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Our Most Memorable Summer Jobs

Dallas notables share stories about what they once did for a buck.
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photography by Maxine Helfman

Image
photography by Maxine Helfman



Some Assembly Required    |    April Allen

Executive director of Kipp Dallas-Fort Worth




My sophomore year
of college while studying engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada, I worked at a Ford plant that manufactured electronics. I had to learn each position that specific employees were doing on the assembly line. Once I learned how to put together this instrument display for Ford vehicles—say there were 10 or 12 steps to putting together this part—then I had to think about how to make that more efficient. Instead of putting a part on in order of 1, 2, 3, do you do 3, 2, 1?



I think it took me a couple weeks to learn how to put the part together. And it was a few more weeks to think about how to make it more efficient, go faster, optimize. And then I had to work with the shift manager and teach hourly employees to train them on the new process.



My uniform was chinos and a button-down or golf shirt, steel-toed shoes or boots, and, depending on where I was in the plant, a hard hat. And I walked around with my engineering pad and engineering computing calculator.



After those three summers working at a wallpaper plant, Exxon Mobil plant, and the Ford plant, I 100 percent committed that I did not want to be a professional engineer and moved to Atlanta where I started work as a management consultant. That experience sold me on the idea that engineering was not the professional choice that was right for me. But it was a great learning experience and taught me that engineering was a good thing for me to study because it really did teach me to problem solve and think.



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