“Try to be as involved as you can: try to find your own community, space, or organization where you can be yourself and grow and develop as a person.” – Daniela Cruz
Daniela Cruz is a junior from Bound Brook, New Jersey who is studying packaging engineering. She is gaining invaluable pre-professional experience in her field through a semester-long co-op. While her first was with Mondelēz International in New Jersey, she is currently completing her second co-op internship in California, working for Johnson & Johnson.
Why did you choose Rutgers School of Engineering?
I chose Rutgers for three reasons. First, because it’s close to home and my family. Second, it offered me the best financial package. Third, it was the only school where I was able to be part of the amazing Educational Opportunity Fund, or EOF, program held the summer before freshman year. I think I made a pretty good choice.
What drew you to packaging?
I first wanted to study electrical and computer engineering, but after learning a bit about this, I realized I wanted something more hands-on and that globally impacts others. I also like the creativity involved in making and designing packages.
People don’t always see the hard work that goes behind packaging – it’s a lot more complicated than one expects. I thought being part of that would be really exciting.
Has any particular courses stood out for you so far?
Oh, my gosh, yes! The CAD – computer aided design – course for sure. It was so hands-on and I loved being able to envision something and actually put it to life. I learned something that will be useful and beneficial in the future.
What is the department’s greatest strength?
The biggest one is that we have smaller sized classes, so the professors are really able to engage and build stronger bonds with their students. You’re able to work one-on-one with your professors who are going to help you with your goals and what you learn. The department’s resources are also important – including events that allow you to network with companies, professionals, and alumni to learn about their experiences and the packaging industry.
You’ve had two co-op internships. What was your first one?
Last spring semester, from January 2019 until June 2019, I worked in the Mondelēz International packaging department. I worked with cross-functional teams on different global and national commercialized packaging projects and with vendors.
What does your Johnson & Johnson internship involve?
At J&J, I’m a manufacturing engineer. My position is lot more hands-on, and I get to see more of the back end of packaging, which is really cool. At Mondelēz, l was on the front end – now I’m able to see the actual production at the plant where they manufacture Neutrogena products. Now that I’m on the floor, I can connect the dots.
I’m able to put one and one together from a packaging perspective to get the full picture: how it works before running in production and how it runs in production and afterwards.
Is it unusual to have two co-op experiences?
For the packaging department, a co-op experience is built into our schedules. Doing a second one is up to you, but it’s common.
What have you enjoyed most about your co-ops?
Definitely the people – they’ve been really supportive, and understand that it was my first industry experience. I’m first generation in my family and this is all new to me, so they have been very motivating and willing to answer all the questions I’ve had – not just about work but about general life issues. At J&J, I enjoy working with the people, who are super helpful, welcoming and kind.
Do you have any advice for students hoping to take advantage of a co-op program opportunity?
I’d say to go for it. You’ll be able to put what you’ve learned in classes to the test or utilize it with a company. It’s very important to get that experience as well to get an idea if that’s something you do or don’t want to do after college.
How have they helped you clarify your career plans??
Industry wise, I’d like to work in something related to cosmetics and skincare. I’m not sure yet if I want to focus on the corporate or manufacturing side – I enjoy both and I’m still trying to figure that out. At this point, I would enjoy either one!
Are you involved with any extracurricular organizations?
I’m a general member of the packaging club.
In my sophomore year I was introduced to the Society of Hispanic Engineers, which was life changing. I gained alot of academic, professional, and personal support and met my best friends there This year, I was on the public relations member of the executive board, and had my own committee and served as mentor.
I’m also really involved with the EOF program for the School of Engineering, where I mainly serve as a mentor and offer the people in the office additional help.
Do you have any advice for new students?
Try to be as involved as you can: try to find your own community, space, or organization where you can be yourself and grow and develop as a person. Go to events and check out organizations freshman year to see all the opportunities Rutgers has in terms of your interests. I think it’s very important – and it’s a lot of fun.
What do you do for fun?
I love going to my fourteen-year-old brother’s soccer games. He plays on the weekends, so I like to take advantage of that when I’m in New Jersey.
What’s it like being so far from home during the COVID-19 crisis?
It’s really hard being so far away in Los Angeles. I face time or call my family every day and keeping that communication has been helping me a lot. At end of the day, this is only temporary. I took this co-op to grow and expose myself to new challenges. Doing this for myself will provide a better future. I know I will reflect on this experience wherever I go.
I love the experience and California as well! Weather-wise, you can’t beat it at all – there’s a lot to see and do here!