The SHE-CAN staff chatted with scholar Chartine Iraguha, senior at Bucknell University, about her summer internship with Zipline International Inc. in Half Moon Bay, CA. Zipline designs, manufactures and operates small drones that deliver life-saving medical products, such as blood, to patients in remote areas. Although her internship only lasted from June to early August, she worked hard, enjoyed the team dynamics and the stimulating environment.
Chartine:Earlier this year, SHE-CAN sent out an email explaining that I was looking for an internship in aviation engineering. The response was overwhelming. The community rose up, not only my mentors, but mentors from other scholars’ teams helped direct me towards Zipline since the company perfectly aligned with my internship hopes. I applied, successfully landed the interviews and was offered the internship in June! I had support from many individuals in the SHE-CAN network and am truly thankful to everyone that help made this dream a reality.
SHE-CAN: Since the internship was based in California, where did you stay in regards to housing? Was it with someone within the SHE-CAN network?
Chartine: I met a woman named Diane Philips at one of SHE-CAN’s fundraising dinners, who then connected me to her friend, Gretchen McDougall. Gretchen didn’t know much about the organization, until Diane called her asking if she had an extra room to host me. Even before meeting me, Gretchen opened her house to me and allowed me to stay with her during my internship. She even offered to drive me to places I needed to go to since I had no car. She was really wonderful and supportive throughout the summer. We became really close and even took a trip together one weekend and spent time with her friends. Since she knew how much I liked avionics, she took me to Sonoma at a place where I could fly an airplane!
Chartine: What attracted me was their mission. Many engineering positions just look at creating the next big thing or developing the current existing models, but Zipline also wants to help provide access of blood to those remote areas that don’t have access to it. They want to save someone who otherwise might have probably died if not reached in time. Another aspect is that it’s a small company and very fast paced. While there, you have an opportunity to learn things across different fields, and there’s never a dull moment because there’s always projects that need to be worked on. It’s very independent and flexible. Everybody’s invested in your growth as long as you ask for help.
SHE-CAN: As an intern what were your responsibilities? Can you describe a typical day?
Chartine: As an intern, my typical day varied from time to time. It started with a check in call with my team. Everyone was placed on a team depending on what you were working on. During that meeting in the morning, we discussed what we had achieved, what we planned on doing the entire day and asked for help if we needed it. Afterwards, everybody would dive into their work until you felt like you had exhausted the day. My main area of focus was testing. That meant designing and making machines that performed mechanical and performance tests.
SHE-CAN: How many days did you work a week, and how many hours did you work a day?
Chartine: The number of hours I worked per week, or daily, depended on the day and how long I had until the deadline of my project. Normal work hours were from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but I never found myself working within these hours. It all depended on the projects that I was working on. Everybody at Zipline loves their job and what they do, that they end up staying longer hours than required. Additionally, whenever the ideas were still flowing it was better to keep working until we were exhausted.
SHE-CAN: What’s the most memorable moment from your internship?
Chartine: My most memorable moment was when I got my first project to work. I was scared at first of not being able to deliver or to succeed on what was asked of me. The first time when the machine that I was working on worked and started moving I was really happy, and my boss was happy too which made me even more excited.
SHE-CAN: What has your internship taught you?
Chartine: My internship taught me many important lessons including: how to apply the knowledge I acquired in class directly to my internship, how to dissect a problem and make it simple to the point of solving it and how to be independent and dependent by working in a team of people.
It taught me patience and persistence, since sometimes you have to completely change the direction that you were taking your project into. Also, I learned that sometimes the most sophisticated solutions aren’t the ones that are needed. Rather looking at the moment and determining what’s important for that particular case always works better. Additionally, my internship taught me leadership skills and how to ask for help! Asking for help is important because your success is the team’s success.
SHE-CAN: What are your future goals after graduating from college, and how did interning at Zipline help you achieve those goals?
Chartine: Although I haven’t decided what I want to specialize in, Zipline further proved I’ve chosen the right major by giving me an opportunity to explore many areas within mechanical engineering. Ultimately, my goal is to keep working at a fast paced place that stimulates my thoughts and capacities and pushes me to the limits. My internship went by so fast, but it was the opportunity of a lifetime!