My Co-op Experiences: A “round-about path” to the perfect destination

Carson LinsteadThe co-op program at the SMU Lyle School of Engineering has been the turning point of my college experience.  Few students graduate college truly understanding what direction they want their career to move.  I am going into my senior year one-hundred percent positive of where I want my career to take me.


Some might call my co-op experiences an exercise in trial and error, but I refer to the process as a “round-about path” to the perfect destination.  My first taste of the real world was working for a worldwide telecommunications company just fifteen miles north of SMU’s campus.  Cutting edge technology and a cut-throat industry made for an interesting experience during my four month stay.  I learned corporate operations, intricate computer programming languages, and multiple other lessons during my time.  The most important of these lessons was that a quiet cubicle and a computer screen were not going to be a reoccurring theme in my career.  I met with the directors of the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership and plotted a new course.


The directors helped me realize my need for communicating with others and my love of engineering on a larger level.  The construction world captured my interest, and I began my second co-op position with one of the largest construction management companies in the nation.  Meetings with clients, working on projects that dotted the Dallas skyline, and seeing engineering at work in the world made my experience a huge success.  It was amazing to be able to help my family pay for my education while also learning about a career that completely captured my interest.


My next experience was being part of a project that will shine in downtown Dallas for years to come.  The Opera Housementor given to me through the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership allowed me to be part of the team creating the Winspear Opera House.  The bright red glass reaching stories into the air and Broadway level theatrical design made the opera house an amazing classroom.  I was able to learn from the world’s best engineers and architects as this multimillion dollar project was designed and constructed.  There was no longer any question that my co-op experiences were leading me to a career in construction engineering.


My final co-op experience confirmed that the “round-about path” I chose was correct.  One of the premier architectural engineering design firms in Dallas allowed me to spend eight months truly being an engineer.  Creating new designs and problem solving with other engineers made me excited to show up to work each morning.  I was able to see the concepts taught to me in class taking shape in structures around the DFW Metroplex, and I was actually part of the engineering process. 


This co-op experience was such a perfect fit that I am coming back to the firm after graduation as a full time engineer.  Few college students have a program that lets them learn what career they want to pursue.  Even fewer have the opportunity to spend their senior year patiently waiting to start their dream job.  This all reinforces the fact that I made the right decision to attend the SMU Lyle School of Engineering for the many opportunities they have set before me.