What was the interview process like?
I spoke with a representative for Hunter at the Missouri S&T career fair and handed him my resume. I was called by Pat Hutsler in the days following to schedule an interview. Upon arrival at Hunter on the day of my interview, I met Pat and was escorted to a room where I took a short mental alertness exam. I filled out a job application and finished some paperwork. Afterwards, Pat interviewed me, followed by Dave, my soon-to-be boss.
The total process took a little over two hours. The interviews were very casual and low-stress, and centric on past personal endeavors and interests. Both interviewers were very open to questions, although you aren't allowed to see much of the company until you sign a confidentiality agreement upon hire.
What did you do?
The highlight of my co-op was a circuit board I designed, which was used in production hardware for Hunter. The board contains a small programmable microcontroller circuit that controls output for the device in which it is installed. A lot of work and research went into this project; it was my first experience with the design process, and my lack of experience with microcontrollers combined with an abbreviated time frame required me to teach myself quickly on the job.
I worked on many different projects over the duration of my co-op. The majority of my tasks were short-term, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a week or two. However, when not completing other tasks, I had a main ongoing project in the field of computer vision. I picked up the project from a previous co-op at the research level and developed several different vision detection methods. At the time of passing on the project, the method I had been developing was working well.
Would you do it again?
If time permitted and I was willing to delay my degree advancement another semester, I would certainly do it again. The on-job knowledge gained from a co-op is worth a thousand classroom lectures.
What did you like?
During the interview process, Dave mentioned how a current co-op had just designed production hardware for the company. I was thrilled when I found out I had the opportunity to do the same thing. I had a fantastic experience because Hunter doesn't just use its engineering co-ops as manual labor or dirty workers, they actually want you to be able to contribute to the company.
I encountered challenging projects, but never felt like I couldn't ask for help. Everybody I met was very accommodating and knowledgeable. Somebody would be happy to steer me in the right direction if I was stuck, even if it was just to introduce me to another employee.
Above all, I really enjoyed the professionalism and quality standard Hunter strives for. There's something very rewarding about working for a company that makes literally the best products in the world.
What did you not like?
The start/end times are fixed, leaving no ability to come early or stay late to make up hours. As long as you give sufficient notice, however, there usually isn't an issue with having to leave early or take a day off. The 45 minutes allotted for lunch were barely enough unless you ate at your desk, and were also at a fixed time.
I was very overwhelmed at the beginning. There wasn't much of an introduction to my new projects or work routine, which made me feel incompetent and clueless for a week or two. Although the trial by fire was beneficial and taught me to ask questions, I would have liked to have had an existing co-op as a mentor for a few days.
Did you learn anything?
I learned an immense amount while I worked at Hunter. I was introduced to the wild world of computer vision. I gained a lot of insight into the "team" structure of software engineering and how everybody works together to create a product in builds. I learned how microcontrollers work, how to read their huge datasheets, and the proper way to write code for one. I experienced the entirety of the product design process, from idea selection to production and documentation. I was taught valuable electrical engineering standards that were never even mentioned in my classes.
Much of what I learned dealt with being a full-time employee for a company. I've had plenty of other jobs in the past, but nothing compared to what I experienced at an actual engineering firm. Rather than just working alongside others, I worked with them. I began to see what it's like to be a full-time engineer, and the experience reaffirmed my career path choice.
Did the experience help you in your career?
Although I'm still in school, Hunter has proved to be an amazing opportunity that will benefit me in my future career. I've gained valuable experience with many elements of the workplace environment, such as using my resources and correspondence by e-mail. Above all, I've established relationships with many people that have given me important advice for my career and my studies.
Did it help you in any job interviews?
While things like GPA and classes taken will help land an interview, what really matters in the interview is experience. From designing hardware to building my programming background, I've gained enough engineering experience at Hunter to help in any job interview in my future.
What was the dress code?
Business casual and collared button-down shirt and slacks. No tie due to working around large equipment. I envied the ME co-ops getting to wear t-shirts and jeans, but that quickly changed after seeing them covered in aluminum shavings and grease!
Was the work more individual or group work and how does it compare with what
you are doing today?
The majority of my work was individual. Some projects would have been easier to complete as a group, but the free reign given to us for our work allowed me to seek help whenever needed.
What are the pros/cons of working in Saint Louis? (Maybe compare it to where you
Hunter is located ideally, in my opinion: close enough to the city to have anything I may need, but far enough away to avoid "city living" and (most) traffic. The resources available here are much, much more expansive than Rolla or any other small town. A downside to St. Louis in general is the people: I've found many St. Louis-ians to be generally unpleasant. It feels like an East coast city in the Midwest.
What were your living arrangements during co-op?
I shared an apartment in Maryland Heights with a ME co-op from Hunter. The location was perfect; I was only ten or fifteen minutes from work, and I never had to deal with traffic on the major interstates. I was given an additional $250/month for relocating.
How was the supervision?
Dave was a great supervisor. Although he's very busy, he was always able to take time to help, give advice, and keep up with my current work. He understands if you're having trouble with a project, and only asks that you keep after it and make continuous progress. The co-ops use an Outlook task list to keep track of their work, which not only keeps everybody updated, but allowed me to go back and find something I needed from a previous date.
Anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself?
Being interested in cars, working at Hunter was enlightening in ways I never expected. Seeing how much shops charge for an alignment with inferior equipment astounds me now. My knowledge of camber, caster, and toe was pretty fuzzy until meeting the QA guys. I was able to use professional electrical prototyping equipment, learned how to surface mount solder, and made custom cables. Even my mechanical knowledge was improved by helping my roommate in the model shop.
I learned more in the past eight months than I did in my first two years in college. I believe every engineering student should pursue a co-op before graduation. After attending school for the majority of your life, it's refreshing to not only gain knowledge, but be able to apply it as well.