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Women in STEM: Update from our Interns

By Karen Duffin on Tuesday 6 February 2018

If you've been following our blog, you might remember in the summer of 2017 we welcomed a group of female interns to IES, as part of our work to support Equate Scotland’s Women in STEM campaign. Now that we are into a new year, we decided to catch up with four of our interns – Agata Mamcarz, Galila Khougali, Ildiko Szabo and Melanie Gines – to find out more about their internship experiences with IES. Here’s what they had to say…

Tell us a bit about your background. What made you decide to apply for an internship with IES?

MELANIE: I completed high school in Spain before coming to Scotland to study Architectural Engineering at Heriot-Watt University. We used IESVE in one of our courses to look at the performance gap which I found really interesting. I already had an interest in building energy modelling but after doing this course I decided it was something I really enjoyed and wanted to pursue further.

AGATA: My adventure with architectural design also began when I arrived in Scotland. I was so impressed by Scotland’s built heritage that I decided to follow my interests and achieved an HND in Architectural Technology, before going on to study Architectural Engineering.  I was particularly interested in the technical side of design, especially in the optimization of energy efficiency in buildings considering their life-cycle. IES’ outstanding work to improve the energy performance of buildings is known worldwide and I was really keen to find out more about the possibilities IESVE software had to offer.

GALILA: I’m currently in my fourth year, also studying for a BEng in Architectural Engineering, at Heriot Watt University. After completing a course on software applications, that included IESVE modelling and analysis, I wanted to learn more about energy demand and how buildings can be dynamically simulated for analysis. I applied to IES because they are a leading company in sustainable analysis and software energy modelling in buildings and cities, and that is something that interested me. 

ILDIKO: I’m currently studying for a degree in Computer Science and applied for an internship within the IT team at IES, to help develop their SharePoint interface. The description for the position fitted exactly with what I was looking for in an internship as I wanted to try something focused around user experience. I am quite a creative person so when I discovered that the internship offered the opportunity to link in with the marketing team at IES, it was the perfect mix to appeal to both my creative and technical sides.
 

How did you find out about the opportunity?

AGATA: Through the careers service at my university and it was also linked to the Equate Scotland campaign.

GALILA: Through Equate Scotland and Careerwise, which provides a platform for female STEM students to find placements in Scotland. 

ILDIKO: One of my friends had undertaken an internship with IES in the previous year and had shared the position through his LinkedIn profile. He had a lot of positive things to say about his experience, so I decided to go for it!

MELANIE: The careers service at my university informed me IES was offering an internship. At first, I thought IES only worked in software development, so was surprised to find out that they provided consultancy services too. The position was exactly what I was looking for. 
 

What has your role as an intern at IES involved?

GALILA: I worked on 3D modelling analysis, which focuses on the energy and environmental performance of buildings. This used the IESVE to feedback on building design such as performing shadow analysis on several buildings. I was based in the consultancy team, but also had the opportunity to work with software development by providing feedback on a raft of planned software and service options IES are developing.

AGATA: As an intern with the Consulting team, I had the opportunity to get involved in real-life projects and worked on building engineering problems on a daily basis. I was working with IES-SCAN, which is an IES tool that is used to analyse real data from energy meters and Building Management Systems. I usually had a task presented and explained to me, which I could then research and carry out as I understood. Then my supervisors would check on my work and give me feedback. This was a very effective process of learning as I was receiving continuous feedback and had lots of opportunities to ask questions. 

MELANIE: I have also been working with the IES consultancy team. To start with I was given some initial tasks to work on to help familiarise me with the way the consultancy team work and to gain a better understanding of the IESVE software. After about one week, I had the opportunity to start working on some real life projects doing daylight analysis and natural ventilation studies for different non-domestic buildings. It gave me a lot of confidence knowing that the consultants trusted me to help them on live projects from such an early stage in my internship.

ILDIKO: My role has focused on developing IES’ SharePoint system, which is used to store and share information internally across the company. The primary focus has been user experience, so this has involved speaking with various teams across the company to find out their requirements and then using my knowledge of the program to adapt the interface to suit each team’s specific needs. I have also provided training to various teams to ensure they are maximising their use of the platform and to ensure that information is being shared as efficiently as possible. 
 

What have you learned from your internship experience and how do you see this helping you in the future?

ILDIKO: I have gained a lot of new skills going from project management experience, to improving my communication and presentation skills. Although we have been using SharePoint in my course at university, my internship has allowed me to put the program into context and see how it can be applied to benefit various user requirements in the real world. I’ve also gained technical experience in other areas, including programming experience in HTML and JavaScript.

AGATA: I was an absolute beginner before my internship with IES but every day I learned something new. I gained the practical understanding of many subjects related to building services and energy-efficient operation. The knowledge I gained is already helping me in my studies as my dissertation involves some of the analysis techniques that I learned over the summer with IES. The internship also gave me an idea about my future career, as I have decided that I would like to work in assessing and improving the energy performance of existing buildings. 

GALILA: I have learned so much from my internship at IES. On the technical side, I have learned much more about building modelling and analysis from the consultancy team. I also gained an understanding of the software development side of the business in one of the projects I worked on, as well as a commercial understanding of the industry. 

MELANIE: Although I had limited experience of using IESVE software before starting my internship, during my time with the consultancy team I learned how to use many applications I hadn’t really used before including Radiance, MacroFlo and VE-Compliance. Now that I have returned to my studies, this has given me an advantage over my peers as, when it comes to doing a project for my course, I can spend less time on learning how to use the software and just do the work.
 

What has been the highlight of your time working with IES?

