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Q&A: How Emily Heckathorn Turned an Internship into a Career at Cooper Standard

The importance of an internship cannot be understated. Internships add irrefutable experience to your resume, allow you to explore your post-graduation career choices, and prepare you with the skills you need to excel in your career.

Emily Heckathorn, diversity sourcing specialist for the talent acquisition team at Cooper Standard, took advantage of her internship with the tier one automotive supplier and turned it into a career where she was able to experience different aspects of human resources, travel the country, and create a position that fulfilled her passion.

To learn more about Emily’s path, Cooper Standard’s internship and rotational programs, and how they are paving the way for a better workplace culture that’s diverse and inclusive, keep reading Let’s Detroit’s Q&A with Emily below.

What is your role at Cooper Standard and your career background?

I’ve been with Cooper Standard since 2019 and am currently a diversity sourcing specialist. I went to Oakland University, and my major was human research development with a minor in training and development.

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had through Cooper Standard’s rotational program?

When I joined Cooper Standard in 2019, I did it as part of the rotational program that we have within our HR department, which rotates participants through three different positions in three years. I started in HR business services, and through that, I was able to build analytical skills by learning Workday and remotely helping our plants with hiring needs and other support. In addition, I was able to travel to a few manufacturing plants and help support on-site hiring.

I then moved to my second role at our Bowling Green steel plant. I worked there for a year as an HR generalist. Through that experience, I was able to gain additional skills, working with our manufacturing employees and union. I was able to troubleshoot situations and work on the wonderful task of payroll, which I learned to love. I also worked on different employee engagement initiatives and just enjoyed working with the amazing employees at that location.

After a year there, I moved back to Michigan and started my current position. In this role, I help create a diverse pipeline and build out organizational needs to establish a more diverse recruiting and company culture.

Why do you believe rotational programs benefit college students and young professionals entering the workforce?

Some young professionals enter the industry without first experiencing all other aspects of the field. A rotational program is great for these types of students. It gives you a well-rounded experience and helps you figure out what you want to do. When I was in the program, I assisted in data analytics, managed remote work, moved our organization to a manufacturing plan, and was hands-on with the material we make. I took what I’ve learned from my rotational program and became a diversity sourcing specialist.

What does a typical day as a diversity sourcing specialist look like?

The idea of a “typical” day changes from day to day. Generally, I support our talent acquisition specialists as they source roles for the company. Then, I take my knowledge of building searches – coding exactly what position skills we want and taking into consideration diverse associations, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and diverse colleges or universities – to search through LinkedIn and other platforms to find great candidates, reach out to them, tell them about the position, and, hopefully, have them move through the interview process.

How does your role fit into Cooper Standard’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy?

It fits in perfectly. I have participated in our diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) work to build action groups that create projects and initiatives that help improve our company culture. It’s really helpful to be part of that, bringing my ideas forward that I’ve gained from past experiences and supporting our employee resource groups.

How would you describe Cooper Standard’s company culture?

Cooper Standard has a very friendly, welcoming, and open culture. On my first day as an intern, I walked in with my eyes wide like deer in headlights because this was my first internship ever. I had no other experience other than retail and food service jobs. Everyone was so welcoming; their doors were always open if I had questions or concerns. And now, as a full-time employee walking down the hallways, people still say hi to me.

Why should young talent explore careers at Cooper Standard?

Cooper Standard is an ever-growing community. We keep building our products. We build our culture. We have very strategic purpose-driven values. We are also very open to career growth. I came in without having much experience, but now I’ve had three positions with the company. I see a great career path in my future working with the company. I know young talent coming into organizations wanting to know what’s going to happen in five years if they stay there. We have those development plans at Cooper Standard, which we also discuss during the interview phase. We like to tell you what your progressive growth would be.

We also have a tuition reimbursement program that I participate in. I am currently pursuing my MBA, so it’s really nice to know that they want to help you develop. And that’s one thing, at least in my generation, that I see as the number one priority. If I come to your organization, what will happen? And that’s something Cooper Standard shines a great light on – development.

What are some of the top jobs you’re hiring for right now?

I’m helping our talent acquisition team recruit for roles at our Northville location. We’re looking to grow our purchasing department, so we have a few open buyer roles, which is a great starting career for individuals in purchasing or supply chain logistics. We also have openings at manufacturing plants located throughout the U.S. and at our headquarters in Northville.

What advice would you give young talent searching for careers in the Detroit region today?

Don’t be afraid to apply for something that’s outside of your comfort zone and has a lot of development. So, if you go into a role thinking, “I know what I’m doing,” try to go into something where it can really shake things up, and you can learn. Go to a company that invests in you.

What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were starting your career?

When looking to pursue something at the early level of your career, do some research on where you want to go first and see if that interests you. I’ve had schoolmates that have already been to a few companies. For me, I got out of college, started working with Cooper Standard, and haven’t left.

I’ve grown tremendously as an individual through the rotational program and educational studies. If you’re able to be flexible on locations and if there is a rotational program available, go for it because I was able to experience living out of state for a year and grew up as an individual both in and out of work.

Is there anything that you want young talent in the Detroit region to know?

Don’t be afraid to go for it. You have the education; you just have to be able to back up and share what you can bring to the company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as where you will be in five years if you accept the role and what career opportunities are available for growth. Growth is just as important as education.

Also, just being able to love who you work with. I enjoy working with all my teammates from all three different positions I’ve been in. I’ve created some really good connections and networks. So networking is one of the top priorities as well.

Finally, Let’s Detroit is a great opportunity. Our ambassador has been doing a great job communicating with those interested in learning more.

Stay up to date with job opportunities at Cooper Standard using the Let’s Detroit job board.

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