#LifeatStewart / Intern Spotlight: Olivia Parsons, Structural Engineering

April 23rd / 2021


Intern Spotlight: Olivia Parsons, Structural Engineering

We are committed to advancing the engineering profession by continually identifying and recruiting a wide range of skilled and diversely talented people. One of the fresh faces at Stewart is student intern Olivia Parsons who began her student internship in 2020. We were excited to connect with Olivia and talk about her background, her experience at Stewart, and what inspires her current career journey.

Can you share a bit about yourself and what inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

I’m from Raleigh and a senior at North Carolina State University and majoring in civil engineering with a focus in structural. It took me a while to decide what I wanted to do. However, growing up, I always enjoyed math and science. I knew that’s what I wanted to go into. My dad and brother are both engineers.

I ultimately decided to pursue civil engineering because of the variety of focuses it includes. Taking other classes, such as transportation and geotechnical, helped me figure out that the structural classes were my favorite. It was the best place for me.

What was it about structural that stood out to you?

It was the content, if that makes sense. I enjoy the math, and the equations made sense to me. I liked the concepts and the idea that my job could be something where I could work on projects and then see the final result. It excites me that the projects I will work on will have a real impact on people.

What are you enjoying most about your internship?

My favorite thing is how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time. I’ve learned something new with every single project in which I helped.  My teammates are all very supportive in making sure that I’m exposed to new things and learning new concepts that I haven’t been introduced to in college while also going in-depth with ideas that I learned in school.

Stewart emphasizes teamwork and sharing ideas. My team meets every morning and talks about project updates, progress made, or any issues that they run into. The teamwork aspect is huge.

How have your teammates helped you grow?

Everyone is super willing to assist in my training in any way they can. They make themselves super available anytime I have questions. Everyone is ready to take time out of their day to train me on a new computer program or a new concept. I appreciate that, especially while knowing everyone has project deadlines to meet. Many teammates have gone out of their way to talk to me and make sure that I’m getting the most out of my internship and getting a chance to work on various projects. They asked me specifically if there is anything that I haven’t worked on that I’m interested in, which I really appreciate. So awesome!

How have you contributed to the team since you’ve been a student intern?

I’ve contributed by being open to new and challenging opportunities and being flexible, helping in any way that I can. I tend to pick up some of the simpler tasks, which has helped me learn. Playing that supporting role allows my teammates to focus on more complicated tasks.

As somebody still in school and completely new to the field and having a lot to learn, for my own benefit, I ask questions that more experienced engineers might think are rather basic. But having that fresh perspective provides opportunities to look at things in different ways.

How has your internship influenced or impacted the direction in which you hope to take your career?

This internship has solidified my decision to go into structural engineering. This experience has been positively rewarding. Working on projects that have a significant impact encourages me to pursue this career.

What are three words you would use to describe Stewart’s culture?

Collaborative. Stewart emphasizes teamwork and sharing ideas. My team meets every morning and talks about project updates, progress made, or any issues that they run into. Outside of team meetings, I regularly talk to my teammates and go over questions or thoughts about various projects. The teamwork aspect is huge.

Welcoming. Even though my internship is remote, and I hardly knew everyone initially, everyone is very welcoming. Everyone is happy and excited to be here. Everyone’s perspectives and ideas are welcome. I see that diversity of thought is something Stewart strongly values.

Engaging. Again, everyone is excited to be here, enjoys the work they do, and wants to put their best foot forward. The projects we work on have a significant impact. I see this is something that everyone understands and values, ensuring the work is high quality.

This internship has solidified my decision to go into structural engineering. This experience has been positively rewarding. Working on projects that have a significant impact encourages me to pursue this career.

Is there anything about working in structural engineering that has surprised you?

I was amazed by how much there is to learn. Through participating in our team meetings and training lectures, I’ve noticed that even my teammates have questions, and they are learning new things too—whether they’ve been here for five years or over 10 years!

What’s been most challenging about doing an internship during a pandemic, and how have you overcome those challenges?

Working remotely is something completely new and challenging. For example, learning a new computer program over a screen share adds another level of difficulty. Being remote steepens the learning curve, whereas, in person, you would most likely pop your head over someone’s desk and ask, “Hey, what’s this?”

Being online adds a few extra steps to the process when you have questions. You have to be more intentional about asking questions. That’s something I think I hesitated with at the beginning. When I felt like I had a simple question, instead of figuring it out myself, I quickly found that it was much easier to ask someone, mainly because everyone is willing to help. I think it’s important to be intentional, flexible, and understanding that no one planned for [the pandemic], but we need to make the most of [the circumstances].

Who is your role model? Who inspires you?

I first thought of Christina Koch who is a North Carolina State University graduate and a NASA astronaut. She participated in the first all-female spacewalk and has a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. I admire the attention she brings to the lack of representation in a male-dominated field. Having women’s voices in all fields­—especially STEM—is super important. I believe she’s inspired many young girls and women.

What do you do for fun when you’re not interning?

I try to spend a lot of time outdoors. My friends and I play disc golf or beach volleyball—anytime we have a nice afternoon.

My family lives nearby, so I’ll often meet up with my mom and her two dogs. I’ve been thinking about getting a dog for myself as a graduation gift, so I spend a lot of time looking online at dogs that are available for adoption.

Also, this year I’m reading more. I’m trying to read 21 books before 2021 is over. I just finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, which I highly recommend!

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