An Intern for Five Weeks = A New Understanding of Design Engineering and Marketing Professional Services

Reid Middleton is an engineering firm that specializes in civil and structural engineering for commercial sites, high-profile sites, personal sites, and even tree sites! They design the built and natural environment to meet the needs of the surrounding community.

Before coming to Reid Middleton I somewhat understood the job of an engineer. My very broad idea was that they designed the “bones” of the project. It turns out I was right to a degree, except it cannot be summed up so simply.  Civil and structural engineers design the built environment to promote soundness of structures and the surrounding physical components, such as environmental systems. There are six different engineering groups within Reid Middleton: civil, structural, airport, waterfront, surface transportation, and survey. All of these different concentrations follow a similar process involving Requests for Qualifications, Requests for Proposals, contracts, cost estimates, finalizing design, meetings, and much more.

Something I now find humorous is that when I first got here, I discovered the Surface Transportation group has a significant roundabout practice, and my initial thought was, “How hard can that be?” I now understand just how naïve I was. Roundabouts are great additions to roadways, offering a structured and organized method of navigating intersections. Well, only organized if designed correctly, which, as it turns out, is not easy at all. Reid Middleton even offers classes to transportation specialists on that exact topic! With a touch of irony, I was lucky enough to accompany a project manager and two project designers to Skagit County, Washington, for a site visit to the  Pioneer Highway/Fir Island Roundabout that was under construction. This experience further knocked down my preconceptions of roundabouts.

The construction site, I learned, is where engineering genius grows into reality. On our site visit, the weather was beautiful, the concrete was mixing, and the company was delightful. I mean, I was surrounded by brilliant minds who were watching their hard work evolve. They shared their thoughts on the site, their excitement over the design being so effective, their pleasure at how beautiful the concrete turned out, and they even got a compliment from the head contractor praising their design layout. Needless to say, I got to experience a successful project, partnership, and collaboration.

As familiar as I became with the world of engineering, my internship actually took place in the marketing department. My internship with this group was an experience unlike any I could have imagined. In fact, I expected my tasks would include coffee orders, phone answering, maybe filing. Instead, this group treated me like one of the team, bounced ideas off of me, taught me office protocols, and truly gave me an educational experience.

Some of my tasks included social media management, creating project descriptions, editing important documents, working with Adobe InDesign, editing a professional association’s quarterly newsletter sent out to approximately 500 people, and ghostwriting. I have to say, I was most surprised at how involved Reid Middleton is with social media. The first few tasks I did were with the blog, social media posts, and researching advances in the “SoMe” scene. I saw how important self-marketing is and gained an understanding of what language to use when marketing for a professional services company.

Every task presented me with a new experience and skill set, but the biggest benefit came from engaging with the engineers and fellow marketers. Editing a document and then showing those documents to an engineer is nothing short of nerve-wracking, but I did it all the same. I also had to speak with an engineer about a ghostwriting process that involved researching an unknown topic, a Q & A session, writing a first draft, consulting again with the engineer, and fixing all edits. These examples are just a few that showed me how to interact in a professional setting.

This experience has challenged me and given me important lessons for my future career. Overall, I learned a lot and met really intelligent interesting people.  I’ll leave you with a few of the results from the “Get to Know Us Scavenger Hunt,” the Marketing staff sent me on. See how many people you can correctly match with the facts.

Answer Key: 1. C, 2. E., 3. A, 4. B, 5. D

About Our Author: Nadia Zeineddine is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  She will be graduating with a Bachelors in English and Minor in Technical Writing at the end of the summer.  Nadia is currently an intern for Coal Ash Chronicles, an environmental group based in Charlotte, North Carolina.