Engineering student Quashon Stokes takes on aviation during his internship at Rockwell Collins

By Madinah Muhammadquashon2

Metropolitan Campus senior Quashon Stokes recently worked as a software and systems engineering intern, working on classified government aviation software at Rockwell Collins. As an electrical engineering major and computer science minor in the Gildart Haase School of Computer Sciences and Engineering, this opportunity provided Stokes with hands-on experience as an engineering professional.

Headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Rockwell Collins provides avionics and information technology systems and services to governmental agencies and aircraft manufacturers. Stokes, who is from Prospect Park, N.J. and is also a resident assistant at the Metro Campus, shares how his internship pushed him out of his comfort zone and revealed electrical engineering opportunities in the Midwest.

FDU: How did you find out about your internship?

Quashon Stokes: I attended the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) job fair convention in Boston, Mass. The convention provides students a chance to interview with companies from different industries for internship opportunities. After my interview with Rockwell Collins, I was hired on the spot.

I was offered internship opportunities from two other companies at the NSBE job fair — Northrop Grumman and Akamai Technologies. After receiving guidance from my family, I decided to move forward with Rockwell Collins. I was interested in exposing myself to a completely different geographic location, and in addition to being a great company, they provided me with a stipend for housing and travel.

FDU: What did you enjoy most about your internship?

QS: I enjoyed being located in the Midwest. I met a lot of different people while traveling there and I was exposed to things I would not have experienced if I decided to remain local. The company treated me very well and I felt genuinely welcomed even though I was one of few black males at the company. I could definitely see myself working there.

As a software and systems engineer intern, I worked with the government system flight management applications team. I developed and debugged software code for the Mission-Pilot Vehicle Interface of the Airbus C295 Aircraft. Used for military defense, the Airbus C295 is known as the most versatile transport and surveillance aircraft. I also wrote and participated in peer-reviews for software issues and solutions.

FDU: What FDU resources and classes helped to prepare you for your internship?

QS: The Metropolitan Career Development Center was helpful in preparing me for this entire internship experience, from resume writing to being adequately prepared for an interview. My Programming Languages course was also helpful in that the coding I learned in that class, I used on the job and I often spoke of my classroom experience during internship interviews.

My membership as the vice president and senator of the NSBE Metro chapter was beneficial in providing me with a network of engineering professionals and peers. Also, as an INROADS participant, I receive continual support through mentoring and career development opportunities.

quashon1Above: Quashon Stokes (kneeling center left) with colleagues at Rockwell Collins. (Photos courtesy of Quashon Stokes)

FDU: What did you learn from your internship experience?

QS: The most important thing I learned through hands-on experience is, that software and systems engineering is exactly the field I want to be in.

I also learned the dynamics of diversity and culture in other places outside the comfort zone of my home, which is one of the main reasons I went to the Midwest. I wanted a new perspective of work environments in geographic locations outside of the major big cities. There are a lot of great companies all over the world, and options are not limited to New York City, Boston, Florida or California. Doing something different provided me with a positive experience.

FDU: What advice do you have for fellow classmates interested in gaining internship experience?

QS: Try to figure out what you want to do before you go to any job fair because interviewers will ask, “Why do you want to do this job?” If you have not thought about and formulated an answer to why you chose your specific field and you do not feel comfortable or confident in your response — you may not get that job because interviewers can see through that.

Experiment to discover what works for you. Always ask questions of your professors and people in the field you want or think you want to work in. Ask, “What do you expect from an intern or potential new hire in this industry?” Professionals are often open to give insight about the areas in which they work and have expertise. They provide realistic feedback that allows you to envision a day in the life of an electrical engineer, for example. Just get more and more information to better determine what is the most appealing to you.

FDU: After the internship ended, what steps did you take to remain in contact with colleagues you met while interning?

QS: I have remained in contact with my colleagues at Rockwood Collins since the end of my internship this past summer. They recently called me to apply for positions they have available.

However, since my internship I have considered pursuing my master’s and just recently received my acceptance letter from FDU’s Master of Science in Computer Engineering program. I have not made my final decision yet, but if I do decide to pursue my master’s, I will consider doing another summer internship at Rockwell Collins.