Texas Trip

Every year, the Dow Finance Internship Program goes on a one and a half day trip to Freeport, Texas, the location of the largest chemical manufacturing facility in the Western Hemisphere. The trip is an incredibly intriguing and valuable experience. Not only was it amazing to see all the humongous Dow operations on the Gulf of Mexico but it was also great to get away to the scorching heat and beaches of Texas. As I sit back on the corporate shuttle flight back to Midland, Michigan, I can’t help but share the story of this incredible experience.

The trip began bright and early Tuesday morning. The Dow Shuttle from Midland to Freeport leaves at 6:00 am. This means getting up at 4:15am, getting ready, and traveling to the Dow Hangar at the local airport to be there at 5:20am. One of my favorite things about taking the Dow Shuttle for the trip was the convenience of arriving at the airport 40 minutes before the flight and that the airport is only 10 minutes away from work.

The two and a half hour flight down to Texas went by very quickly. The shuttle, which seats about 45 people, has plenty of leg room to stretch out and plenty of tray space to get work done during the flight. After eating breakfast on the plane, I was able to knock some things off of my to-do list. Given that I am not the most comfortable flyer in the world, I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth the flight was, making it go by even faster.

After arriving in Texas, we immediately boarded the bus that would be touring us all around the Freeport operations area for the day. After a short presentation that explained the enormity of the Freeport operations, we embarked on our first tour. The first tour of the day was a research and development center called Pack Studios where they work with customers to ensure that our product is meeting their packaging needs. I was surprised to learn that nearly every food item in my pantry and fridge could be made out of Dow materials. This tour was especially cool because we were able to walk around the warehouse with enormous, complex machines running all around us.

Our next tour of the day was of the Freeport marine terminal operations. This is where the ships dock from the Gulf of Mexico to either pick-up product produced in Freeport or to deliver inputs that the plants use in their processes. As we drove around and witnessed the humongous ships at port, we learned how important the operation is to moving our product around the globe.

Next, we engaged in a panel lunch in which we were able to ask questions of some members of the Texas Controllers group who do the cost accounting for the Texas operations. Even better yet, the authentic Tex-Mex food that was catered for lunch was delicious.

After learning more about the accounting aspect of the Texas operations, we headed back out on the road for a tour of the largest chemical plant in the area. It is hard to understand how massive these plants are until you get up close to them and see the massive structures that contain thousands of pipes. Seeing the plant itself was a great experience because it allowed me to understand where the product comes from and how complex the processes are.

We then had the special treat of seeing the emergency operations center at that plant and speaking with one of the emergency personnel on site. We were able to learn all about how they prepare for and overcome natural disasters and other major emergencies. This particular speaker really helped me understand how much emphasis the company puts on safety and emergency preparedness.

The next plant that we toured was one that is still under construction. Much like the rest of the operations we saw, I was amazed at the size and complexity of the facility. The coolest thing for me about this tour was seeing the control room of the facility where the processes of the plant are constantly monitored. We were able to learn more about what the product is at that plant and what different technologies are used to produce the product.

After touring the Freeport operations for the whole day, it was finally time to go out to the beach and have dinner on the pier. We drove about an hour along the gulf coast past hundreds of vacation homes on stilts to Galveston island. The island is home to beautiful beaches, piers, and other tourist attractions. We had dinner as a group at Bubba Gump’s shrimp on the Galveston pier and then ventured out onto the beach. The warm water and soft, sandy beaches reminded me of the beaches back home in Tampa. It was the perfect, relaxing ending to a long day of learning.

I am currently sitting on the Dow Shuttle on my way back to Midland, Michigan as I write this post. This trip to Texas has taught me a few things that I wasn’t very in touch with during the rest of my internship. First, I have learned the importance of understanding, even on a basic level, what the organization makes and how they make it. Second, it has taught me that working for a Fortune 50 company such as Dow is a great experience because the opportunities are endless both in geographic location and job type. Lastly, this trip has reminded me that a valuable internship experience is much more than working on projects throughout the summer. Making your internship valuable is also about networking with new people, seeing new things, and stepping out of your comfort zone by trying something completely new.

Networking

If you’ve ever taken a walk around Fisher or the career management office, you’ve probably heard plenty about the importance of networking. Chances are you have heard the adage that getting a job is “20 percent what you know and 80 percent who you know.” With all of this emphasis on the importance of networking, I was well aware of how it can be an important factor in getting your first job or internship. What I wasn’t as aware of is how valuable it is to develop a strong network within the workplace.

