Christina Paoletti knew from a young age that she wanted to build. She spent much of her time in her dad’s wood and machine shop building model airplanes and a dollhouse.
After she graduated from Issaquah High School, her desire to build brought Paoletti to Washington State University.
Through the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture’s Professional Practice and Experiential Learning (ProPEL) program, Paoletti, now a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, gained a chance to begin building her career.
ProPEL provides career-planning services to help students with their career goals. It also links qualified students with employers to fill engineering positions through interviews, networking events, technical career fairs, information sessions, and job postings.
As a junior, Paoletti began working for ProPEL as a peer mentor, helping students during career workshops with their resumes and interview skills.
“I found that the most important part of getting an internship is to meet people in person,” she said. “Talking to recruiters and getting your name out there is so important.”
Paoletti benefited from the program with her first internship in the summer of 2018, working as a design engineer and stress analyst intern at The Boeing Company. There, she got the chance to return to a childhood hobby – she was a part of a team that applied structural modifications and upgrades to Boeing aircraft.
This past summer, she had another internship opportunity, working as a mechanical engineer intern on the devices team with Microsoft. Part of her job included going to China with Microsoft’s manufacturing team for a week and building a radiant camera imaging platform with an intern from M.I.T. The camera was used to study the interaction of electromagnetic radiation on Microsoft Surface screens.
“I feel like I learned a lot,” Paoletti said. “It’s cool now to be a part of creating something that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible.”
Microsoft offered her a full-time position after she graduates this spring.
In addition to her internship experience, Paoletti said she has gained valuable experience through her participation in student clubs, including the Humanitarian Engineers at Washington State, Society of Women Engineers, and WSU’s Aerospace Club.
“Getting hands-on experience is really important,” she said. “College is the best time to try out multiple and different opportunities, and joining clubs where we actually got to build and design has been huge for me.”
University services like ProPEL are helpful for students looking to get jobs in an increasingly competitive field, said Paoletti. Recruiters and companies often visit ProPEL to meet students and potential hires.
“Most students are involved in school and taking part in activities and clubs, but ProPEL helps you write and showcase it to get a job,” she said.