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George Mason University electrical and computing engineering (ECE) student Yousif Abdulhadi didn’t think talking about soccer would be anything but that.
But it built a rapport with his ECE professor Rodrigo Gomez, and led to something much bigger.
“We started to talk about soccer which later turned into conversations about our past,” Abdulhadi said. “Then, Professor Gomez emailed me about an internship opportunity at OneWeb. I think him getting to know me helped.”
Along with ECE student Finn Brennan, the two freshman students were selected for a summer internship at OneWeb Technologies in McLean, Virginia.
The internship was a pilot program that Gomez, who is chief architect at OneWeb Technologies, was figuring out. He offered the internship opportunity to a good pool of students that could bring their fresh ideas and perspectives to the table. During the internship, Abdulhadi and Brennan worked on coding, basic engineering assignments, and other tasks related to the company’s work on the low earth orbit constellation of satellites in space.
Brennan was thrilled to also get an email from Gomez, about interning at OneWeb. He was also a little anxious, and although he didn’t know Abdulhadi, the two were friends by the time the internship concluded.
“I just didn’t know what to expect going in, or what would be expected of me, so it’s fear of the unknown,” Brennan said. “But everyone was amazing. We were given legitimate engineering tasks to work on, and were welcomed from day one. I felt our experience was appreciated.”
Abdulhadi enjoyed taking ownership of a coding task that needed his expertise, as it was exactly what he had been studying and he was able to bring the latest advancements to the job at hand.
“They let me handle it,” Abdulhadi said.
Both students liked the autonomy that came from being in the OneWeb office, where they didn’t have to worry about classroom assignment deadlines.
They both said that students should get to know their professors. It can open doors and it’s never too soon to start the process.
“The connections matter. Let your professors know who you are, and spend a little time outside of class getting to know them too,” Brennan said.
Being new to any environment can be challenging, and Gomez advises new interns that listening is one of the best things they can do.
“Listening more doesn’t mean underestimating your skills,” Gomez said. “Absorb interactions between other professionals, how staff interacts with management. Listening and observing goes a long way beyond the pure technical task.”