Cliff Crockett (’89), Partner at the accounting firm KPMG in Dallas, Texas, has been conducting interviews for accounting internships at ACU for the past twenty years. This year’s global pandemic proved to be a bit of a challenge. Yet, the social distancing guidelines moved them in the direction that many companies across the country are taking: adapting to virtual interviews.
“We have always done face to face interviews and much prefer them. So this was the first time to do Skype interviews on a broad basis,” Cliff explained. While exceptions have been made before to accommodate students out of the country on study abroad, in-person interviews are the ideal platform to allow interaction with the students.
“We typically have a pre-interview dinner the evening before the interview so that we can get to know them better. This also allows the students to ask a lot of questions to multiple KPMG employees to help them feel more comfortable and get to know KPMG better. The students also get to interact with our greeters right before the in-person interview, so they miss out on this as well.”
Students initially had their interviews scheduled for March 26th, but when the campus closed, they instead began to prepare for virtual ones. When asked if this changed their approach in preparing, sophomore Lacy Mayes explained, “I had to practice looking at the camera instead of the screen. It’s definitely a different approach when you can’t shake hands or look at them directly in the eyes.”
One of the main concerns for virtual interviewing is technology issues, from poor connections to glitches. “I think it is harder for students doing it this way than for the interviewer actually,” Mr. Crockett explained, as KPMG is accustomed to meeting virtually with clients and employees. He advised students to double-check that their technical setup was working well before their interview. However, even when issues arose, junior Mikel-Ann Terry said that the interviewers were very understanding of any issues encountered, saying, “I would encourage anyone thinking about an internship to interview with them, even if it is just for the experience!”
Even though face to face is the ideal platform for interviewing, going virtual is providing students with valuable experience – regardless of location. Senior Rachel Rankey shared, “I learned to speak with confidence so they know what you’re saying and why you were right for that position. I also learned that oftentimes, they just want to get a sense of who you are rather than grilling you with a lot of questions that might be hard to answer”. Junior Hannah Pinson said that she enjoyed the virtual aspect, once she grew accustomed to it.
Crockett concluded by sharing how much he loves being on campus and interviewing ACU students. He and his team look forward to being on campus as soon as they can. “ACU does a great job preparing their business and accounting students for the real world, so take full advantage of your education!”
Graham Cepica (’21) is a marketing major from Lubbock, TX. Graham recently began an internship with New York real estate developer, Horacio LeDon, where he has been able to receive real-world experience that he can translate to the classroom and his professional career development. When it comes to internships and job searches, networking often plays a vital role in finding the opportunities that will provide the most valuable experience. Initiative, interest, and passion also play a large role in obtaining such opportunities. Graham is a wonderful example of how networking brought him to a once in a lifetime internship opening.
“Last semester, I had the chance to attend the Abilene Young Professionals Summit. In one of the breakout sessions, a local entrepreneur and real estate developer named Tim Smith was speaking. After the panel, I introduced myself to him and got his information. It wasn’t long before I was spending my days downtown shadowing Tim, meeting people, and learning about the exciting developments in store for Abilene. Towards the end of the semester, I approached Tim about a possible internship for the coming spring. Even though he could use a hand with his projects in south downtown, he suggested a better alternative. Tim introduced me to a man by the name of Horacio LeDon, a prominent real estate developer from New York that was a fellow investor in the purchase of the Windsor Hotel. Horacio was the lead developer for the renovation and revitalization of the historic building and was willing to take me on as his intern. Tim recognized that this project would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and the experience has been nothing short of exactly that.”
“I would go to my internship every weekday after I got out of class. A typical day looks like me meeting Horacio after lunch and updating him on any upcoming meetings that I have set up for us with different vendors and partners. For example, Abilene companies that sell flags that we want to extend from the balcony, potential businesses that we are interested in for the retail spaces connected to the lobby, interviews with local CPA’s to serve as part-time CFO’s, interior designers that can come alongside us in the project, architects, lighting designers, security services, etc. In addition to meetings, I organize floorplans, inspiration, official documents, and agendas into their corresponding files. Horacio and I have various shared photo albums with inspiration for the Windsor, as well as shared Notes with to-do lists. Sometimes, Horacio has his own meetings that I get to shadow. I have gotten to meet the city manager, chairman of the city council, and others by way of Horacio’s network. Horacio is always mindful of providing me with valuable experience and learning opportunities. The relationship I have with Horacio has been my favorite part of the internship. Due to a mutual respect for one another, we have developed an efficient working environment allowing me to serve the team and be part of a special development for downtown Abilene.”
This project has fueled a desire in Graham to further explore careers in real estate and real estate development. “I am intrigued by the creativity that real estate development presents. The ability to see something with potential and add value to it is something that I have a passion for. I would love to bring this passion into my career – whether I am adding value to a building, a project, or a team of people. But right now, my next best step is to ‘add value’ to this internship with the service I provide.”
