A Co-op On the Right Track

Julia McCree wasn’t always sure that electrical engineering would be the right choice for her. Her co-op at Amtrak made her change her mind; she now knows this is the career path she always wanted.

“I've always loved trains a lot. I just always loved public transportation. I think it's really a keyway that we should utilize more in the US,” says McCree. “So of course, I was thinking it could be my dream co-op.”

Amtrak is Julia’s first co-op in her sophomore year. During her first year classes, it wasn’t immediately clear how engineering worked in practice and if her major would be something she enjoyed to work in. She went to class, learned all the theory, but what type of job would be appealing to her was still a big unknown. That’s when the Drexel co-op system brought things into focus. It was the chance to work in a field that she has always admired.  

“Compared to full classes, I feel like I'm seeing a lot more application and a lot more about how things actually work together and how problems are solved, which has been incredibly useful.” McCree mentions. “I feel like when I was just in classes before, I understood the material, but I just I couldn't fully see how it would be applied and how it would look like.”

“On the days that I travel, it’s very different from classes because I am going out and meeting all these people, I am doing things in the field and I actually seeing it. It’s a really great experience.”
Julia McCree

McCree’s position places her on a team designing & supervising modifications and resolving technical problems on Amtrak’s trains. The job has given her a chance to travel all around the Northeast Corridor.

“I do travel around a lot. I've been to New York; I've been to the DC yards. I've been to Bear Delaware where they have their overhaul shop where they take apart the whole train and put it back together,” she recalls. “And I've been to Wilmington and obviously Philly, in the Philly yards. On the days that I travel, it’s very different from classes because I am going out and meeting all these people, I am doing things in the field and I actually seeing it. It’s a really great experience.”

Her experience at Amtrak will be especially beneficial when she comes back to full time classes. While away from the classroom and exploring the working world she realized that teamwork is one of the most important values she’ll need in the future. The Amtrak environment showed her that collaborative work and the ability to apply feedback will be critical in her career. 

“I think the biggest thing that will change is the way that I do work. I t will be different because I've always had the view that I have a project, I do it all myself, I figure it out, and then I turn it in. The world really is different and if you don't know what to do about your project, you ask people and then you figure it out,” says McCree.

“You really communicate when you don't understand something, and you're not expected to know everything which was hard for me to accept at first. It doesn't matter how good the first draft is — it's about getting stuff done. That's certainly the biggest thing that I will take away from this experience.”