I had the wonderful opportunity to intern with Harley-Davidson from January 2016 through July 2016. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Not only have I had the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to a true engineering application, but I have also had valuable time to learn more about a field in which I’m interested. It all started with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) National conference in October 2015.
After numerous revisions of my résumé with the UNT Career Center and participating in professional workshops with my local SWE chapter (UNT SWE), I felt prepared to head to Nashville for the conference. Upon arriving, I was surrounded by many women who shared my passions as well as many great networking opportunities, which is how I came in contact with Harley. I was immediately drawn to this company, because of my budding passion for motorcycles. At the Harley-Davidson career fair booth, I was able to talk and interview with a few engineers, and before I knew it I was contracted to intern with them at the Product Development Center (PDC) in Milwaukee the next semester in a design engineering role.
I arrived in mid-January, where I stepped off of the plane into a blissful seven-degrees-below-zero Wisconsin winter night. On my first day, I arrived at the PDC half an hour early, equally nervous and excited. Immediately, I was thrown into a fast-paced atmosphere where people were talking about ECN’s, CAD, GDN&T, and a million other acronyms that felt like another language. It was quite daunting at first and it took a little while for me to learn them all. Coming from engineering school, I felt like I could handle anything; however, I quickly came to the realization that I knew very little and had a lot of learning to do. Throughout my first few months, I studied the ins and outs of Harley’s CAD software, optimization software, design processes, and manufacturing processes. I even got to visit a manufacturing/assembly facility in York, Pennsylvania, which really helped me understand the different ways in which parts are made and assembled. Also while in York, I was able to experience supplier interaction firsthand when we visited Syncreon. Upon returning to Milwaukee, it was time to make my first part. It was an iterative process which started with designing the part in CAD. Next came working with stylists on the look, using optimization software to obtain the best load paths, lots of calculations and making sure it was still able to be manufactured. Once I thought I had a good part, it had to be presented to the leadership team to be approved. When the prototype part was complete virtually, it was time to be sent to the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) machine, which uses lasers and nylon powder to rapidly create a part. It could sometimes be tedious, but was totally worth it when you could point to a part and say, “I made that!” Throughout the time I was there, I was tasked with making various motorcycle parts, contributing to critical vehicle decisions, and even participated in sustainability research.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity I had to expand my engineering knowledge at Harley-Davidson, which undoubtedly set a good foundation for my career. I am also proud to say, that I am now a legal class M motorcyclist – the roads better watch out for me! Lastly, I am the most thankful for the friends and co-workers that made my adventure to Milwaukee unforgettable.