaging materials, and specialty construction chemicals and building materials. Her boss there became – and remains – a fantastic mentor to Brumbaugh.
“I took a lot of pride in making a product that removes the contaminants from petroleum products, reducing pollution and creating a healthier, safer environment,” said Brumbaugh. “I was able to learn about quality as a Six Sigma Black Belt, and my boss gave me opportunities to be involved with closing and finances to really understand the business aspect.”
After five years with Grace Davison, Brumbaugh accepted a job offer with Bayer Technology Services in Baytown, now Covestro. With two young children and plenty of personal hobbies – water sports, martial arts, sewing – Brumbaugh values the company’s emphasis on maintaining a healthy balance between work and family. She also appreciates having another excellent mentor in her current boss.
“If you don’t have a supportive boss, start looking for other opportunities,” Brumbaugh said. “It is really tough to advance your career if your supervisor is not a partner in propelling you forward.”
When asked what advice she would share with current Park Scholars as they’re navigating their college careers, Brumbaugh said, “Do your best, live intentionally, and don’t second-guess yourself. By living intentionally, don’t just let things happen. Be deliberate in the way you treat others, in the way you take on academic challenges, and in the way you serve the community.”
Nagley, now a senior, seems to have been pursuing her college experience with this advice in mind. In addition to the relationships she’s formed through the Park Scholarships program, international student community, and College of Engineering, Nagley cites a highlight of her time at NC State as serving as a director of the 2015 Krispy Kreme Challenge. This year, she will assume the inaugural role of student advisor to the 2016 race directors.
“I love the bond the planning team has and the excitement it [the Krispy Kreme Challenge] creates in the community while giving back,” said Nagley.
While her post-graduation plans are still evolving, Nagley’s summer internship with Covestro exposed her to the range of opportunities available in Texas for chemical engineers.
“In Houston, I can go to my yoga class and meet four to five other young female engineers who share similar experiences and goals for our futures,” she said. “It’s a really encouraging and exciting environment to be in.”