Like Mike

GE is being overrun by engineers named Mike.

I found it amusing, and I was actually quite grateful, on my first day this summer when I discovered that half of my group is named Mike. I’m terrible at matching names to faces, so this situation has made my odds of getting people’s names right way better than usual. In my mind, I declare people either “Mike,” or “Not Mike,” with startling accuracy. It’s gotten to the point where now, I have a hard time remembering female engineers’ names (which used to be so easy, since there are so few of us), but when I’m introduced to a male engineer, more often than not, his name is Mike. Just today I met a new Mike. Last week I got to check out some hardware on the shop floor with another Mike (who I refer to as “Design Mike” in order to differentiate him from “Manager Mike,” “Old Mike,” “Young Mike,” “Banana Mike,” and “Last Summer Mike”).

This morning, I was sitting in on a meeting with Young Mike, and I happened to glance up at the wall of the conference room at one point to see Prof. Williams watching me from within a picture frame.  Prof. “Not Mike” Williams is a bit of a legend in the materials department at GE – as soon as someone hears I’m from Ohio State, they gush with (well-deserved) praise for him and usually a fair amount of ribbing. He used to be a GM there, and from what I gather, he was pretty well liked!

Last Friday, when Design Mike invited me along for a meeting and side-trip to see some disassembled engines on the shop floor, I’m afraid I may have leapt to my feet before he could even get the words “shop floor” out. (Any invitation away from estimating volume fraction via grid-counting would have probably elicited the same response.) I got to see an assembled section of an engine for which I’ve been doing some work on much smaller parts, which is always cool. Plus, I love the shop floor. Love it, love it, love it.

I find it awkward during these internships, however, to find a good balance between working on things with which one is familiar and learning about something completely new and sometimes beyond the scope of one’s base knowledge. Last summer, I’d asked Last Summer Mike to go a bit more in depth on a project I’d been working on for him. He prefaced his explanation with the disclaimer, “Where would you like me to start? I don’t want to talk down to you…” to which I replied, “I don’t mind if you talk down to me. I don’t know anything, so I’m okay with that.” He laughed. I think it’s good to enter into a learning experience like these internships with one’s pride tucked away from time to time. I won’t be insulted if people have to spell some things out for me in basic terms, because I know that the reason I returned to GE is because I have so much to learn.

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About Caitlin
I'm a senior Materials Science & Engineering student at The Ohio State University.

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