Race to the Finish: My Experience as a Schaefer Co-op Student

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Hometowns, Outreach, Staff | No Comments

One month into my co-op at Schaefer, I was asked to do something way beyond my comfort zone: run the Flying Pig 4-Person Relay. Of course, trying to impress my team members, I confidently agreed with a smile on my face and continued back to my desk before anyone could hear my pounding heart. I had never run a race before… how was I supposed to train? Where was I supposed to run? Who could I run with? I had three months to figure it out.

A couple of weeks later, our relay teams solidified, I found a running buddy and a couple of trails. The more I trained for the race and the more time I spent with Schaefer, I began to realize how my unfolding co-op experience compared to my new adventure.

Choosing the Right Marathon

Every race has a different vibe. Some weave through quiet backroads. Others cut straight through the heart of a city with thousands of people cheering for you. The race you choose could be close to home or hundreds of miles away. Thankfully for Schaefer, the Flying Pig Marathon is a Cincinnati staple providing a home field advantage. And that’s exactly what I was looking for when considering which company to work for during my final two co-op rotations.

Growing up in Cincinnati and continuing my education at the University of Cincinnati, I’ve had the opportunity to work for well-respected companies without relocating. Schaefer’s positive presence on UC’s campus, coupled with its reputation as a creative teaming partner that delivers incredible structures, led me to want to work here. I saw, from my other A/E/C co-op rotations, the positive relationships Schaefer creates and maintains with its clients. After shadowing a few team members for a day, it was clear that the company values its internal relationships just as much. When I was presented with the opportunity to work for Schaefer, I accepted immediately.

Training

Common sense says that you can’t simply wake up tomorrow and run 26.2 miles without training, let alone my 6.55 mile leg of the relay. As I started training, I ran 4-6 miles a week. A few weeks later, I increased to 6-8 miles a week. Every few weeks, my base mileage would increase and my time would improve. A couple of weeks before the race, 6.55 miles didn’t seem so impossible anymore.

Common sense also says that you won’t come into work on your first day and perform as well as your coworkers with 5-10 more years of experience. My first week at Schaefer I was really impressed with how prepared they were to get me started in my position as a modeling co-op. I met everyone in the Cincinnati office and felt welcome on my first day. I was also assigned a mentor who immediately started working with me on company standards and basic details. Each week, I was given a little more responsibility at a pace that was manageable, while still keeping me on my toes. Before I knew it, I was completing smaller, simple projects with little to no guidance. Schaefer scheduled semester evaluations with constructive feedback on how to improve my work and meet my goals going forward. Just like with running, as I continued to challenge myself, I was impressed with my ability to reach and surpass my goals.

How to Train for Race Day

In order to avoid “hitting the wall” around mile 20, it’s crucial to give your body the water and energy that it needs to keep going. Marathons typically provide hydration stations throughout the course, as well as energy gel packets or crackers for quick carbs. Similarly, it’s important for a company to value the needs of its employees; company culture is a significant part of keeping employees refreshed. Schaefer’s Culture Team plans office events to help team members build relationships with each other on a personal level and keep the office energy lively. Depending on the season, Schaefer hosts grill days and chili cook-offs. Each month, Schaefer hosts a happy hour at a favorite restaurant nearby. Every year, a week-long Schaefer Week brings the offices together with various themed activities and awards.

Outside of work, Schaefer encourages its team members to find their passions and to volunteer with organizations that support them. Just a few of the organizations in which Schaefer is active are Habitat for Humanity, American Concrete Institute and Adopt-a-Class. Through these organizations, team members have been able to make home repairs for seniors and conduct science experiments with students in nearby elementary schools. Schaefer also encourages its team members to stay active and lead healthy lifestyles, currently taking part in a volleyball league. There’s really something for everyone so that all of our team members can be involved, stay active and take advantage of fun opportunities with colleagues. The race and your professional life should be fulfilling and fun!

Photos of our co-op, Kristin, and other Schaefer employees at the 2017 Flying Pig Relay Race.

Race Day

At this point, we’ve picked the race, trained for the leg and are now ready to tackle the big day. Arriving downtown that morning in 38° weather was not ideal, but we loaded onto the buses anyway and headed to our starting points. My running partner and I waited in anticipation for almost 3 hours before starting our leg. We stretched a bit, ate a small snack and lightly hydrated as we waited for our teams. Before we knew it, the batons were in our hands and we were off. In that first mile, I reminded myself of 100 tips I had previously read about how to succeed on race day. Start slow. Don’t get caught up in race-day adrenaline. Utilize the aid stations. Shed layers so you don’t overheat. By the second mile, I had found my groove.

Throughout the race, I found motivation through my Schaefer team member running beside me, and the various team members and friends cheering us on along the route. Having the support from coworkers and friends taking the time to invest in each other’s lives was incredible. On and off the course, I have seen and personally experienced Schaefer as a company that genuinely wants its team members to succeed. Whether it’s through different career moves or personal achievements, Schaefer is always thinking about your best interests first.

Race Recovery & Beyond

Going into my first race, I really wasn’t sure what to expect or how well our teams would do. Schaefer’s Relay Team A completed the race in 3:53:45, ranking 46th out of 308 relay teams. Schaefer’s Relay Team B completed the race in 3:56:43, ranking 53rd. This experience, starting from the formation of teams all the way through completing the race, was so fulfilling. Through it, I have learned that with training and preparation I am capable of much more than I believe I can do. And that is exactly how I can sum up my two co-op rotations with Schaefer. Starting in January without any experience and very little knowledge of structural concepts, I will leave in August much more prepared for my final year in the architectural engineering program. I feel confident to take what I have learned with Schaefer and apply it to my next career move, should that be pursuing a master’s degree or accepting a full-time position with a company next May.

Read about another Schaefer co-op’s experience.

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