UM Mechanical Engineering Graduate Views Long-term Career with Company after Internship

Lauren Kiel works in project management at Ingersoll Rand

UM mechanical engineering alumna Lauren Kiel is an advanced management program trainee at Ingersoll Rand. Submitted photo

Like a “Trane,” it’s hard to stop Lauren Kiel. Following her sophomore year, the University of Mississippi mechanical engineering major with a minor in manufacturing accepted a 15-month co-op internship with Trane Manufacturing Co. in La Crosse, Wisconsin. While a member of Trane’s Advanced Manufacturing Engineering team, Kiel served on a new product development team that took a heating, ventilation and air conditioning compressor product from the design phase to full production.

“Once my co-op was over, Ingersoll Rand (Trane’s parent company) offered to keep me on remotely as an intern for them,” said Kiel, a Chicago native who graduated from the university in May. “From August 2017 until now, I transitioned into a project management intern.”

In her latest role, Kiel has been tasked with managing the resource allocation and capital expense spending of all the HVAC manufacturing facilities in North America and Europe. She holds training sessions for all Trane employees who fall under the manufacturing, materials or quality title in all plants throughout the year. In addition to working with plant managers to track data on resource allocation and spending, Kiel also assists in planning.

“I’m on an accelerated track to becoming a manager when I roll off from this program in January of 2022,” Kiel said. “My co-op set me up with the network and mentors I needed to validate my performance and helped me outline my career goals.”

Kiel said she would repeat her path from intern to professional if given the chance.

“I am so fortunate to have gotten on with Ingersoll Rand,” she said. “Without completing the co-op, I wouldn’t have discovered so early on in life what I wanted to do. I could not have asked for a better experience.”

As an intern, Kiel organized cell work groups, ordered equipment, determined manufacturing build playbooks based on volume and performed various other tasks to support implementation in the factory. While her studies were important, she found the real world isn’t entirely theoretical.

“Employers are looking for students who can come out of college and hit the ground running,” she said. “Having hands-on experience sets up for success in the future. Instead of pulling from textbooks, you can pull from firsthand accounts of issues and propose innovative solutions you have seen.”

She said the project management experience was the most eye-opening part her co-op internship.

“I found my niche and my true passion going forward,” she said. “Now I have a 10-year plan to reach my long-term goal of upper management before I even start my first postgraduate, full-time gig.”

Kiel’s supervisor at Ingersoll Rand said what he found most impressive about her was that she continued to grow and take on challenges without hesitation.

“Lauren acts self-sufficient even in situations where the direction wasn’t clear,” said Jim Cahill, process group leader in project management at Trane Commercial HVAC. “She responded to people’s requests and always was there to support people with questions. She also communicated and even trained full-time professionals on specific topics, so that alone shows her ability to communicate well and to lead others.”

Kiel emphasized the importance of real-world experience to future graduates.

“My co-op was my first steppingstone to a long-standing career with Ingersoll Rand,” Kiel said. “I think it’s an incredible advantage for students who take co-op opportunities. You get to learn what you do and don’t like over a period of time. That experience is invaluable and so important in figuring out the answer to the age-old question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’”