When Tennessee Tech University freshman Shiloh Caudill attended her first Society of Women Engineers conference in Houston, Texas, she knew she’d get to explore opportunities and meet new people. However, she left the conference with even more: a coveted internship with Bechtel Corporation and a glimpse at what her future as a professional engineer might look like.
“At the conference, I met someone who was a civil engineer and she connected me with Bechtel. I met their representatives at their booth, and we really clicked on the design experience, and they offered me an interview after talking with me and seeing my resume,” said Caudill, a chemical and mechanical engineering double major with a concentration in energy and the environment. “I got an interview, and they offered me a position a couple of minutes later.”
Bechtel is an American engineering, procurement, construction and project management company headquartered in Reston, Virginia. They are a sustainability company with focus on different energies in the environment such as nuclear, wind and solar energy. They have assisted customers in the completion of more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents. It was ranked as the second largest construction company in the U.S. by the Engineering News-Record in 2022.
Caudill, who is from Franklin, Tennessee, will begin her 40 hours per week, paid internship, in the summer of 2023. Bechtel representatives stated she would be doing process engineering. She has yet to learn the exact location of her internship, but Bechtel has facilities across the nation and across the globe.
“During my Bechtel interview at the conference, the interviewer also offered me a position in summer 2024 to come back and explore the more mechanical engineering side of their internship since this summer 2023 is chemical engineering,” Caudill said. “She wanted me to experience both sides of it.”
As an engineering major, Caudill takes a lot of science and math-based courses. One of her current favorites is graphics. The intro to environment class was also high on her list because it focused on sustainability and how change can be implemented today.
“That really aligns with my goals, my concentration, and what I want to do in the future,” Caudill said.
Caudill is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers as well as the SWE. Women engineers are paramount to a well-rounded organization, according to Caudill.
“I think it's important for more women to get involved in engineering and the STEM fields because we can really inspire each other and have different thoughts when compared to men in different organizational systems,” Caudill said. “It's just a whole different side of the mind that we're looking at, just different points of view that we're missing out on when women aren't included.”
Coming to Tech was a straightforward decision for Caudill, given Tech’s reputation in the engineering education field. And while that played a part in her decision, other factors came into play that proved important also.
“I chose to come to Tech because it was a very welcoming environment, small class size, and I liked the hands-on experience that it provided along with the affordability aspect,” Caudill said. “Cookeville is fairly close to where I used to live in Franklin, and it was very good for my family.”
Caudill advises high school students to take thought-provoking classes and utilize that time to explore the various interests one might have. She was really interested in design and had a family engineering background, so she took architectural and engineering design in high school and said it's been a great asset in interviews.
“All of your experience really matters, even if you don’t think it’s important, and having it on your resume really matters,” Caudill said. “So even if it's just like a little thing, like you were a president of a plant club one time, they want to hear about it.”
As a freshman, Caudill has years of classes ahead, but said that Tech is already preparing her for her internship, and not just in the classroom. Tech is reinforcing the skills she already has in graphics, programming and knowledge of the environment. She is also meeting different people, learning how to interact with them in the different clubs on campus, and forming connections.
According to Caudill, she is learning how to talk to different people and be in a professional environment, especially with the career fairs, resume workshops, and the pathways that Tech has. Her knowledge gained in and out of the classroom will be an asset in her chosen career.
“I am drawn to a career that focuses on sustainable energy; I especially enjoy engineering design in that field. I am also considering architecture again and applying sustainability using my ChE degree to build energy efficient buildings,” Caudill said.
“I would like to have an impact on the world in some way, so we can become more sustainable and environmentally conscious. And room to grow for future generations, so they don't have to worry about the energy problems that we're facing today.”