The College of Business Administration seeks to provide all students with internship and job search help, professional development coaching, as well as helping students expand their professional network. Graham Cepica is definitely a testament to the power of networking, saying, “The networking opportunities at ACU had a domino effect that led me from one person to the next.”
Interested in learning more about professional development at ACU? Click here to learn more about the Professional Development program offered by COBA. Click here to learn more about ACU’s Career Center.
Christian Guerra speaks to students at a Lunch and Learn event.
ACU’s Career Center, Department of Engineering and Physics, and College of Business Administration worked together to host ACU alumnus Christian Guerra (’06) on January 28th. Christian serves as the Vice President and General Manager Operations for Avanzar Interior Technologies and returned to campus to address engineering, physics, and business students about the career opportunities available in automotive manufacturing. Christian was joined by other Avanzar team members including C.D. Rodriguez, who serves as the Human Resources Manager. Avanzar, an award winning manufacturer located in San Antonio, Texas, is a Toyota Motors production partner who manufacturers the seats for the Toyota Tundra.
The Toyota automotive manufacturing production standards are truly world class and give Avanzar employees the tremendous opportunity to learn best practices and work to produce top of the line products. Christian gave students insights into the internship and career opportunities available with their company as well as the company culture. Guerra was a student worker for former COBA Dean Dr. Rick Lytle when he was at ACU. He shared with students that Dr. Lytle impressed on him the need to be “Christ in the workplace”. Christian said that he puts this lesson into practice every day as he works to lead this family owned business with 1,100 associates in San Antonio and 200 associates in Mexico. He also reflected on his time in LYNAY and Dr. Gary McCaleb’s encouragement to go back to your community and help where you can. Christian took this advice, returned home, and is helping Avanzar provide an excellent work opportunity for employees in his hometown of San Antonio. This same work ethic is exemplified throughout the Avanzar organization. Berto Guerra, founder of Avanzar and ACU Board of Trustee, was honored by EY as the 2015 Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year.
Addressing work challenges through effective teamwork is critical at Avanzar. In their visit to the Engineering Department, the Avanzar representatives had a chance to observe current students working in teams to determine objectives and alternative solutions all while
Engineering, physics and business students were invited to learn about careers and internships with Avanzar.
operating with constraints during their engineering classes. The opportunity to work with ACU engineering, physics and business students aligns with the needs of the manufacturer both with regard to their work ethic and with their Christ-centered focus in the workplace. HR representative C.D. Rodriguez was impressed with the Engineering and Science facilities and enjoyed meeting the professors and students, stating that they will be back later this spring to conduct interviews. COBA looks forward to creating more opportunities for our students as we continue to collaborate with our partners in the ACU Career Center and across campus. To learn more about the ACU Career Center and job and internship opportunities, click here.
Zach Jennings is a Management major from Abilene, Texas and graduated in December 2019. Zach interned with Edward Jones this last summer. “I learned the basics of what it takes to be a financial advisor. I got to work with other offices and two other interns in town. There were about 200 interns nationwide, so having even one intern in Abilene was awesome, but we had three!”
As Zach prepared for graduation, he also prepared to begin work with Edward Jones as a financial advisor. He says, “I believe my time at ACU helped me find out what I wanted to do moving forward. Not only did it prepare me for my future career, but I grew so much in my relationship with God because of the wonderful people here.” Zach found that he wanted a career with Edward Jones after his experience as an intern and is looking forward to the great opportunities laid before him.
Zach enjoyed his college career at ACU. We asked him what his favorite thing about being a part of COBA was and how the environment influenced his growth throughout his time here. “My favorite thing about COBA was attending Leadership Summit. I grew a lot in the Lord and made so many good friendships as well. It was a refreshing and soul-quenching experience. I would say that ACU offers not only some of the best education programs out there, but what makes ACU great is the community. You actually get to know your professors and you’ll realize they want to get to know you too. The community of ACU is welcoming, inclusive and Christ-like. The people here are what sets ACU apart from the rest.”
Helping students find how their gifts and talents can be used for God in the workplace is something COBA is passionate about. For those students who aren’t sure what career path they want to take, COBA and ACU provide exploration through the COBA Edge professional development program and the guidance offered at the Career Center. To learn more about the COBA Edge program, students can email Steph Brown at email@example.com. Students can also learn more about internships, interviewing, and career search information by reading the COBA student newsletter, looking through Handshake, or contacting Steph Brown or the ACU Career Center.
Senior management major, Autumn Flanders, recently completed her summer internship with a specialty coffee roaster based in Denver, Colorado. The Christian-based business’s purpose is to provide employment to young adults and teens who have been homeless and are looking to leave it behind. Flanders spent the summer in Denver aiding Purple Door in pursuing this mission.