ILDIKO: The people here have definitely made my experience a positive one. Everyone has been so approachable which has been really important since my role has required me to work across various departments. I’ve enjoyed going out with colleagues and we even had a company BBQ in the summer which was a fun way to get to know everyone. However, the real highlight for me was seeing others take on board all my advice and recommendations for using SharePoint. The work I’ve done with the HR Team in particular has seen usage of their area in SharePoint increase across the whole company, which was a great result.

GALILA: My highlight has been working on software development and feeding in information from the consultancy team. I gained an understanding of the mechanics of software development through one of the projects I worked on, and had the satisfaction of seeing the program produce results before the end of my summer placement.  

MELANIE: Towards the end of our summer internships, Don [IES CEO & Founder], brought together all of the interns for a series of presentations from some of the key people across the company to help us gain a better understanding of all the different areas IES is involved in. It was a really nice idea and I think if I had interned for a bigger organisation we wouldn’t have been given such an opportunity. Afterwards, we were invited to spend one week shadowing a person of our choice and I chose to work with one of the IES R&D project consultants. This was the highlight for me - it was really interesting to find out about the R&D projects IES is involved in and learn more about the future direction of the company.

AGATA: For me, the main highlight has been the people as they are so passionate about what they do and very kind and pleasant to work with. 

What would you say are the main benefits of undertaking an internship with IES?

AGATA: It has been an invaluable experience and has given me the opportunity to learn from the experts and apply the knowledge in practice under their supervision. IES provides exceptional support in terms of training and it has been extremely beneficial to be able to work on live projects and observe how the outcomes of the analysis are applied in the real world. My dissertation is based on the project I worked on during my internship, so I’ve had the pleasure to continue to work with IES on this over the academic year.

ILDIKO: This was my first internship (and first job!) so it’s been a great opportunity to start building my CV and learn new skills.

MELANIE: It has improved my IT skills (even on a basic level) and my understanding of the IESVE software and modelling processes a lot. It has also given me a lot of confidence in terms of my future career, as I now feel certain in what I want to do and that I have the skills and experience to succeed. I’ve met a lot of the nice people during my time here, so that has been a great benefit too.

GALILA: IES is committed to helping create sustainable communities, and I believe that working with IES has given me the satisfaction of knowing that the work we do reduces energy demand and carbon footprints. IES also looks into the future development of cities and energy, and that is an important aspect of building modelling and design. 

What advice can you give to anyone thinking about applying for an internship with IES? Is it something you would recommend?

ILDIKO: I’d definitely recommend applying. My advice to future applicants would be to research the opportunity and don’t get too nervous if you are invited in for an interview as everyone is so friendly! 

MELANIE: I would definitely recommend others to go for it and a lot of people on my course have already asked. It’s a great company and in terms of its size you get a lot of support and opportunities to work on a variety of projects, rather than being left to do the same tasks every day. The name itself is also really well-known within my field of study. So many of IES’ clients are really big in the [AEC] industry too so I believe it puts you in a great position career-wise. 

AGATA: I would definitely recommend applying for an internship with IES. It has been an extremely beneficial experience for me, providing practical knowledge in the field of energy use optimization, and there is exceptional support for students and inspiration for further career choices.

GALILA: I would recommend IES internships, specifically to students in their third year. I think that IES gave myself and other consultancy interns a perspective of what type of building analysis we want to pursue, and also helped me decide what I wanted to write my dissertation on.

As you know, IES are supporters of Equate Scotland’s Women in STEM campaign. Is there any advice you would offer specifically to other females like you looking to pursue a career in STEM?

MELANIE: Be confident about what you’re capable of doing. I think the culture around STEM is definitely improving. As you can see in IES, there is a great mix of employees of different genders and backgrounds all doing great work, and that diversity makes for a much more productive working environment.

GALILA: Work hard, try as much as possible, don’t be intimidated by male-dominated industries and ask and learn as much as you can from the opportunities available to you. 

ILDIKO: Yes, there are so many opportunities around STEM so keep an open mind and explore all the options out there.

AGATA: My only advice is to keep going for what you are passionate about - you could find an opportunity that is truly life changing.

Since returning to your studies, have you been able to keep in touch with IES? If so, how does this work around your university life and other commitments?

AGATA: I continued to work with IES part-time at the beginning of my first semester back at university. However, when I reached the middle of the semester, I wanted to completely dedicate my time to my coursework. I was fully supported in my decision by the IES team. Working with IES over the academic year is very flexible and allows interns to focus on university commitments above all else. 

GALILA: IES offered me the opportunity to continue working with them as a part-time consultant intern throughout semester time. It has been slightly difficult as, being a full time student, I am required to be available for classes most days during the week. However, when I do go in to the office, I learn just as much as I do in university and it complements most of my courses. I am grateful that IES offered a flexible schedule and even though I do not come in to the office often, it is something that I look forward to throughout the semester. 

ILDIKO: I’ve continued to work with IES on a part-time basis, usually 2 days per week. IES were really flexible and willing to work around my schedule. If I have an assignment to work on or need to be in classes on a particular day, I just let my line manager know and my office days can be changed accordingly.

MELANIE: My studies are taking up most of my time right now but I’ve had the opportunity to continue to work flexibly with IES, either in the office or from home, whenever I can find the time. I haven’t been able to commit to as much time as I’d hoped as I also have another part-time job at my university, but the little I have managed has continued to add value to my development. With an opportunity like this, you feel like you should be planning around the company but it’s been the complete opposite in this case! IES have been really flexible and understanding of my other commitments.

To find out more about internship or other career opportunities with IES, visit our careers page or contact careers@iesve.com.