Sumer Ghazala's internship experience at SpaceX

June 12, 2017

Economics and Political Science student, Sumer Ghazala, reflects on her internship experience at SpaceX.

I’m an Economics and Political Science major and have always admired technology and engineering. The humanities and business always seemed to be the fields which I saw myself working in, while engineering was a hobby. However, during my first internship at an engineering company, I grew more familiar and comfortable with my engineering interests. This led me to other opportunities where I could do business and research internships that were related to engineering. For example, I did policy research and writing as the Science and Technology Intern at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and shifted from a build member to the Business Lead for UM-Dearborn’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (Combustion). These engineering-related experiences set me up well for my internship at SpaceX in Hawthorne, CA during the fall of 2016, which I discovered by googling around for internships and then applying online.

At SpaceX, I was the Supply Chain intern under the Production Team. I was able to research and develop various projects, which gave me more experience in purchasing, operations, and industrial engineering. Interestingly, working at SpaceX was not a complete departure from my economics studies. I actually faced many of the company's economic problems and circumstances.

One of the most direct ways my economics classes proved useful was that several of my tasks required the use of Excel and other online interfaces. Econometrics (ECON 4015) was very useful in terms of helping me become comfortable with numbers and using Excel and SPSS. Although I did not directly use SPSS on the job, learning how to navigate through SPSS prepared me for better understanding on how to navigate through new interfaces that were needed at SpaceX. I also had to develop a market analysis that involved relating certain variables and their likelihood of causing each other in order for the company to make a good investment on a capital asset. Our multivariate analysis projects in Excel and SPSS from econometrics class proved very helpful in making me more inclined to successfully tackle this task.

There were some job issues related to foundational economics, such as issues of supply and demand. In this case, my micro and macro classes came in handy.  For instance, when we were faced with a lower demand for our rockets given the anomaly we faced in September, our production had to slow down to a certain extent to keep up with our revenue. I also was able to see price elasticity of demand in real life because our rockets are so specialized that any change in price didn't really matter to our customers since they needed our specialization, making the price elasticity of demand of SpaceX rockets quite inelastic.

In addition, being at SpaceX introduced me to many people active in the world of Silicon Valley, especially investing. When I came back to UM-Dearborn in the fall and took Money and Banking (ECON 311), I recognized a lot of the concepts we learned because I had witnessed them in the real world at this internship. SpaceX itself has stock options for employees, which does make or break some employees’ decisions to stay or leave (potentially mine). I also found myself in many conversations where people would speak about expected return through interest rates on certain stocks in other companies. It was really exciting to come back to school and break down these concepts for a better and fuller understanding in Money and Banking.

My internship experiences have enabled me to apply and better understand several of the economics concepts I have learned at UM-Dearborn. I have seen these economics concepts in action and dealt with them in real life. I intend to return to SpaceX this coming summer and hope to keep learning while applying more of what I have learned in classes on the job.

-Sumer Ghazala

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