Soaring with Southwest, Meet Megan Ley

Megan Ley is a first year grad student from Avilla, Indiana studying aviation and aerospace management. Megan is involved on campus with Women in Aviation and the American Association of Airport Executives. She also dedicates her time to being a mentor for at risk kids as well as peer consultant at the CCO. Megan had the opportunity to work as a network operations control intern in Dallas, Texas with Southwest Airlines last summer and praises the company for their welcoming spirit and community culture as well as for solidifying her love of the aviation industry.

What attracted you to the company/position?

Southwest Airlines is known for their positive and creative customer service and that attitude carries over into the people you work with and the company culture. I wanted to experience such a positive working atmosphere as well as learn more about the industry that I wanted to go into. One of the best things about Southwest, is that despite the company being an airline, they hire students from all backgrounds. They have finance, engineering, technology, marketing, communications, environmental and even interior design departments, making it a wonderful company to work for and applicable to many Purdue majors. Every day was an adventure and everyone that works at Southwest was so welcoming and helpful.

What was the hiring process like?

The hiring process for summer internships begins in October when the application opens. I applied online by filling out their application and uploading a resume. In January, I was contacted for a phone interview which was about 20 minutes long and then I had one in person interview in Dallas. They flew me out for the day to visit headquarters and conduct the interview and then flew me back. I found out a week or so later that I had received the internship.

Can you tell me a little about what your overall experience was like working there and what your typical day was like?

I worked 8 am-5 pm with an hour lunch break. Most mornings I had meetings about the daily operation and the afternoons were spent working on projects. Working in a department that focused on the operation, no two days were the same, as a lot of factors can affect a typical day.

Southwest planned a lot of fun events for the interns throughout the semester including an amazing race, breakfast with senior managers, a volunteer day, and many educational sessions. We had the opportunity to observe other areas within the company and every Monday there was an after work “deck party” with games, food and drinks. It was such a great way to network and meet other employees and interns!

Did you get any cool perks for working with Southwest?

The internship was paid, but the coolest perk by far was the ability to fly for free. As an employee of Southwest Airlines you are able to get on any of their flights (including international flights) as long as there was space available on the flight. I was able to visit many cool new locations and cross states off of my list. It was such a unique and fun opportunity that very few people get to experience.

Do you feel that your past internships helped prepare you for this one? If so how?

I had an internship with another airline the summer before in a similar field that gave me a lot of background information on airlines and airport operations, which is what my internship focused on. Southwest Airlines has a great orientation program and the training taught me the information I needed to know for the job. We were told multiple times that Southwest looks for the right people and then trains them with the information needed to do the job.

What did this job teach you about yourself?

I learned that I love being busy. Having a full-time job, even if just for the summer taught me that I want to have something to do while I’m at work. During times between projects or on slower days, I was constantly trying to find other things to do or people to help to stay productive and busy. This is a factor that I want in a full-time job. I also hope to find a job that provides a great mentorship program. I think it’s important for newly graduated individuals to have a strong mentor in their field and at work in order to continually improve as an individual.

Where do you see yourself working post-graduation?

I would love to have the opportunity to work for an airline after graduation. I am still currently job searching, but this internship reinforced my love for the aviation industry. I have a variety of interests within aviation so I’m not sure what specific job I will be doing upon graduation.

How do you feel that your education at Purdue helped you while working for this company?

The aviation program at Purdue is very team oriented and project based. This was very beneficial when it came to the expectations of Southwest Airlines. I also believe that Purdue teaches students to be professional and respectful through career fairs and networking opportunities and I think that is very important when in an internship program. Purdue students are not only able to represent themselves in a positive light, but also the university.

What career readiness tools has Purdue provided you with?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a peer consultant at the CCO for the past three years, so I have a variety of tools at my disposal to use. However, I believe these tools are available to all students who seek them out. I’ve learned communication and presentation skills, as well as interviewing and resume building skills. The CCO taught me how to job search and present myself in a good light in order to be successful in that job search. I truly believe I got the internship I did my sophomore year because of the CCO and the information I gained from the career counselors and peer consultants.

What career advice would you give to underclassmen?

Everything you do reflects back on you. It’s so important to gain a professional mindset even as a freshman. Study hard and focus on your classes because your GPA really is important. Additionally, find activities and clubs you are passionate about. Not everything you do has to be related to your major and having interesting hobbies is going to show recruiters who you really are. At the end of the day, you are the best person to talk about yourself, so don’t fear interviews or opportunities to talk to recruiters and companies because they just want to know who you are and why you are passionate about the things in your life.

If you're interested in learning more about Southwest Airlines and their internship program, please email daniel.riskey@wnco.com for information on an upcoming Webinar.

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