Giuse Pham Northrop Grumman
I decided to take a leap of faith to work in an industry I am interested in to gain a lot of experience that I would not get in school.

Name:  Giuse Pham
Major:  Mechanical Engineering
Employer:  Northrop Grumman
Location:  Chandler, AZ & Dulles, VA

How did you find the internship/co-op? What was the interview process like?  During my junior year, I found this internship through the Northrop Grumman Co-op Information Session that UMD Engineering Career Services hosted. Shortly after the information session, I was invited to interview for a co-op position in Chandler, AZ with a UMD alum who wanted to get some Engineering Terps out there. The interview was straightforward and conversational, mostly going through the different experiences listed on my resume. What helped out a lot was the chance to ask questions about my interviewer’s experience with Northrop Grumman and why he chose to work all the way out in Arizona.

After my co-op experience ended, I continued working remotely part-time through my next academic year. During that time, I remember a facility tour from the Gilbert, AZ Northrop Grumman location, and the tour guide said not to hesitate to contact him if interested in transferring divisions. I ended up reaching out to him while working remotely to express my interest in transferring to Dulles, VA, and he referred me to their Integration & Testing facility. The interview process was easy because I was an internal transfer, and it was mostly learning about what this facility does and getting to know the hiring team. I had two more competing interviews for different positions. One was in Systems Engineering at Dulles, VA (the interview was about my resume and behavioral questions), and the other was for Electronics Packaging in Baltimore, MD (the interview involved talking about the position and getting to know the hiring management team).

What have been the most interesting aspects of your internship?   While in Arizona, I was a part of their Launch Vehicles Division working on their upcoming missile defense system. The program was in its early development phase, so a lot of the work was CAD modeling and design analysis. What is unique about the co-op program is that it spans over 7-8 months, so you really get to see the progress you make on a task that spans over multiple weeks or even months.

In Virginia, I transferred to their Tactical Space Systems Division. My role was more on the other end of the product development process, where a lot of my work dealt with the final production and testing phases of satellite systems. Even though my time in this position was shorter, I got a lot out of it by familiarizing myself with their manufacturing order processes and working with ground support equipment. I interned at the right time because a group of friends and I went to go see the final Antares launch in Wallops Island, VA!

What types of skills did the job require? What new skills did you gain (i.e. software, interpersonal, communication, etc.)?  The co-op requires extensive knowledge of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), structural analysis, some understanding of dynamics, Excel, writing, research, and CAD. I learned a lot about GD&T and how to use NX, one of Northrop Grumman’s standard software for CAD work. I also learned a lot about navigating through the company site for resources and using their system (Teamcenter, drawing/analysis release, mechanical engineering design standards, etc.).

The internship at the Dulles site required skills in handling hardware (fasteners, nuts, washers), working with ground support equipment (dollys, test fixtures), and for my specific project, the fundamentals of fluid dynamics. One of my tasks was looking into replacing a flowmeter device that they currently use, so I had to apply Bernoulli’s equations and gas laws to analyze and experiment with different flowmeter devices. I also learned how to create models on Creo Parametric for 3D-printed box templates.

In both experiences, I found it valuable to have the chance to build communication and public speaking skills through our end-of-program presentations to showcase all of the work that I had done

What campus activities or courses do you think helped you, or would have helped you, with this internship?  My experience with the mechanical engineering CAD courses helped me in my first internship. The software we worked with is Siemens NX, a new software for me to learn on the job. Having experience with SolidWorks and Autodesk Inventor helped make the learning process easier. I also performed structural analysis on the job on a component that would be mounted on the rocket, so courses like ENES 102, ENES 220, and ENME 400 (not taken before the co-op) are very useful. I conducted tolerance analyses for various mounted components, too, and learning it in ENME 371 would have been helpful for the fundamentals of tolerance analysis.

Terps Racing and ENME 371 helped a lot with the Virginia internship because of the hands-on experience with hardware and following the product development process for manufacturing satellites. The product development process follows what was taught in school, especially regarding how manufacturing orders are used and what to do when there are concerns with the design and manufactured components.

Was there a formal program for all interns at the company? Was peer support available throughout the internship?  Yes, there was a formal program for all the interns at the company. The co-op program had a cohort of about 30 interns, so the formal program was small. We had orientation, training, and small intern get-togethers during the first few months. During the summer, we had a formal program for all the interns, which included intern lunch and learn sessions about different types of job roles at Northrop Grumman, fun activities (such as having a snowball fight in 114-degree weather, paper airplane competition, and jeopardy), and facility tours. The Virginia internship had a similar internship program with team bonding experiences (spaghetti tower building competition) and facility tours.

There was a lot of peer support throughout because, in both experiences, I had a lot of intern friends in the same program. When I was in Arizona, my intern group was about three and it grew to about eight or nine over the summer. We all had individual tasks that differed, so most of the work was individual with support from our mentors and occasionally other interns. The intern group in Virginia had about twelve of us in total. The culture here was different in the sense that managers and other engineers compiled a list of tasks where interns could choose what tasks they wanted to tackle. Interns had the opportunity to work in groups. We had weekly meetings to check on tasking progress and ask for additional support.

How have your career or academic goals changed as a result of this internship experience?  Working for this company over the last 1.5 years has helped reinforce that I enjoy the work done in this industry. The projects are intriguing, and even though my contributions are on a smaller scale, it is amazing to see how these projects turn out. Without my work, the program might have to devote more time to the project, perhaps causing issues and delays. Overall, I was very content with what I experienced during my co-op, part-time work, and summer internships with Northrop Grumman. Fast forward to today, I am happy to return to the Dulles, VA facility for satellite integration and testing work as I think about growing my career here and creating plans for how graduate school will help elevate my engineering background.

What advice would you give other UMD engineering students seeking an internship or co-op position?  Step out of your comfort zone. After I received news about the co-op opportunity in Arizona, I had mixed feelings. I was nervous about taking time off from school to spend over half a year in a state I had never been to, finding a place to live, and being far from family. In the end, after discussing with my family and UMD Engineering Career Services, I decided to take a leap of faith to work in an industry I am interested in to gain a lot of experience that I would not get in school. After the internship, knowing the experiences I gained and the network I expanded, I would have regretted it if I did not trust that it would work out.

Don't be afraid of working part-time during the semester if offered the chance. I was able to learn on the job and continue working on my tasks. I took about 12 credit hours and worked about 10 hours a week. My manager was very flexible when it came to adjusting my schedule for exams and projects. On top of that, still being a part of the company allowed me to leverage what I wanted in the next steps of my career. I was able to connect with new programs and teams to learn more about them to pivot my career and shape what I wanted to get out of my summer 2023 internship experience.