In my current internship at Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation (MITAC) in Moses Lake, Washington, I work as a safety intern for the Safety Management Office. This specific facility serves MITAC as our Flight Test Center where our M90 regional jet is pursuing type certification for regulators including the FAA, JCAB, and EASA. Prior to this opportunity, I had no exposure to a flight test organization and I have since learned the intricate balance of certification testing schedules, manufacturer modifications and maintenance, and the critical work of all our operations support teams.
Getting an Internship – Advice
For students seeking internships, I encourage you to be mindful of how you present yourself each day. Your professors are a valuable resource and often have decades of industry experience in the fields you’re entering, so seek help when you need it and strive to maintain good grades. Consider how you appear to your classmates, because you might be fellow interns together. In a few short years, many of your peers will become your industry colleagues. It was a single positive impression from another student that put me in the right place at the right time to meet the MITAC Director of Safety, Dr. Antonio Cortes.
Ask for help as frequently as it’s offered! Getting advice for things like resume crafting, business card design, professional attire, and interview tips will leave a positive impression on your mentors and make an impact when you’re considered against ten other candidates for one position.
Identifying and receiving the right internship for you is a tedious game of research and networking. This is perhaps the best advice I have ever received: “Whenever you walk into a room, identify the key players. Learn their backgrounds, projects, and aspirations before you meet them. Know the rules before you play their game.” When I attend professional events, I try to learn about the various attendees, keynote speakers, and other guests so that I can connect with them personally and learn more about their work than I would by using Google.
Intern Life – What to Expect
When I began my internship, I was quite timid and unsure that my new colleagues would be interested in hearing my thoughts and ideas. I was completely wrong about that and I quickly learned that internships are a learning experience for both the student and oftentimes the department too. The caveat to this idea is that every intern should be listening at least three times as much as we speak: you will not learn anything if you’re the one speaking.
To my knowledge, most flight test centers are located far from most of civilization and any Chick-Fil-A franchise. Specifically, Moses Lake in Washington State is a small town with about 20,000 residents and over 200 commercial and military aircraft at our small county airport. Your next internship could be in Los Angeles, California or McCook, Nebraska, but either way you should be prepared to deal with a bit of homesickness as an intern. On the weekends, I take advantage of the endearing community events like the farmer’s market and attend yoga classes in town. Some interns volunteer at the animal shelter on the weekends, since we miss our pets so dearly. My best friend in Moses Lake is a coworker of mine and we go shopping, bake treats for our team, and explore Washington during breaks from work. Thankfully, the community at the MITAC flight test center is a tight-knit family in which interns are welcomed!
I live approximately 2,500 miles and three time zones from my family and friends, but I speak with them every day when I leave work. I’ve also had lots of extra time to apply for scholarships and future internships. Before this opportunity, I had not been away from my family for longer than one month and in 2019, I went five consecutive months without seeing them.
While I miss my family, friends, and the mostly carefree university life, I would take this opportunity again in a heartbeat. There is no better career advancement tool than working in the industry and learning many different perspectives and philosophies to your line of work.
Cultural Internships – Advice
Approximately 50-70% of the employees at MITAC-America facilities are Japanese. I have found myself in many meetings as the only native English speaker and received real-time translations so that I could participate.
When I applied for this internship, I was slightly apprehensive of the multicultural atmosphere since I previously had no exposure to the Japanese culture. I am so pleased that I took this internship because working with my Japanese coworkers has been the best professional and personal development opportunity that I can imagine.
If you are joining a multicultural workplace, as an intern or a full-time employee, I recommend that you research and read about the many business and industry nuances that exist around the world. In Japan, the quality assurance and control aspect of production dominates all else, while in America, employees have much greater exposure to safety programs. Additionally, American businesses are accustomed to tight deadlines and schedule often prevails. In the Japanese culture, routine work is often halted to ensure that everything is correct, flawlessly produced, and perfectly detailed the first time. There is a wide rift between typical business culture in Japan and in America, but within MITAC, we are working to bridge that gap through patience, clear communication, and committed teamwork.
In my seven months working at MITAC, I may have only learned 15 Japanese phrases, but when I greet my co-workers or ask them simple questions in Japanese, they light up with the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen. Most of our Japanese employees are working to develop their English skills to a conversational or fluent level, but very few American colleagues have tried to learn Japanese. I’ve noticed an immense difference in my relationships when I began to try and meet them partway! Some of the friendships I’ve developed here are certain to be long-lasting, true bonds.