Shellie Lundquist Electrical Engineering, Class of 2016 Internship Altria Group, Inc.

"They tell you as a technician that it is hard to go from technician to engineer. That being an engineer is a big leap to make, and that not everyone can. Without this experience I’d still wonder if I could leap that high. Now I know I can do it." 

An Interview with Shellie Lundquist

Q: Give us some background information. What year and major are you?

A: I am a junior in Electrical Engineering.

Q: Tell us a little about your 12-week internship with Altria at the Philip Morris Manufacturing Center.

A: Over the 2014 summer, I worked in the Utilities Department at Philip Morris and learned more about engineering and myself than I thought I would. I spent my time learning about energy management and analysis, project management, writing official documents and how to make the right recommendations.

Q. What previous industry work have you done?

A: Before I decided to come to VCU, I worked at Newport News Shipbuilding fixing welding machines as an electrical technician. I was in the Apprentice School there for about a year and a half.

Q. How does your prior work compare to your work at Altria?

A: It’s a different thought process with many different interactions. Before, work was very hands on, and now my work is more from a management and planning perspective. Having experience on the technical and engineering side is a unique tool to have.

Q. What was/is a typical day like?

A: Well, currently I’m a full-time student doing a part time co-op at Altria. Over the summer internship, a typical day would start with going out to check on different projects and make sure the progress was done at the right time. I would spend some days interviewing others about processes, and some days were spent at my desk doing paperwork and planning. I was afforded the opportunity throughout my time there, to collaborate with engineers, electrical tradesmen, and a variety of other individuals throughout the company.

Q. How would you describe the real-world value of an opportunity such as this?

A: This opportunity gave me a lot more confidence in myself. I grew up where women were not encouraged to pursue science or engineering and with this internship, I got a sense of belief in myself that I couldn’t have gotten without it. They tell you as a technician that it is hard to go from technician to engineer. That being an engineer is a big leap to make, and that not everyone can. Without this experience I’d still wonder if I could leap that high. Now I know I can do it. I’ve finally gotten to a point where nobody looks at me and says I should be somewhere else. I’ve finally found what fits.

Q. What is next for you?

A: I’m hoping to continue to co-op in the semesters ahead at Altria. The culture there is so amazing; I get to learn real world application for my classes while gaining a greater understanding of where I want to be in life.

Q. How has this experience affected your outlook toward your future as an engineer?

A:Working with Altria this summer, solidified my thoughts on being associated with industry as an Electrical Engineer when I get out of school. The internship, I believe, has refocused my attentions and given me a renewed desire to get through school and get into the real world again. I feel a fresh sense of desire to gain all the knowledge that I can and to be successful.