What an Engineer Gained from Doing Good. Better.

PROVO, Utah – Sep 03, 2019 – I was a chemical engineering major, and at times, my educational pursuits seemed overwhelming. My daily routine involved studying, studying, and more studying. I’ve always had a desire to help those around me, but with such a taxing and time-consuming major, the thought of spending any of my extra hours outside of the library never seemed realistic or beneficial—until I got involved at the Ballard Center.

My first exposure to the Ballard Center was the Social Innovation Projects (SIP) class, an on-campus internship program that empowers students to work on projects for award-winning organizations that make a difference. When I first heard of SIP, I recognized it was a unique opportunity but turned it down because of my large commitment to chemical engineering. However, through a series of events, I decided to graduate in five years instead of four, and with the little extra time I had, I made the decision to experiment with doing good, better, and applied for SIP.

Through SIP I worked with the Academy for Creating Enterprise (ACE), an organization that empowers those in poverty to start and scale sustainable businesses. My team investigated an internal problem involving low enrollment in an online portal system. The portal was meant to create unity in the organization and facilitate communication with the main office since it was starting to rapidly grow. 

We contacted members and leaders of ACE in Peru, Mexico, and the Philippines to understand why they had not registered for the portal, then I categorized and analyzed the responses to develop a solution. Through this experience, my eyes were opened to the fact that my engineer’s “efficiency” mindset could be used in institutions besides the chemical engineering field. I was made aware that there were hundreds of thousands of problems that needed the analytical and methodical approach to problem- solving that I had learned, and they weren’t just the problems in my thermodynamics textbooks—they were real, socially charged problems that could change the world if solved. 

In addition to my experience with ACE, I learned that principles of social innovation could help me become even more profitable in the field of chemical engineering. When I first signed up for SIP, I saw the class as a separate experience from what I was learning in school. It was more of an extracurricular activity than a résumé builder, I thought.

I was quickly proven wrong. My experience with ACE ended up being a springboard to my chemical engineering career. I received more opportunities because of that internship than any other internship or job experience I had taken within the chemical engineering field. My work with social innovation principles and striving to solve a problem made me unique, marketable, and valuable.

I recently accepted a dream job at the Naval Nuclear Laboratory. Looking back I think about all of the experiences that have helped me get to where I am. When interviewing for this position, I asked the recruiter what made the difference for him in vetting students, and he told me that internships and strong evidence that the applicant works hard changes the game. 

I believe having that first internship with ACE, amid other engineering internships, helped me stand out to him in those ways. If I would have been able to foresee the benefits of SIP, I would not have waited until I delayed graduation to fit it into my schedule. In fact, it would have been one of the first internships I applied for. 

Learn more about how you can be a part of the Ballard Center at ballardcenter.byu.edu.

Andrew Tansiongco was a chemical engineering major at BYU and his first exposure to the Ballard Center was through the Social Innovation Projects class. 

Andrew Tansiongco
Andrew Tansiongco

Media Contact: Alicia Gettys (801) 422-5283
Writer: Andrew Tansiongco