So what does it mean to develop a network within the organization that you work for? For me, it meant building professional relationships with people within your function in the organization (i.e. accounting) and those outside of your particular area of work. By developing a network within the organization that you are working for, you are building strategic relationships that will benefit your career. Intentionally interacting with people across your organization also allows you to learn more about the organization’s culture, understand the career paths of those around you, and to take away some guidance from others with more experience than yourself.

The Dow Finance Intern Program has assisted me in developing my network of Dow employees and leaders. Through our “speaker series” and “lunch with leaders” programs, I have had the opportunity to meet various leaders of the company that an intern would not typically have the opportunity to interact with. Also, various intern social events such as picnics and baseball games have allowed me to network with other new hires and intern supervisors. The easiest way to network within an organization is to take advantage of any networking opportunity that the organization or intern program organizes.

The other medium through which I have mainly networked within Dow is by setting up short one-on-one conversations or lunches with various individuals that may work in a function of the organization that I am interested in. While it is initially tough to reach out to someone that you have not met before to set up an introduction meeting, I always walk away feeling more knowledgeable and prepared for the future. Leveraging the network of your supervisor is a great way to be introduced or directed to people who may be beneficial to meet with. By taking the initiative to network during your internship or full-time job, you will learn more about the culture and opportunities of the organization as well as receive guidance and insight from the people of the organization.

8-5

My internship, like most accounting internships or full-time jobs, consists of being in the office from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. This typical 40-hour work week is very different from the average college student’s schedule. It takes some time to adjust yourself to this schedule both mentally and physically. Give it time and you’ll learn to love the lifestyle and learn a few tricks to make the most of the work day.

Working 8-5 has both its pros and cons. Let’s start with the pros: you’re done at 5, you have nothing to do on the weekends, your schedule is consistent and planned out ahead of time, and you don’t have to worry about work once you leave the office. The cons (which I find to be a simple annoyance): you have to get up bright and early every morning and staying focused for eight hours straight can be difficult. When I compare the 8-5 workday to my own college schedule, I find that I am usually busy 8 to midnight during school but have a lot of wasted time such as travelling between classes and napping. In the end, while the work week schedule may appear different than my college student schedule, both lifestyles keep my busy, occupied, engaged, and motivated.

In college I don’t drink coffee regularly. Since the beginning of my internship, I have learned to love coffee. Coffee gives me that boost to be motivated and productive throughout the work day. Drinking coffee has real benefits such as keeping you energized and focused. When I’ve got a tough day ahead of me, I know that coffee can help make a long eight hour work day feel short.

One of the reasons why an 8-5 workday can be tough is because there aren’t too many large breaks during the day. Your desk chair can get uncomfortable after just a few hours. Finding reasons to get up and walk around even if just for a couple of minutes helps to lessen the toll that the long day takes on you.

Given that Midland isn’t a large city, I am able to go home for lunch and still have plenty of time to eat before heading back. My tip is to try to get out of the office for lunch every once in a while. Getting away from the office for lunch helps to take your mind off of work and rejuvenate you in time for the second half of the work day.

Reflecting on my internship, I now realize that working 8-5 isn’t as bad as some will make it out to be. I believe the positive work-life balance far outweighs the few cons of the long work day. I’ve learned a few of the tricks above to help keep me focused and motivated throughout the day. When my mind is focused on the work in front of me, the days fly by.

Intern Program Opportunities

Many intern programs complement your standard project or group based work with formal intern events. These lunches, trainings, or activities contribute to your internship experience by immersing you in the company culture, developing you for the future, and connecting you with other interns, full-time employees, and leaders. The benefits of being involved in a formal intern program are copious. Dow’s finance internship program presents multiple intern events that have already positively impacted my experience at Dow.

About once a week, all of the Dow Finance interns get together for an “intern speaker series.” These speaker series bring in a different leader within the finance department to engage in a dialogue about their career, the company, and much more. These speaker series not only allow the interns to network with the leaders of the company but also to learn from their experience and knowledge. So far, we have had the opportunity to meet with the corporate controller, the corporate auditor, and a director of business finance. These speakers also allow the interns to understand what work goes on in the speaker’s group or department and what a career in that field may encompass. Out of all of the organized intern events, these speaker series or “lunches with leaders” have been the most impactful and beneficial for me.

