Advice from a Steel Refractory Engineer
Smith is a steel refractory engineer, which means that she helps to design and make replaceable parts that companies order for machines in their mills. These parts are used in the steel making process and are called pieces of refractory. In the steel making process, raw steel is heated in a furnace and then poured into a ladle, which looks like a large cauldron. The ladle is then moved across the factory floor, and poured into a tundish. Smith likened a tundish to a bathtub because it doesn’t move and all the steel eventually drains out the bottom. The steel is poured in controlled quantities from the bottom of the tundish into casting molds. The mechanisms used to control the flow of steel into the molds are examples of pieces of refractory that Smith has engineered.
Smith also talked about the qualities she feels interns and employees alike should possess. As a former intern and now an engineer who hires interns, she has advice that comes directly from experience:
- Be positive
- Be helpful to others
- Respond to all questions, emails, etc. even if you don’t know the answer. If you don’t know, Smith suggests that you be honest and say so, and then go find the answer.
- Give compliments to people for good work
- Own your mistakes. As Smith likes to tell her kids, “Own it, fix it.”
- Participate in meetings. If you’re bored, Smith says to take notes so that you stay engaged and focused.
- Ask for help
- Dress professionally. “Pick out things your mother would be glad you wore to work.”
- Resolve conflicts. “If you and another engineer aren’t speaking because of some personal conflict, and then you need her help, you’re stuck.”
- Respect others.
- Smith is currently looking to fill a modeling internship in her department for this summer. The position requires proficiency in programs such as Solidworks.
A final point from Smith: Go after your ideas. If there’s something you really want to work on, don’t let obstacles prevent you from trying. When Smith is asked to help out on a project, “I don’t say no,” she explained. “People ask me, do you have time? That’s not the right question. The right question is, what is it you want to do? Because no, nobody has time, but these things need to get done. “
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