Autumn explained that the internship held several roles for her to play. In her responsibilities, she wrote weekly blog posts that highlighted successful social enterprises around the US, she developed a year-long social media content calendar, worked to improve content for Purple Door’s media platforms, compiled and tracked data from customers and partners, helped cater a monthly event, and sold coffee at an REI conference. “I also assisted in the coffee production process by grinding the coffee, then packaging, sealing, and labeling the coffee bags”, Autumn said.
When asked what she enjoyed most about the internship, she shared that building relationships with her bosses and co-workers was huge, along with gaining first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to run a social enterprise. Autumn also appreciated engaging with customers at events and seeing regular customers while learning more about them. Connections with people were a big part of her experience.
“Interning at Purple Door Coffee provided me with an opportunity to cultivate my strengths,” Autumn explained when asked about
Mark Smesrud, Manager at Purple Door Roastery
how the internship will impact her future. She learned more about the types of future careers she might enjoy and what types of cities she might want to live in. “Now, when I look for future jobs, I have a better understanding of the types of work cultures and environments I prefer and the job sector that I would most enjoy working in”.
As a native to Abilene, Autumn learned a great deal from living in Colorado for the summer. When asked what grew her most, Autumn shared that being far away from home and navigating a new city were both difficult yet it pushed her to become more independent and confident in her own abilities. While at first learning new responsibilities and adjusting to the work environment of the internship was hard, looking back Autumn can see that she gained a greater understanding of the coffee industry, social enterprises, and what it is like to work with previously homeless youth and young adults.
For students looking for internships in the future, Autumn would share this advice: “[Students should] not be afraid to apply to internships in cities away from your home. I experienced a kind of growth that would’ve been more difficult to feel if I had been in my comfort zone near friends and family. Living in a new state gave me a unique perspective and allowed me to experience a city with a different culture and get out of my bubble. Even though it can be scary interning in a new city, it is worth it because of the type of growth you can experience, both personally and professionally”.
As part of the COBA Vision, Mission, and Values, we seek to inspire, equip, and connect Christian business and technology professionals for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. This past September, the strength of that connection was on full display as ACU alumni that work for Southwest Airlines came to visit campus – something they have done for the past several years.
The Southwest Airlines representatives spent time connecting with students, providing insight on resume-building, and highlighting internship opportunities within the SWA organization. Among those representatives were Laurie Barnett (’90), Managing Director, Communications & Outreach, Katie Coldwell (’00), Communications Director and recipient of the 2019 ACU Distinguished Alumni Citation, and Chris Grubbs (’95), Program Manager. Grubbs said that Southwest’s visits to ACU help to “Build alumni support and give graduates an opportunity to work for the best airline in the world”. Grubbs went on to share that a reason that SWA is so eager to reach out to ACU students is because the SWA company culture aligns so closely with ACU’s. Southwest holds the golden rule “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you” in the highest regard and runs their business with that principle in mind, which is evident through their hospitality and customer service.
With that in mind, SWA encouraged students to apply for internships and jobs with them to continue growing their customer friendly culture. While technical knowledge is important, Southwest emphasized that their focus tends to be on hiring for the right personality fit because technical components can be learned, but who you are shapes who the company is. Because the company’s foundations revolve around a servant’s heart, reflected in the personalities and actions of their employees, Southwest likes to have ACU alumni travel back to campus and share their experience with students who they believe demonstrate the same type of servant leadership.
Tim Johnston, Assistant Dean, shared his perspective on working for SWA. “Southwest Airlines is a company that believes if they take care of their people, their people will take care of their customers, and their customers will take care of their shareholders. We had seven ACU alumni come to campus to help ACU students learn about Southwest and to encourage our students to apply for internships with the company.”
Johnston went on to say, “SWA is a well respected company and they don’t have any problems fielding thousands of applicants for each internship opening. A recent graduate told her SWA story saying that she started applying for internships in October before finally receiving an interview in March. She consistently monitored the SWA career site and did not get discouraged when she was not offered an interview for several of the openings she pursued. Students walked away with a good understanding of the challenges associated with getting an opportunity to work with SWA. At the same time, they gained insight into qualities that will help their application standout. Finally, they have seen first hand the benefit of an ACU education. Our alumni made these two days happen. Their dedication to their alma mater, to Southwest Airlines, and their belief that the two organizations have matching values was the driver behind these two successful days on the ACU campus.”
Skyler Seidman, marketing major from Coppell, TX, finds ACU connections to businesses like Southwest Airlines beneficial to his professional development. The resume help that the SWA representatives provided was an influential part in Skyler’s interest in the company. This guidance helps students like Skyler see what experience and preparation they need to help find their place in a 60,000 employee, world-class company like Southwest Airlines. The SWA representatives expressed that this was a great opportunity for them to give back to their alma mater and help young professionals prepare to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real world, creating career opportunity paths. Many thanks to our ACU alums at Southwest Airlines for sharing their time and talent with our students.