So, first things first, my legal name is not Bunji. I was born in Kagoshima, Japan, on the south end of the island Kyushu. Originally, my mother wanted to give me the name Benjamin. However, I’ve been told “benjo” is Japanese slang for toilet, which must have been why I soon was born—”legally”—as Jason Shang McLeod.
That name didn’t last long. In the operating room, my dad mentioned that the umbilical cord for a baby is like a bungee cord with a little human attached to the end. My mom didn’t think it was as funny as he did, but I quickly became baby Bunji—much like the name Benji (i.e. Benjamin), but with a little extra spring of uniqueness in it. It has no meaning in Japanese, no cultural rooting in my Taiwanese ethnicity, and no daredevil bungee jump that deemed me worthy of such a nickname. It’s simply my name now.
Three years after jumping into this world, I moved to Bellingham, Wash., where I lived underneath the smells of damp shade and never-ending greenery. There, I took two classes with a high school teacher who has shaped my college experience more than any other: Mr. Doud. The local legend of a physics teacher could inspire us to tackle any mathematical challenge with passionate fervor, using only a pen, whiteboard and cheesy one-liners developed over decades of classes. Because of him, I am here now in Spokane going into my fourth year of mechanical engineering and working at McKinstry.
At Squalicum High School in Bellingham, standard teacher mythology has it that Mr. Doud can never be wrong. During the frantic college decision season, he told me he “highly recommended” Gonzaga University, and let me tell you, the tales were true. I love it over here. Come visit Spokane and I’ll give you a four-hour tour of a Gonzaga campus you could walk across in 13 minutes—complete with a live musical performance by fellow B.L.U.E. Program blogger Jason Orr’s band. We can even finish at McKinstry’s Spokane office, which is located just across the street.
Finishing out my third year (what?!) as a mechanical engineering major and entrepreneurial leadership minor, I was—like many, many others—looking for an opportunity to stretch my academic knowledge into a professional understanding of the fields of engineering. In other words, I began searching for internships that would not just help pay rent for the summer and be something to talk about on a resume, but would also allow me to dig in and engage in a world of engineering where I didn’t know where I fit in yet, and didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
Thousands of companies offer internships for students for various reasons. Some, like mine in the summer of 2016, needed the extra office power and were willing to invest in an intern for the summer. Others are looking to invest in their future by recruiting students with high potential and skill that will bolster their respective companies in the future. McKinstry is the latter.
The first I heard of McKinstry was at my internship in the summer of 2016 when I was putting together a project proposal. One of the competing bidders was McKinstry. Fast forward to December of 2018 and my Washington State Opportunity Scholarship mentor, Sean Novak, met me over a fat Rueben sandwich in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. This was when McKinstry came back into my mind as Sean had just been hired as part of the team.
I heard from Sean about McKinstry’s positive company culture and its emphasis on putting people first. That was only a brief fragment of our meeting together, but the image of McKinstry stuck. Later, I saw the McKinstry job posting for a mechanical design intern. It described many of the characteristics I was looking for in an internship:
- Real application of principles I had learned in the classroom,
- A mentorship feel where I could truly learn from an engineer
- A pathway to a potential job and career
- A positive culture that emphasized the human experience in a company.
Better yet, the Spokane office is located right across the street from Gonzaga, and they were hiring.
So, there you have it. I’m Bunji McLeod, I’m a mechanical design intern at McKinstry, and I will be writing for the B.L.U.E. Blog this summer.