These short eight weeks has provided me with so much knowledge and experience about how the workforce functions. Working with the Traffic Engineering department has not only changed my view of how the government operates, but has made me realize that traffic engineering may be what I wish to pursue in my career.
Learning in my interview
The first time I learned something that surprised me about the Traffic Engineering department was during my interview, many months before I began working. I learned that there was an entirely separate crew in the back of the building whose job is to perform maintenance and construction on signal poles, roads, signs, etc. On the first day of my internship Traffic Engineering Director Dan Sanders took me on a tour of the building, and I was amazed by all the large trucks, signal heads, and signs in the back of the building.
Having a crew in the department allows for many different people with unique perspectives to work together, and use their diversity to find the best solution. Another benefit to having a crew is that fixing problems or carrying out projects is easier and more efficient because the department doesn’t have to contract other companies.
Great coworkers = great internship
Throughout my eight weeks interning, one thing that really stuck with me was that everyone in my department wanted me to have an enjoyable and interesting experience with them. My coworkers would go out of their way to make sure I was included in different site visits and meetings. They also took the time to teach me how to use the different software they used and brought me along out in the field. Doing things with them like going up in the bucket truck, helping out in the sign shop, setting down tube counters, and programming the traffic signal boxes really made my internship exceptional.
Making the most of the experience
Perhaps the most important lesson that stuck with me is not everything can be learned from school. Being able to intuitively know which solutions would be the best fit for certain problems comes with familiarity in the civil engineering field, which can only be attained over time. Additionally, certain soft skills such as communication and time management aren’t always well taught in school. Lastly, I realized that I shouldn’t obsess over my GPA like I have in the past, and I should focus on my education holistically. Learning outside of the classroom is just as important as learning in the classroom.
No matter what I choose to do with my career, I will remember my experiences with the Traffic Engineering department and the summer I interned for the City of Huntsville.