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Shivam Patel’s Internship with Toyota

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Shivam Patel poses for a picture with fellow interns at the Toyota Museum in Torrance, CA.

Shivam Patel is an incoming junior in the Jindal School majoring in supply chain management with a concentration in professional sales. The Academic Committee chair of the Davidson Management Honors Program, this expected 2017 graduate is no stranger to fully dedicating himself to what he is a part of. His internship experience has been no different. In this interview, Shivam shares his newfound passion for his industry and tells why other students should seek this same passion through their internships.

Tell us where you interned and about your internship experience.

I am working for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. as a logistics intern in Hebron, Kentucky, at our North American Parts Center Kentucky facility. Some of my responsibilities include working on a Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) Project to help improve our key performance indicators and performing audits on outbound trailers to our facilities for cost purposes.

This is my second internship with the company, and I am just as ecstatic about the opportunity to work with this company the second time around. Last year I was sent to Torrance, California, to work at our Toyota Customer Experience Center, where I interacted with consumers while working to improve their interactions with dealership personnel and regional managers.

How did you get your internship? Did you use any on-campus resources?

I landed my first internship by being in the right place at the right time. Toyota attracts me not only because I love cars, but for personal reasons as well. My choice to attend UT Dallas was heavily influenced by the fact that Toyota was moving to Plano. That’s one of this university’s great strengths — that it’s located in the center of such a hotspot for business. During the spring semester of my freshman year, I mistakenly attended a UT Dallas Career Center program session when I intended to attend one of the many fantastic events offered by the JSOM Career Management Center. That “mistake” was the best of my life so far. It led to me landing an interview, and it was all smooth sailing from there.

My second internship came from all the connections I made while working at headquarters last year. I was having a hard time getting an internship at the company because I was a sophomore and wasn’t slated to graduate in time to be eligible for the internship I was interested in. I thought my experience with Toyota was over and that I had to move on, but decided to reach out to someone in my network I met from a Weekly Intern Lunch event last summer. He was a manager of North American Part Operations and connected me with a company-based recruiter. I got the job over the phone after a short interview.

What is the office culture like at your internship?

Both of my internships have carried very similar office cultures and experiences for me. Despite interning at entirely different facilities on two different coasts, Toyota works to create a very cohesive culture across the board. Toyota teaches all of its employees their core values, which we call the Toyota Way. These are Kaizen, which is a Japanese word that means we always strive for continuous improvement; Genchi Genbutsu, which encourages all employees to actively go to the source of things and observe operations; respect for people and teamwork. These core values form the cultural framework that influence all of our operations and procedures from the highest executives to part-time workers.

During my internship I have been lucky enough to see that our team members are very flexible and willing to listen to you. As an intern, I had the ability to meet with key management and discuss some ideas my team had to improve operations at the facility I was placed in. They are always willing to listen, encourage and push you forward.

How has it been relocating for your internship?

At Toyota, they strongly encourage relocation for all of their college-level interns. They want you to go out and see the company’s operations so you can make a bigger impact by being trained on all facets of the company. Every internship I have done and plan on doing will be out of Texas. It really makes for a new and exciting, if not a bit intimidating, experience with the company.

California, I was provided with a company lease vehicle, a paid-for flight and a subsidized housing option. In Kentucky however, I was only provided with a relocation stipend. This was a daunting task at first, but after networking with Toyota professionals that made the move from northern Kentucky to Plano, I was able to find another associate pursuing supply chain management that was a young professional. I am currently rooming with him, and it has been a really positive experience, since I have gained a friend and had the opportunity to learn more about another field of business. I only had three days from coming home from the DMHP trip to Prague and Budapest to relocate to Kentucky, so packing and driving up was a bit of a whirlwind. It was at times hectic and intimidating, but has offered me a completely new experience in which I can learn about my future.

Do you have a mentor?

Working for Toyota has given me many mentors. From my reporting manager to fellow team members, to former team members that have moved on from Toyota, they have all been extremely helpful. I have never met someone in the company that wouldn’t be ecstatic mentoring opportunity. I haven’t really had a formal opportunity, but every day people you interact with, even those above you, can take something away from working with you. Just because you are young and lack experience doesn’t mean your input isn’t as valuable as everyone else’s.

