2019 Startup Internship Reflection: Hexagon Energy, Catlinh Nguyen

Internship Location: Hexagon Energy

This Fall, the team at Hexagon Energy has truly helped me develop my skills both as an engineer and a student preparing to enter the workforce. The internship with Hexagon Energy was actually the only internship I applied to, so I am incredibly lucky to have received the offer. As an electrical engineering major, I was looking for technical experience in the energy sector, which is the industry that I would eventually like to end up working in, so the choice seemed clear. I had already had a bit of internship experience working on the policy side of the energy sector, but I had never been exposed to working at a startup.

Working at Hexagon has taught me that working at a startup is immensely different from any government or large corporate internship.

The environment was casual and close-knit, but at the same time, very fast-paced and efficient. Although I was focused on the engineering side, I got to see every side of the energy development process: from doing data analysis to locate potential sites to mailing letters to landowners that would potentially lease the land needed to initiate an energy project. My mentors always worked to help me connect my work to a larger, impactful project. I sat in on calls about local clean energy policy right here in Virginia and learned about how my work connects to the energy industry as a whole.

More specifically to my role, as a Renewable Energy GIS Analyst Intern, my first order of business was to learn how to use qGIS, the open-source geographic software that is primarily used at Hexagon. My mentors at Hexagon ensured that I had enough time to thoroughly learn this new technology and that I would be able to accurately apply it to their projects. I learned how to identify and trace components of the electric grid on Google Maps. The experience taught me how to use software that I have never even touched in school.

Oftentimes, interns are placed in positions that have minimal impact on the business. This was not the case at Hexagon. Once I had mastered the software, I was given new assignments every day. I was processing data, analyzing maps, and doing research. It was challenging, but everyone at Hexagon was always more than willing to help me along the way.

Unlike my previous internships, I wasn’t stuck in a windowless office. The office is spacious and open, which really encouraged communication between everyone around me. There is a conference room will a full-glass wall, so I could always see two people playing ping pong on a solar panel in the corner of my eye. I wasn’t ever asked to bring someone coffee or make copies – I actually asked someone to teach me how to use their super cool espresso machine!

Aside from meeting my amazing coworkers and learning new skills and technology, working at Hexagon brought my attention to a whole other side of the energy industry. I saw projects that I worked on materialize and move into their final stages. I learned about the immense work and complexity of the process it takes to place the wind and solar farms we see when we drive around. I even learned a lot about myself, the parts of business that I am interested in, and my potential as an engineer.

As my final weeks at Hexagon wrap up, I cannot wait to see what I will accomplish!