Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Going into her senior year at the University of Iowa, engineering student Andrea Diaz already had a job offer to work at her dream company.

After interning with the Clorox Co. this past summer in Pleasanton, California, Diaz was offered a full-time position as a scientist in the company’s research and development department. She will start the job once she graduates from the UI in May.

Diaz, a chemical and biochemical engineering major from Melrose Park, Illinois, says she credits her campus involvement and work experience with giving her the opportunities and skills she needed to make the most of her internship—starting with the interview.

Then-president of the UI chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Diaz traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, in November 2015 for the organization’s national conference, which included professional development workshops, design competitions, and a career fair. That’s where she met recruiters from Clorox.

“I went up to the Clorox booth with my résumé, and after a minute HR was calling over their engineer to do an interview,” she says.

She was offered a summer internship a few weeks after the conference.

At the UI, Diaz also built her skills as a student researcher in the Maria Spies Laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry, where she was paired with a graduate student mentor who taught her how to work in a lab.

“I learned so many lab techniques, like using pipettes and knowing how to measure pH,” Diaz says. “I feel like that had a lot to do with my success this summer at Clorox, because I just felt very comfortable.”

Her graduate student mentor, Sarah Hengel, a PhD student in biochemistry, says Diaz was great to work with because she’s excited about learning and delves deep to ask tough questions.

“Andrea totally put in the extra effort,” Hengel says. “I’ve kept up contact with her, even after she left our lab. She’s not only a brilliant student but also a great person to be around.”

Hengel says she was so excited when she heard about Diaz’s job offer at Clorox because she knew how much Diaz wanted to work in industry.

During her internship, Diaz worked on product development in the company’s Brita department, which makes water filtration products. With help from a professional mentor at Clorox, she examined the chemistry of Brita filters and looked into similar chemical compounds to make changes that might improve the product.

The internship program also included one-on-one mentoring, workshops, and a leadership series that introduced Diaz and her fellow interns to company executives such as the vice president of research and development and the CEO. She also had access to furnished housing, free breakfast, and transportation to and from work.

“It was an amazing experience,” she says. “I mean, I never thought I’d meet the CEO of any company. It was just a great program. They made me feel very welcome.”

Diaz says she will learn more during the spring semester about the specific positions that will be open in her new department at Clorox.

“I’m just really excited,” she says. “I’m very happy with the work environment out there and the lifestyle too.”