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Justin’s Internship Experiences

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Justin Mauller sits inside the engine of one of Southwest Airline's 737s

When Justin Mauller approached me to talk about his internship experiences, I was immediately impressed by his dedication, perseverance and proactive approach to life. He made a great first impression in our initial contact with his honest and humble way of responding to my questions. Justin is majoring in supply chain management at JSOM and will be graduating in August with about as much professional experience as one can get as a full-time undergraduate college student. Explore his internship experiences with me and learn how they have made him the business scholar he is today.

Justin, where have you interned?

I landed my first internship with Southwest Airlines as a purchasing intern in the spring of 2015. That summer I stayed on with Southwest Airlines as a contractor working with the component repairs and warranty department. I then moved on to Lennox International, where I was the logistics intern. Following Lennox, I moved to McGregor, Texas, to intern with SpaceX at their rocket development and test facility as the supply chain intern. I’m currently doing my last internship with Raytheon, also as the supply chain intern in their new Richardson office.

Justin jams out to karaoke with a fellow intern

What is the biggest lesson each internship taught you?

You’re never alone if you feel stuck, and people are the most valuable resource. You’re not looked down upon as an intern, and your colleagues want you to succeed and make meaningful contributions. I’ve been fortunate to have a mentor with each new experience, and that shouldn’t be taken for granted.


How has what you learned in each internship transferred to the others?

My technical skills have drastically improved with each internship. I’ve used various company-specific software programs and have used SAP frequently, which employers look for. I walked into my first internship having never used Microsoft Outlook and with basic Microsoft Excel skills, but now I have gained advanced Excel skills and exposure to SQL. Technical skills will always carry over, and I’ll always be working to further develop them.

Was there a turning point in one of your internships where you realized what you wanted to do with your career?

At Lennox International, I was working in logistics and had the opportunity to execute deployments of freight every day throughout their national distribution network, and I realized logistics was not where my interest was. I went into that internship expecting to find my calling, but I learned I’d rather pursue a career in procurement or supply chain analysis instead. That’s what internships are all about, discovering where you see yourself after graduation.

Justin enjoys his first trip to California with fellow interns using his Southwest Airlines benefit of free flights

What was your favorite experience? Tell us about it.

I have a couple of favorite experiences. Interns get free flights at Southwest Airlines so I traveled all over the country with the new friends I made from the internship. It was the time of my life. I got to spend a weekend in California, fly to San Antonio for dinner on the River Walk on a Wednesday night and make it back for work Thursday, and fly to Vegas for one night on the Strip amongst other great trips with interns, who I still keep in touch with. There were weekend vacation opportunities every week.

My experience with SpaceX was also an unforgettable one. I was able to see engine tests daily and witness history before it was made. I was working there when the booster of the Falcon 9 rocket came through for testing, the same one that went on to land on a barge in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after delivering cargo to the International Space Station. To see the booster up close and test fire before it went to on accomplish what many believed to be an impossible feat was incredible.

Do you have any embarrassing stories?

While at Southwest Airlines I was trying to automate a very manual process, and I sought help because I was still new to their software. In the title of the initial email I used a three- letter acronym for the business group I was trying to get in touch with, and it wasn’t until I had been referred to five or six different people that we realized my questions were reaching the wrong people. It became a steady stream of employees with no idea of what I was talking about. Both groups just happened to share the same acronym but with different business functions. The lesson to take away is to be clear and concise in your emails.

What do you wish you would have known going into your internship?

I wish I would have known to never be afraid to ask questions. In my experience, everyone is willing to help and happy to do so. Ask questions and get to know your co-workers. Seek out process- improvement opportunities to make their jobs more efficient. You want to be remembered for the impact you have on their daily work long after you’re gone. I’ve never experienced stereotypical coffee fetching or disrespect because I’m “just an intern” so take advantage of the opportunity to shine.

How did you find your internships?

I have found every internship online on popular job board sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor with the exception of Southwest Airlines, which comes to UT Dallas every year to promote their program. I attended their presentation and immediately knew that’s what I wanted to do. I’m used to throwing my résumé in a hat and hoping for the best, which is not an ideal way to find a job. It goes without saying, networking is key.

What on-campus resources did you use?

I attended a couple of career fairs but didn’t have any luck, and I’ve attended networking events that the Career Management Center put together. I actually wish I utilized the JSOM CMC more because they do everything they can to give students opportunities to succeed in everything from interviewing to negotiating salary. Looking back, I really wish I had made the time to attend more CMC events.

Why is an internship important?

An internship is an elongated job interview with the goal of earning full-time employment opportunities. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and network with business professionals, which can open doors if you have the drive and work ethic. At the same time, it’s an exceptional learning opportunity to explore what you love, and it’s a chance to develop the necessary skills to transition from being a student to a successful professional.

