Alexios Avrassoglou is an undergraduate senior in the University of Michigan Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) department. He discusses what it’s like trying to find an internship or job as an undergrad and how you can prepare yourself for interviews. As the Lead IOE Student Ambassador he also explains what IOE means to him.
Favorite IOE Class: IOE 310 with Professor Cohn
Favorite Place to Study on Campus: IOE Commons
Dream Job: Chef and Restaurateur (eventually)
How did you decide on IOE as your major?
I always love to bring up this story. It starts first with my dad being an industrial engineer. On Saturday mornings, we’d go to the bagel store and wait in the line for fresh bagels. It was a very long line. My dad would always talk about queueing theory. He’d talk about how you can improve the process and have people wait less – classic industrial engineering stuff. And from there, I realized, Oh, this is a cool kind of problem! I didn’t want to be building engines or work with wires in my life, so I realized that industrial engineering was a good fit for me.
Are there any minors or programs you are a part of?
I decided to minor in Computer Science because I like to code and it’s a way to complement IOE.
I am also really interested in international studies, diplomacy, and language. I took Spanish in high school and I wanted to stay in touch with that. I also wanted to take more business classes so I decided to join Engineering Global Leadership (EGL) where I’m doing the international Minor for Engineers.
What was your job/internships searching process like and what advice would you give to first or second-years?
If you’re a first-year, most people don’t have internships so just try to get experience doing anything in the summer, sometimes there are research opportunities.
For sophomores, something I remember facing is that I had just declared my major and then I realized people were getting jobs all around me. There’s this pressure I felt that arose as a result.
You feel the need to be involved in a bunch of student organizations, you need to update your resume, and you need to start applying to jobs. All of these things pile onto your sophomore year to create something many call the “sophomore slump.” It is a very stressful transition from the care-free freshman year to an abrupt reality check of adulthood.
I remember my sophomore year I got this interview with Proctor & Gamble (P&G) and I didn’t really prepare much and I bombed it. I then realized how serious things were and I started mass applying to companies just so I could have something to talk about on my resume for the next year.
The advice I would give to underclassmen who are going through the same panic I went through is to think of non-work related experiences you can list on your resume and talk about in interviews. For example, I used to always talk about my ENGR 100 project because it involves working in a team and problem solving. Student organizations and leadership positions also are great talking points (even if they’re in from high school–that’s perfectly normal when you’ve only finished one year of college).
The hardest thing to keep in mind throughout the process is to keep your head up, be optimistic and stay persistent! People around you will be getting internships and talking about their new jobs, and it’s hard not to compare but remember everyone develops at their own pace. I got an offer for an internship in April, a month before the internship was supposed to have started. Just keep pushing through and always remember to take care of yourself.
What kind of jobs/internships have you had during your time at IOE?
I’ve ended up at some places I really liked. I worked at W.L. Gore & Associates which is where Gore-Tex comes from. I worked as a process improvement intern in the facilities planning team, leveraging data management and big data analytics from IOE 373. Then my junior year, in a redemption from my first ever interview I had the opportunity to apply early for an internship at P&G, and I got the job. I worked there my junior summer as an IT Project Manager Intern.
Alexios has also worked as an Engineering Tutor for Michigan Athletics, an IOE Student Ambassador, a Departmental Ambassador, and an Instructional Aide.
Speaking of jobs, you were just promoted to Lead IOE Student Ambassador. What kind of responsibilities has that job entailed?
Being an IOE Student Ambassador has been my way to get involved in the U-M IOE Department and, to quote Hamilton, “be in the room where it happens”. I’m able to see what recruitment efforts look like for industrial engineers and help improve that process from a student perspective.
In a lot of ways, people find out what the IOE degree program is through word-of-mouth; through friends or older students. The ambassador role aims to fill in that gap for people and promote the major in a lot of ways. I feel like I’ve been able to develop my communication skills through explaining what industrial and operations engineers do, what kinds of problems we solve, and interacting with prospective students.
Last year my group completely redesigned the IOE Course Guide to be more intuitive, and have a nicer aesthetic than what we had. We also were able to add a “Careers and Internships” page to the IOE website. That was a project that I championed so that we can introduce some more transparency into what kind of roles industrial and operations engineers actually do.
On top of job/internships you are also a part of many clubs and organizations at U-M. Can you talk about that?
My first four or five semesters, my policy was to join one thing and then see if I can handle it. So I tried something new, saw how it went, and then adjusted from there. I have felt at times that I’ve been spreading myself too thin but I’ve been able to adjust and develop really good organizational habits as a result.
The other thing I also learned along the way is that it is never too late to try something new. For example, everyone always talks about research and getting involved and as a senior, I’m like, “okay, let’s try it, see what all the hype is about.” And I really like it! That’s why I joined CHEPS, so it’s definitely never too late to start something, even your last year of college. Following the same policy, I’m taking an intro guitar class this semester too (Guitar 111).
Lastly, I’m the section leader for the Michigan Soccer student section – we’re called the Michigan Ultras. I’ve done that for the last two years, leading chants and just keeping the people in the stands hype about the game. I get to hit a big drum too, it’s great.
Alexios is also a part of Engineering Global Leadership (EGL), the Hellenic Students Association (HSA), MECC Consulting Group, Alpha Pi Mu, the Tauber Institute for Global Operations, and Blue Model United Nations.
A big part of your job is explaining IOE to students that know nothing about it. Let’s hear your pitch!
The industrial engineer is not building the circuit in the car, we are sourcing the parts. We’re making sure the raw materials end up as a final good in your driveway. The other distinct thing about industrial engineers is that finding inefficiencies is a strength of ours. We are always focused on the ways you can improve a process to make it faster, cheaper, higher quality, or more sustainable. And because of that, our roles in companies are usually centered around data analytics, optimization, and process improvement.
I think the best question to ask when anyone is choosing a major is “what kinds of problems do you want to solve?” From there you can get more clarity into what field of work you should go into.
As a senior student, looking back how do you feel about your time at Michigan Engineering and what aspects have been the most fulfilling for you?
The number one thing that I’ve realized is that at the end of the day, your time at the University of Michigan is not defined by your major, or the clubs you’re in, or the internships you get. It’s really defined by the people you surround yourself with and how you made them feel – I think that’s the best way to describe it. I think a lot of people stress for those extra minute things like, two points on a grade, which, in the grand scheme, I’ve seen just do not make a difference.
A huge part of being at Michigan is the school spirit and the school culture. I took full advantage of that, and I’d tell all students coming to the University of Michigan to do the same. I have zero regrets from my time here because I know I took advantage of meeting all the people I could and building and maintaining the great relationships I have, because these things are forever.
Study abroad if you can! It’s a rare opportunity at other schools, but very fairly easy if you are an IOE–it just takes planning. I went to Madrid with another 15 IOEs and it was life-changing.
Stay curious and ask a lot of questions–that’s what engineers do. What is most representative of Michigan Engineering is the social aspect, the people-first things, embrace that and the everyone you meet. As my 90-year-old grandfather has been saying for 70 years, “Cheers to the Engineers!”