ECU student spends summer internship with SpaceX

A simple search on the internet turned into an out-of-this-world opportunity for East Carolina University student Eddie Okeiga.

The industrial engineering technology major spent this summer as an intern with SpaceX, the aerospace company that sent two Americans to the International Space Station with a historic launch from Florida on May 30. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley became the first NASA astronauts launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated spacecraft.

Okeiga, a senior from Holly Springs, started his internship two days after the launch but made sure he watched it.

“Even though I had nothing to do with the launch, it was very exciting to see Doug, Bob and SpaceX make history,” Okeiga said.

He said he has enjoyed interning at a place that is putting people in space.

“It’s awesome. It fills me with energy every single day,” Okeiga said. “I love knowing everything we do at work gets us a step closer to making humans multi-planetary.”

Okeiga stands in front of a display of the Falcon 9 rocket at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. (Contributed photo)

Okeiga’s internship took place at the company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, which is outside of Los Angeles. He worked as a supply chain management intern in the SpaceX distribution center.

“During my time here, I will develop an autonomous process to eliminate unnecessary inventory,” he said. “This will save the company cost on storage and free up space for new parts and materials.”

He said the internship has helped him enhance his communication and presentation skills while also allowing him to learn Structured Query Language, which is a standard language for accessing and manipulating databases.

Okeiga, who spent last summer on a co-op at Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee, said an interest in the aerospace industry prompted him to search the internet for internships at SpaceX.

He said the internship along with his time at Harley-Davidson helped him develop interpersonal, teamwork, problem-solving, communication, technical and networking skills — all of which will help him in whatever career he chooses.

“Internships are very important because it gives you the chance to apply subject matter in a real world setting,” Okeiga said. “You also build confidence in your skills and get accustomed to the workforce.”

Okeiga, a member of ECU’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, suggests students get involved with student organizations associated with their particular field of study.

“It gives you many opportunities to excel in your career,” he said. “It also provides you with many connections that can lead you in the direction of securing employment.”

Students interested in internships can look to ECU Career Services as well as the Career Development and Leadership Center in the College of Engineering and Technology. Both also help students prepare and improve resumes and practice interviews.

And Okeiga offers this bit of advice about internships.

“Apply, apply and apply,” he said. “Never get down on yourself if you don’t get the internship you want or don’t get one at all. Take any opportunity offered because it can be used as a stepping stool toward a job or industry of your choosing. Also, take advice and network with peers in your field. They all have been in the same position you are now, and they can help get you to where you want to be.”