Why are multiple internships important?

I wanted to see what function of the supply chain I wanted to start a career in. Supply chain management involves various functions, such as procurement, sourcing and logistics, and I thought the best way for me to find what I enjoyed was to put myself into various positions before graduating. It’s also important to explore different company cultures; industries and various software programs companies rely on. You’ll become an office celebrity if you’re known to have exceptional technical skills. It’s been a great learning opportunity that helped me gain invaluable professional experience. It also makes you a more competitive candidate and a stronger asset to your employer.

What motivated you to go above and beyond in your internship hunt?

It’s a competitive market, and I was tired of getting rejected. Southwest Airlines gives offers to 1 percent of their applicants for their intern program, but I was motivated to land a spot, and it turned into being the most fun and beneficial experience of my life. Following Southwest, I wanted to keep learning about the various functions of supply chain and experience the different company cultures and industries. Most importantly, I had a strong desire to learn and contribute to [solving] real-world business problems.

You said you have a 100 percent job-offer rate from your interviews. What is your recipe for success?

Hiring managers want to see passion. Maybe you’re not passionate about the company, but what about the role? How bad do you want to learn from industry professionals in that job function? It’s important to advertise yourself as someone who is eager to learn. In my experience, skills have been secondary to your character and cultural fit. I couldn’t rely on skills when competing with applicants from the around the country and at the graduate level because I wasn’t the most tech-savvy or experienced. It’s important to bring attention to your leadership qualities and to make yourself unique and memorable. The recipe is a bit of sugar, spice and highlighting why you want the role at that specific company, your desire to learn and your personality. I talked about fantasy football briefly in my interview with SpaceX that I related back to personal qualities about myself. Most candidates will focus solely on school projects and technical skills, which are valuable; but I believe it’s important to also show who you are away from school and work. You’re more likely to make your hiring manager smile if you can get off topic from the packet of interview questions. If you can turn it into a conversation, you’ll be much better off.

What interview questions are the hardest to answer?

It’s a very simple question, but “tell me about yourself” is tough because there’s so many different ways to answer it. Along the same lines, I’ve also been asked, “I’ve interviewed X candidates today. Why should I hire you?” Of course there’s also the curveballs that can catch you off guard. One hiring manager held up three fingers and said, “If you can shoot a condiment out of each finger, which would you choose, and why?” I also remember being asked, “What animal I would be and why,” and I really had no idea. I didn’t want to be cliché and say I’m a lion because I’m courageous, so I really had to pause and think about something different that wouldn’t be commonly used.

What interview questions do you hear a lot?

I hear the standard “tell me about a time when” questions, but it depends on who is interviewing me. When HR is involved, it tends to be going through behavioral questions, but when it’s just the hiring manger, they like to dig deep into my résumé. I don’t have one particular question that sticks out to me.

What is your advice for students looking for internships?

Do not get discouraged by the automated rejection emails. I have seen my fair share, and they will happen. In fact, I just recently got rejected for the exact same internship from the same company with the same hiring manager as the one I got an offer from last summer. You just have to keep going and shrug them off. It’s tough getting an interview so when you do, be sure to devote lots of time and effort to studying the company and the position. I have never been asked what I know about the company that I’m interviewing with, but studying their brand helps build confidence. It will impress the hiring manager if you ask questions related to current news or when you talk about what specifically you like about the company. There’s no such thing as being too prepared. I spend several hours preparing for each interview by watching YouTube videos about the company and reading information online. When I really wanted to work for Southwest Airlines, I talked with past interns to get every tip I could to land an interview. I completely catered my résumé to what I thought Southwest Airlines would want to see. Reach out to past or current interns and seek advice — some will be more than willing to lend a hand. Most importantly, be yourself and show determination in landing the job!

Any last comments?

I’m happy to help anyone who wants to learn more. If you want to reach out to me, you can message me on LinkedIn. It would be a pleasure to offer any company specific or general internship advice if you need it.

That concludes this interview with Justin Mauller about his internship experiences. The biggest takeaway I had from Justin’s interview is to never let rejection stop you from what you want and desire most in life. Rejection can be a hard pill to swallow, but if you keep at it and stay positive, there’s nothing that can stop you in this world!

If you think you’ve had a great internship experience you’d like to share, please contact me at gmokry@utdallas.edu.

Gaby Mokry

Gaby is pursuing her MS Marketing program at The Jindal School of Management. Before coming to UT Dallas, she gained experience at traditional and digital advertising agencies. She appreciates a freshly brewed cup of joe and spends her free time surrounding herself with creative projects, Netflix binges and biking on White Rock Lake. Read more articles

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