Meyer (second from right) spent fall quarter at Disneyland’s industrial engineering department.
Mechanical engineering junior John Culliton and industrial engineering junior Alex Meyer both took fall quarter off to pursue jobs that benefited their education outside the classroom.
Culliton worked for Polaris Industries, North America’s largest off-road vehicle manufacturer based in Medina, Minn. Culliton’s childhood in Minnesota and love of cars fueled his desire to work for Polaris.
“I heard about it by growing up in the area,” Culliton said. “I’ve always kind of been passionate about cars and vehicles and off-road vehicles. Then I also knew someone who was in the company; I wouldn’t call it very extreme networking but it was just kind of a face that I knew, which was nice.”
Culliton’s co-op lasted from June to December. The lengthened experience was one of the aspects that made the co-op so worthwhile, he said.
“What I really liked about it is standard training for an engineering job — or any job, really — is two to three months,” Culliton said. “So if you’re doing a three-month internship in the summer, you only really get knee-deep in it because they can’t really fully train you and then really put you to work.”
Following the training stages, Culliton was given responsibilities and duties that fit his interests and knowledge.
“I was a power train development engineer,” he said. “So what I did basically was test and tune engines, though I did some emissions work and various development. Basically, I would go ride vehicles and hook my computer up to them. I worked on that computer and tuning it.”
Culliton credits much of his knowledge and skill to his experience in Cal Poly’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). SAE builds three different cars throughout the year: gas, electric and off-road.
“The experience I got through that really did set me up for the job I had,” Culliton said. “We really built race cars with our bare hands at Cal Poly, which is fun and was a great experience. That combined with some of the classes I have taken made me as qualified as I could have been finishing up my second year in college.”
Culliton was also put in charge of certain aspects of the engine and then held frequent meetings in which he would present and share data to groups of 15 to 20 professional engineers. While he said this was one of the hardest aspects of his job, he also said it was one of the more rewarding.
All of the technical work and experience intensified his interest in cars and confirmed his love for driving; he spent much of his time driving on the more than 700 acres of Polaris property.
“The riding was absolutely my favorite part; I got to do what approached hundreds of hours of riding,” Culliton said. “They bought me a bunch of riding gear. They paid for me to get my motorcycle license. They put me through about 20 hours of off-road and snowmobile classes.”
Culliton believes having tangible skills and experience is appealing to employers in the competitive job market. He already has plans to go back to Polaris next summer.
Meyer also spent this past fall quarter away from Cal Poly
Meyer worked at the “happiest place on Earth” — Disneyland — in its industrial engineering department.
“It’s pretty cool because Disney is one of the few companies that actually has an industrial engineering department,” Meyer said. “So basically what we do is we focus on efficiencies within different processes. I personally supported food and beverage.”
Disney offers two forms of internships: collegiate and professional. Most students receive collegiate internships, but Meyer was able to go straight into a professional internship.
Meyer spent his days doing various tests and tasks, from working behind the scenes and gathering data to strolling around the park answering questions or receiving complaints.
“I guess the hardest part would be when someone comes up to you with a complaint in the park and you don’t know what to do,” Meyer said. “But I guess I learned a lot with how to have great customer service.”
Along with gaining a good feel for customer service, Meyer was able to work on projects that used his skills to collect and analyze statistical data, such as his work with opening a new Starbucks in the park.
“There’s a Starbucks that opened up on Main Street while I was there on Sept. 26, and my internship started Sep. 10, so I got to be part of the opening team and then I got to help them with their big operational assessment two months later,” Meyer said.
Meyer was thrilled to be a part of this project and work with two of the largest companies in the world: Disney and Starbucks.
Meyer first found the job opportunity through MustangJOBS as well as in an email from the industrial engineering department. Meyer applied and was interviewed on campus after a couple of days. After he started, Meyer felt well prepared for the tasks he was given.
“I never felt like I didn’t know what I was doing,” Meyer said. “Everyone is super welcoming and you just have to know it’s OK to ask questions and they don’t expect you to know everything.”
Meyer plans to go back to Disney this summer to work again.
Both Culliton and Meyer believe their work experience has helped solidify their career desires.
Additionally, both said putting yourself out there and going for opportunities is the best action to take when thinking about getting an internship or job.
“Get your hands dirty,” Culliton said. “There is a lot of channels here that can lead you to a successful career.”
Likewise, Meyer believes in stepping out and braving the risk.
“Honestly, just apply, even if you think there is no way, because looking back, I still cannot even believe that whole quarter that I was there even happened,” Meyer said.