Jon Yonkers, a 1999 engineering alumnus, never imagined that a brief conversation at church would ultimately translate into a full-time mechanical engineering job that he has worked for over 10 years.
A fellow church member (and the father of one of Jon's good friends) mentioned in passing that Jon should apply for a summer internship at FTC&H, an architecture and engineering firm in Grand Rapids. At the time, Jon was getting ready to transfer to Calvin for his junior and senior years, and he decided to submit his application. He was hired for the summer internship, which then turned into part-time work during his junior and senior years. After finishing at Calvin in 1999, Jon was hired full-time at FTC&H as a mechanical engineer, where he has worked ever since.
"I got my job as a result of the internship," Jon says. "The internship essentially was a test drive for both myself and FTC&H. Throughout the course of the internship, both parties were able to evaluate one another and decide if it would be a good fit."
In a typical day on the job, Jon performs design and commissioning of mechanical systems. This is done as part of building construction and renovation projects, and the mechanical systems that Jon works on include the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) and plumbing systems.
"The mechanical design work is pretty self-explanatory, but commissioning may not be as well understood," says Jon. "Commissioning is a quality-assurance process that involves verification that systems are designed, installed and operated as intended."
Many of the technical skills that Jon uses in his day-to-day responsibilities were learned on the job, not in the classroom. Even so, he appreciates the perseverance that he developed as a student at Calvin. "The overall rigor of the academics at Calvin required me to work harder than I ever had before and enables me to push myself in my current job."
What advice would Jon give to current students? He advises students to take initiative on projects and to have a good attitude, as these are two important traits that employers value in their employees. He also suggests, "Look for internships or volunteer experience in your field of study as early and as often as possible. Seek out a mentor and ask lots of questions."
Written by Meredith Segur, posted June 2010