Week 8-10, Fundraising & Reflections at Coherent INC

I was excited rather than nervous and eagerly looked forward to sharing my work and having the unique opportunity of receiving feedback from some of the world’s greatest laser engineers.

Hello once again! For those of you who don’t know, my name is Zaryab and I am interning as an Opto-Mechanical Engineer at Coherent Inc Headquarters in Santa Clara, California.

So, it's been a while, I have had a very busy month and have completely fallen behind on the blogging schedule. It has now been about three weeks since my internship has finished, I’m going to try to summarise what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks at work and some of the things that I’ve been doing after my internship finished – So brace yourself, this will be another long one! To start off, why haven’t I blogged in the three weeks after my internship? Well, I spent the first week travelling California with two of the interns: Ross & Fergus, then I came back to Scotland (very briefly I should add), then very quickly flew off to Innsbruck, Austria to begin my master’s thesis, which is where I’m writing this blog from!

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I was gearing towards carrying out my big final presentation near the end of my internship. I’ll be talking more about that in this blog, as well as the fundraising I carried out and finally I’ll be reflecting on what has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Week 8: This was an extremely busy week as preparations for the final presentation were well underway! At this point, I was carrying out most of my tests and experiments out independently and was often staying in a little bit longer to get those extra few tests in! The most interesting part about this week was experiencing the Coherent financial report reveal in the lobby of the Santa Clara headquarters, employees from all over the world were tuning in to hear the CEO talk about Coherent’s financial situation. As a Saltire Scholar, this is fascinating for me, it was amazing to see how many factors a business needs to monitor at all times to stay on top of the market – this also highlighted the importance of having product diversity for me.

Weekend – This weekend me and the other 4 Coherent Scholars travelled up to SF to meet up with the SF scholars. Yet again another busy weekend that included tandem cycling the golden bridge, exploring SF, having an unfortunate A&E visit (wouldn’t recommend this one) and visiting the world-famous UC Berkley campus.

Week 9: Presentation Week!

This was probably the most rewarding week of the whole internship, everything that I had been working on up until now could be showcased to my managers and the other Coherent employees. It was also a very important week for me in terms of professional development as I had never presented a project out of University before! Nevertheless, I was excited rather than nervous and eagerly looked forward to sharing my work and having the unique opportunity of receiving feedback from some of the world’s greatest laser engineers.

In this week I also learnt more about the differences between university projects and work projects, a big issue I ran into this week was learning that everything takes longer than you expect, and as a result of this, it became extremely difficult to make up the three weeks I missed at the beginning of my internship. I learnt that in a professional environment there is a limit to how much you can do to speed up processes, some things naturally can’t be rushed – things such as delivery times for products, or time to cure glued mounts in my case!

After many practice presentations and rehearsals, I finally presented my work in the coveted “Pizza Talk” slot. The room was full of about 40-50 employees and the presentations were also available to be streamed by any Coherent employee around the building. There was five of us presenting and we had the daunting task of fitting 9 weeks of work into a 10 min talk! Fortunately, we all successfully presented our talks and it was a very proud moment for all of us. It felt extremely rewarding to visibly see people attracted to your work and praise you for it.  It was also a fantastic experience to have a number of people approaching me to find out more about my project. After the presentation was over, they also provided me with some useful tips that I could apply in my last week of work.

Weekend – Fundraisers

This weekend, the other scholars and I focussed on giving back to the Saltire Scholar programme so that they can continue to provide this life-changing opportunity to more Scottish students. For my first fundraiser, I collectively ran 125 Km with the 4 other interns, we had great fun with this fundraiser and dubbed it the “Five Scholar Dollar Dash”.

For my second fundraiser, I hiked the world-famous half-dome! (27 Km hike at ~9000ft!) along with two of the SF interns. This was an incredibly scary experience as after hiking 13 km during the heat of the day you are faced with a 60-degree rope climb at the end, and unfortunately for us, we reached this point at midnight! It was probably good that we couldn’t see anything as we’ve heard many people turn around after seeing the ropes from the dizzying height of half-dome. As usual, we were accompanied by a few Coherent INC employees which include Peter, the amazing photo below (by Peter) shows a long exposure shot of us climbing up half dome at night.  All in all, I was really proud of the effort by the interns and I as we raised well over £150!

Week 10: The final week of the Internship

After finishing my presentation, I still had a lot to do for my main project. As you’ll remember I missed the first few weeks of my internship so due to this I still had a few experiments to squeeze in before I left. Unlike most of the other interns, this was probably my toughest week as I really wanted to make up as much time as I could and complete my project to the best of my abilities – This led to some intense time management, I was almost scheduling my meetings and experiments to the minute! Ultimately, I was really happy with the amount of work I was able to do in the limited time that I had.

Finally, this week consisted of many leaving lunches/dinners and drinks with all the managers, even though we had only worked at Coherent for a few months we had built genuine friendships with many of the employees and managers there. The picture below is of our last day at work.

Week 11: The great road trip (quick summary)

Following the seven weeks of hard work, I followed this up by going on a weeklong road-trip around California. This consisted of well over 1000 miles of driving across sunny California! Some of the places I travelled to: Explored San Francisco to meet the SF interns -> drove to Monterey (saw the aftermath of the worlds biggest car show)->Drove down route 1, stopped in point Lobos, Morro Bay finally ending up in Santa Barbara->LA->Hollywood/Beverly Hills-> Venice beach-> San Diego-> back to SF.

Reflections:  Looking back at what was undoubtedly one of the best summers of my life, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I have been given by the Saltire Programme. I truly believe I got one of the best possible opportunities for me to develop both professionally and as a person, the internship truly exceeded my expectations in every way possible. Even the thought of being able to work in the headquarters of a multibillion-dollar company in Silicon Valley, learning directly from industry leaders, sounds crazy! Also, this opportunity definitely changed my outlook and perspective of the world and has even had an impact on my future career goals. I would now love the opportunity to work in the laser industry, or in a similar role in the scientific community. I think this is because I had never properly been exposed to the industry and didn’t have a real idea what a job in the industry would entail.

Now, I am completing an Erasmus semester abroad in Austria, then returning to Strathclyde to complete my master’s degree in Aero-Mechanical engineering. Along the way I hope that I can stay involved with entrepreneurial Scotland for a long time to come, hopefully starting by becoming a brand ambassador for the next cohort of Scholars.

That’s all from me and my internship, I hope you enjoyed my blogs (or at least found them a little bit useful) for any questions/advice, don’t hesitate to contact me!