Two weeks ago, the intern program had a training session on presentations and public speaking. This training was much different than the other intern program events because its focus was to develop our soft and technical skills. Formal training sessions show that the organization is dedicated to the development and progression of their interns. The training consisted of a discussion with an expert public speaking trainer and exercises to practice and improve our speaking skills. The training also gave the intern group more time to connect and build relationships with each other. At the end of the day, I was able to walk away with a set of public speaking tips, skills, and techniques that I will be able to use in my future roles.

The intern program culminates with a final presentation to peers and leaders of the company. These presentations allow each of the finance interns to explain the projects they worked on during the summer, the results of their projects, and what they learned during the summer to other interns, finance professionals, and leaders of the finance organization. This opportunity allows you to advertise yourself and your work to others in the company as well as to reflect on your experiences over the course of the summer.

Other formal events that have or will occur include a trip to tour Dow’s Texas operations in Freeport, Texas, a career fair of Dow Finance groups and departments, picnics, baseball games, and much more. The various events that take place inside and outside of work throughout the summer allow the interns to connect with each other, explore the city of Midland, and get a better understanding for the culture of the company and the city.

The point to take away from all of this is that every event, training, or dialogue is an opportunity to learn, develop, and network. Formal intern events are a great way to see the true culture of a company as well as to develop your skills. I would encourage you to consider the emphasis that an organization puts on developing its interns when you are going through recruiting. If the company sees you as the future of the organization, they will put the resources and opportunities forward for you to take advantage of!

My Internship Assignment

Most internship programs, or at least the ones that I interviewed for, would place you on a particular team or project that you would spend your summer working with. Just as you would be offered a job with a specific focus or subject, you are put into a group focusing on just one element. In some scenarios you may know the exact details of the position you are accepting for full-time jobs but many companies have rotational programs for full-time hires in which you wouldn’t know exactly what your first roll would be. Most intern recruiters will not know or tell you the exact details of what you will be doing during recruiting. While you understand that you will be working in one area of the business such as Accounting or Finance, you don’t know much more. This was my experience with Dow Chemical recruitment.

I received an email from my to-be supervisor just a few weeks before the start of my internship containing details on my internship assignment. This email detailed that I would be working in the external reporting group and explained a handful of different projects that I would be working on over the course of the summer. You aren’t really ever told exactly how they made the decision to place you within a specific group.

While all of this may seem mysterious, it is not a processes to be frightened of. At the end of the day, every different internship experience that the organization organizes is one that will be a valuable experience. If you make sure through the recruitment process that the organization values their interns, you can be confident that they’ll find the right experience for you.

Going into the summer, I knew very little about what external reporting did. The extent of my knowledge on external reporting was what was emailed to me a couple weeks before my internship started. Within the first two weeks of my internship, I learned an incredible amount about the tasks that the external reporting group undertakes. The point with this is that no matter what focus you are assigned to, you’re going to rapidly learn about that one subject and before you know it, you’ll be up to speed on how you can impact the group.

The external reporting group is tasked with preparing and filing various annual and quarterly reports with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). While these reports are the main focus of the group, numerous other documents are filed with the SEC when necessary. These documents are the primary medium of reporting the results of the company to stakeholders. They include the consolidated financial statements of the company, the footnotes to the financial statements, and management, discussion, and analysis, among many other sections. The external reporting group acts as a medium to compile and consolidate financial data regarding the performance of the company and then organizes and presents the data to the public.

So far I have enjoyed working with the external reporting group. It is a group that is staffed by accountants with many years of experience. I have had the opportunity to work on a handful of different projects and assignments which has widened my range of experiences. I’ve also had the opportunity to interact with various groups across the company such as investor relations. I whole-heartedly believe that I am contributing and providing value to the organization. By having a dynamic experience in which you are a valued, contributing member of the organization, you can make the most out of your internship.

There is also a lot that you can do to make sure that you are creating a valuable internship experience for yourself. By taking the initiative to introduce yourself to people outside of your particular group and by involving yourself in various different projects, you’ll gain more value from your experience. Your internship is what you make of it. Take that extra step to diversify your experiences!

The moral of the story is that in the end, while you may not have much discretion in choosing exactly what you’ll be working on during an internship, there are numerous ways to make sure that you have a positive internship experience. By being diligent in the recruitment process, selecting a company that shows commitment to the development of its interns, and by taking the initiative to diversify your experiences, you can make sure that your internship is positively impacting the organization and your personal development.