Aspen Holmes, Intern for the MTU Office of Continuous Improvement

I remember being completely overwhelmed as the semester and my internship started. Getting into Lean is something that forces you to change how you think about the world around you and this can be a very painful, tedious, and rigorous process. Most people don’t know what to do with all of the information they have just received or how to respect and apply it to their everyday lives. I remember one day I was so fed up with feeling so stuck in what I was doing and didn’t feel that Lean really had as much applicability as I thought. Tears were welling up as I sat at my desk, endlessly highlighting my “Lean for Dummies” book and trying to connect to what I was learning. My supervisor, Ruth Archer, and I were the only ones in the office at the time. She turned to me, calmly asked me what was going on, and waited intently until I could find what I wanted to say. “Is it normal to feel like you can’t do this?” I chewed on my lip as I waited for her answer. Then, she just smiled at me. She chuckled lightly and said that it was completely normal to feel overwhelmed by Lean and that getting there, to the point where I had mastered it, was a silly goal for my training period, because she hasn’t mastered continuous improvement yet, either. This is when I learned that Lean is a journey and that you can’t expect to grasp it until you’ve walked with it for a while. “You can’t do everything at once,” she guided me. I’m still learning that one, but I still appreciate the insightful talks that Ruth and I have to this day.

While I haven’t learned that I can’t do everything quite yet, I do understand that I can use Lean tools and philosophies to streamline my everyday life to make more possible. Now, being a college student I don’t really have the time to do so right now, but give it a week or two! I have learned a lot about myself during this internship and about what I stand for as an employee, as a student, and as an adult. There is still a lot ahead of me, but I am definitely proud of how far I have come.

“You haven’t gotten there yet, huh.. But look at how much you’ve grown.”

Aspen Holmes Illustration