How have you made the most of this internship?

I encourage all students and future interns to be as active as you can in your workplace. Participate in every event that your company offers. If you feel you have confidently finished a project after thorough inspection, go up to a manager and ask for more work. Showing initiative is not only a good practice in life but shows your superiors you are adamant about what you do. When they are considering returning interns, you will be at the top of their list. But a standout employee is not just in numbers and papers, it’s about fitting into something bigger. It is important to do good work at your desk and in their community as well. Toyota is a fantastic community partner and offers lots of outreach programs, which I have taken part in wholeheartedly.

As an intern, you must make yourself known not through decreeing your achievements, but committing yourself to your works. There is nothing greater than to be humbly recognized for your strong work ethic, initiatives and values. An internship is just as much finding a company you fit with as it is a company that fits with you.

Shivam Patel in the warehouse at Toyota during his internship.

What is the biggest lesson your internship taught you?

Patience is an extreme virtue. It is hard to achieve, and it is even harder to maintain. Toyota is a process-oriented company, and there is a reason that a project takes months to get onboard. You have to get team member buy-in and carefully create a proposal that is backed up by data analysis. This is the only way that projects at Toyota will work. You must pursue your task regardless of the outcome or time it takes. Work ethic is highly dependent upon your patience and commitment to a task.

What was your favorite experience? Tell us about it.

Bonding with the fellow interns and management trainees from last year was a really fantastic opportunity. We all went to a Dodgers game together, and I got to spend time with some great friends. The best and most memorable experience was cliff diving at Corona del Mar in Newport Beach. We climbed up a 50-foot cliff and just jumped off. I definitely got scraped along the way, but I will always remember everyone cheering each other on and being a true team player.

Do you have any embarrassing stories?

Of course I do! Doesn’t every intern? Customer service is a really hard job to do, and my hat goes off to those people being super cheerful on the other side of the phone. I spoke with a sweet lady over the phone who was already upset because she was calling customer service, and called her sir! Let’s just say the rest of the call was downhill from there.

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

Information about warehouse management. There is an entire course dedicated to logistics, but I am only slated to take that next fall. I believe that it is just a time issue, but my managers were more than willing to teach me some of these concepts. I had just finished a purchasing and procurement course, as well as operations, so I understand a few concepts but am not even close to fully grasping the process.

Why do you think an internship is important?

Internships are your first look into not just an industry, but the company you are interning for as well. Because of all the internships students go through now days, recruiters of full-time employees will often hire someone that already interned for the company rather than a new applicant with internship experience elsewhere. It is important to take more than just the mandatory internship to open opportunities for yourself and find where you could belong.

Do you have any plans for the future?

With Toyota? Absolutely! During the school year, I plan on furthering my experience in the auto industry at the dealership I worked for and plan on applying for another internship with Toyota that acts as a feeder into the management trainee program, from which they hire full-time college graduates.

What is your advice for students looking for internships?

Start looking freshman year. You are going to get a lot of nos, but one yes is all you need! Even if you don’t get an internship offer, talk to recruiters and ask for their advice. My goal for freshman year was just to get my name out there. That was it. I didn’t even expect an internship that I could apply for freshman year. Get involved on campus and make a difference. See if you can help the Career Management Center in JSOM, or make connections with professors! I can’t tell you how many friends I have that have received internships from faculty recommendations. It makes a world of difference! So just try! You won’t know what they say if you don’t.

Any last comments?

Find a company you are passionate about. Toyota is something I am deeply passionate about. I can’t imagine working for another company right now. They stand for everything I believe in, and they make my hobby what it is! People at Toyota have stayed for as long as 34 years. Some team members even started and retired with the company! So, find a company you can be proud of. This is what Toyota is to me. I encourage you to find your fit during your internship.

Kelsi Edwards

Kelsi Edwards is a freshman marketing student in the Jindal School of Management. She's passionate about writing, the digital world and people. As a member of DECA, the Davidson Management Honors Program and a social media student worker in the JSOM Web Services Department, she loves keeping herself busy. She enjoys spending the free time she has traveling, walking her dog and practicing photography. Read more articles

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