School: University of Dayton
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Company: Marathon Petroleum Company
Internship from August 18, 2014 — August 18, 2016
My name is Sophie Seel, and I am a mechanical engineering student at The University of Dayton. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I am an avid Penguins, Pirates, and Steelers fan, which usually gets me in some trouble as I go to school in Ohio… I graduate in December of 2016, and I am very excited to start my career.
Working for Marathon Petroleum Company (MPC) has been an unexpected, and amazing, opportunity. I attended the career fair in the spring of my freshman year, as a rookie engineering student with a passion for medical device design. So, as you can imagine, construction and petroleum companies were not at all on my radar. I walked by the MPC booth and was stopped by a representative saying, “Um, I can see by your name tag that you are studying to be a mechanical engineer… why aren’t you talking to us?” Naturally, I was taken off guard, but stopped for a conversation anyway. Next thing I know, I am interviewing and then starting work for Marathon in Findlay, Ohio.
Throughout my three co-op terms with Marathon, I have had the opportunity to witness the planning stages of a project, all the way through the project close-out stage. Though Marathon itself is more of an operations business, there is so much construction that occurs. My favorite part has been implementation- having the opportunity to spend my days out in the field and in the middle of all the construction. It has been interesting and eye opening to learn about the industry and the business. Each term I have been with Marathon has been under the Transportation and Logistics, Marketing and Transportation Engineering umbrella. For my first term I was in the Aboveground Storage Tank Engineering group; for my second term I was in Pipeline Engineering; and for my third term I was involved in the Terminal Engineering Growth team. Each experience has been different from the last, and rewarding in its own way.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
I grew up babysitting, worked as a waitress for about six years, and then became a certified group fitness instructor at the University of Dayton. Though each of these jobs helped me develop skills such as communication, as well as shaped me into the hard worker I am today, I had no previous work experience coming into the role I held at Marathon. This, however, did not matter. Right away, it was clear that I was in an environment where I would be respected and trusted to get the job done. I was assigned task after task, with the opportunity to assist on multiple projects as well as lead my own. There is such a wide variety of opportunities with Marathon Petroleum Company, and my exposure to each of these roles has been invaluable.
One of the projects that stands out the most was a program called the December “Sump Retrofits.” In 2013, at the Martinsville station, a sump pump exploded and injured two MPC employees. This disaster was eye opening for MPC’s Pipeline Engineering, creating an investigation to occur as to why this happened. It was found that the sump pumps that were installed station-wide years ago were designed as horizontal pumps and therefore were never intended to be oriented vertically inside a tank. There were couplings on the shaft of the pump that lost lubrication. There was a buildup of friction due to this loss, ultimately leading to the ignition that created the explosion and then the revaluation and redesign of the sumps. Construction of these sump retrofits included switching the old pump with a new vertical pump, the addition of instrumentation to track fluid flow, and including equipment to gauge the height of material within the tank. New piping was also required to accommodate the new design of the sump system.
I had the opportunity to lead and oversee construction on 9 of the 15 sump retrofits, as the main project leader. I contacted the contractors, scheduled the work, led the pre-job safety meetings, and updated involved parties accordingly. Each of these jobs went smoothly, involved zero OSAHA recordables, and left the pipeline station in a safer state than it began. As a co-op, Marathon expected me to learn, help lead, and add value in any way I can. My goal was to not only meet these expectations, but to exceed them. Leading my own projects and managing over 2 billion dollars, and while maintaining the safety culture and standard put in place shows that this goal was met and exceeded.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
During my internship with Marathon, I have learned many things about myself, about the industry and the business. One of the most important lessons I have learned is how to be flexible, and how to adjust when problems arise. No project goes perfectly as planned. The weather will not always cooperate. Sometimes material is not available when it is needed. There are multiple examples like these that the construction industry faces every single day, all demanding patience, critical thinking skills, and careful adjustments. Learning how to adapt to changes, usually out of your control, is a skill that I will use in every aspect of my life. It taught me patience and understanding, as well as how to think through a solution to make a prompt decision efficiently.
Additionally, through working in the field with project managers, operations folk, inspectors and contractors, I learned what it takes to be an influential leader. My mentor, assigned to me in the beginning of the term, taught me that it is important to know how and when to communicate. Construction projects in pipeline and terminals involve many stakeholders and owners, so it is crucial to relay information in a timely and effective manner.
Finally, I learned what it means to be a hard worker. The construction business is not a normal 9 -5 job; it is not a “leave work at work” type of job. There were many weeks of 70+ hours, and many weekends away from home. Working for a company like Marathon demands much of your time and your energy, giving the employees a sense of pride in everything that they do. I am so proud of the amount work that I poured into my projects, and pleased with the outcome I achieved. I learned that dedication and commitment to excellence is the only way to approach projects and goals.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
In each of my terms with Marathon, I have had the opportunity to lead pre-job safety meetings. This meeting would occur before the start of work, whether it was a critical lift that was being conducted or it was something as simple as painting a pipeline. The idea was to have each person, contractor and operations folk alike, on the same page and with the same mindset. MPC has a policy that states “I believe in Zero,” which basically is an agreement that each person will look out for each other. This ensures that each and every day people leave the site in the same condition that he or she entered it. I was surprised how quickly this attention to safety became a profound influence on my life. I started noticing unsafe activities outside of work, and corrected the behavior accordingly.
Marathon has a safety culture unlike any company I have been involved with before. Time and time again I witnessed moments where MPC would chose the safety of employees or contract employees over economics. It is incredibly comforting to know that the company I work for cares just as much about me as I care for it. This showed me that no matter how long it takes, a construction project is not a success unless safety is the number one priority.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America means taking pride in the value that construction adds to everyday life. It means recognizing the risk that individuals in the construction industry face. It means challenging yourself and others to go above and beyond the goals set by America. To me, the movement of I Build America means everything.
It is important to remind people of the work that construction completes to make the world a better place to live in. Without initiatives like I Build America, I think there are many companies and individuals that would go under the radar. As technology advances, construction is a business that will always be needed to keep up with the changing world. The industry is rewarding, exciting, and ever changing. The recognition and support that I Build America gives to men and women in construction is both immense and invaluable.