Welcome back to another installment of Where are They Now, a SciTech blog series featuring interviews with SciTech intern alumni. These workforce champions have completed their internships, graduated college and are now working full-time in their field in Minnesota.
After successfully maneuvering the job landscape, Mechanical Engineer Dakshina Jayakody secured a position at Mereen-Johnson LLC in Minneapolis. Jayakody graciously agreed to to share his story and talk about the experiences and influences that lead him to this point in his professional career
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Let’s start by learning more about you. You graduated from St. Cloud State, yes? What did you study there?
Jayakody: My initial plan was to major in Mechanical Engineering, but it changed into a dual major in Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering in my junior year. I found out that I could get a Manufacturing Engineering degree as well, if I did one extra semester, which I ended up doing.
Apart from engineering, what else interests you?
Jayakody: Some of my interests would be reading, video gaming, and working out. It’s the best way to de-stress after a long day.
In 2017 you interned with Safety Speed Manufacturing in Ham Lake, Minnesota. What were some of your responsibilities there? What projects did you work on?
Jayakody: I worked on two main projects during my time at Safety Speed Manufacturing. One was to redesign an existing machine to lower costs and improve efficiency. The other was to work on prototype machinery, for which I had to travel to test sites for readings and data collection. I also updated their CAD library of parts and drawings for new and existing company machinery and equipment. The best part of the internship would be when I worked on their CNC machines creating my own parts to test my prototypes.
What influence did your internship have on your career?
Jayakody: It was my first internship that really influenced me to be where I am right now. I was able to help design a new machine for the company, and seeing it come alive gave me great joy. Now that I have learned more through my classes, I want to apply them in the industrial field and gain more experience to move forward in my career.
Tell me about your current position. Where do you work and what are your responsibilities there?
Jayakody: I work as a full-time Mechanical Engineer now at Mereen-Johnson LLC. MJ manufactures custom machinery such as ripsaws, tenoners, door sizers, sanders etc. Due to the unique specification of each customer there are modifications required which comes with calculations and re-engineering. Sometimes the modifications are simple whereas sometimes it could mean designing a brand-new machine. Once a design is released into production we are required to go to the plant and check the status of the machinery once assembled, before shipping it to the customer.
What would you say is your greatest takeaway, from your internship experience to where you are now?
Jayakody: My SciTech internships helped a lot. They gave me an idea of the work I would have to do and how my college classes could be applied in the real world. I also learned a lot about the standards and terminology used in the industry.
If you could offer advice to prospective interns eager to work in your industry, what would you tell them?
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but always do at least a cursory internet search first. Don’t just ask someone something without trying to have a go at it yourself. It shows initiative and that you’re someone who can learn on their own.
- Always be polite – even more polite than your other coworkers are to each other. If its an internship, you are there for a short while, so try to leave a good image of yourself. You might even get offered a full-time position from your internship. If not, you would still have a good reference.
- Try to build your resume with work experience. Having a good GPA is good, but you won’t get far without work experience. It’s difficult to get work experience when you are a student, so keep applying for internships or co-ops while you are at school. Be part of labs and projects related to engineering, those count towards experience too.
- This is a no-brainer, but don’t try to cheat your way into an engineering career. You could end up hurting people due to inadequate design or an error in a calculation you did because you didn’t know how to actually do it.
About Where are They Now:
For more success stories in the Where are They Now series, check out Web Developer Annie Tran, who went straight from graduation to being employed full-time at the same company where she completed her SciTech internship.
And Research Technician Danny Pavek, a SciTech intern turned full-time employee at the Hunt Utilities Group in Pine River.
The 2018-2019 program year is underway! Interested companies, employers and students curious to learn more about the SciTech Internship Program can check out SciTechmn.org and apply online. There’s no fee, and applying is easy.