Like most students in the College of Engineering, Mansi Patel, a second-year chemical engineering major from northeast Philadelphia, is earning her degree in a five-year format with three six-month co-op experiences. Patel knows that a wide variety of work experience options are available to her, and she intends to make the most of it.
Patel just completed her first co-op on the quality assurance team at Estee Lauder/Northtec, one of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of skin care, makeup, fragrance and hair care products. Her job was to keep an eye on completed retail sets, making sure that each bit of packaging met the company’s standards.
“It was very detail oriented,” Patel shared. “In addition to checking that all the right items were used for a set, we checked things that nobody else would look at, like reading every word on every sticker to be sure that the names were the same. In a company as large as Estee Lauder, that’s important, because things happen fast, and if a box can’t be assembled on the automatic line because that material is too stiff, that can cost hours of downtime. We need to spot those mistakes, so they don’t happen upstream.”
The diversity of jobs available in the co-op portal was encouraging to Patel, who says that she’s still trying to focus on her specialty within engineering.
“If I wanted to do research, there were plenty of research jobs available. If I wanted to do testing, there was plenty of that,” she says. “Going out into co-op so early is great because you can really find out what aspects of engineering you like best, and you can focus on that when you get back to the classroom.”
A better understanding of her academic interests isn’t the only thing that Patel brought back to campus. She says that the pace of a high-functioning company helped her find a new approach to her studies.
“I used to be a one thing at a time kind of person, but in my department, we were always jumping around, and in two seconds I could go from working on spreadsheets at my computer to going out on the line to look at something,” she says. “I learned that you need a balance. You need to be able to keep track of multiple things at once, but also know how to prioritize and figure out where to put your time at the moment.
That’s going to be really helpful for me moving forward in school and in my next job.”