Kailey Hetzel is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Aviation Business Administration at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott. Kailey interned at Southwest Airlines during Summer 2018 as an Airport Affairs Intern and also during Summer 2019 as a Customer Experience Intern.
Why did you choose Southwest Airlines?
Southwest has always been an airline I admire. My love for Southwest Airlines traces back to my early childhood, so my enthusiasm for the company culture is deep-rooted. Southwest stands out as unique, providing a product that is focused on ensuring passenger satisfaction while striving to be the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline. Southwest is well-known because of their heart, which truly does set them apart from many other companies. I want to contribute to a company that sticks to its values, places people above self, and stands for something bigger than just earning profits. During my time at Southwest Airlines I found all three to be true. The incredible culture of Southwest is no myth, and it was such an encouragement to show up to work every day with a smile on my face because I felt valued, appreciated, and accepted by the company I worked for.
How did you obtain your internship with Southwest Airlines?
I pursued a future internship with Southwest Airlines when I started at Embry-Riddle. Every year I paid them a visit at the Career Expo to learn what would make me a good competitor for an internship. After countless applications and interviews I received the opportunity to intern with Southwest… twice! When trying for my first Southwest internship I networked with a Southwest employee at a roundtable event on campus, who later helped me prepare for my interviews. My return to Southwest the following summer relied heavily on my previous summer’s performance and the meaningful connections with employees that I kept up with during the school year. I was fortunate from this internship to receive the Ambassador Role that I am in today, representing Southwest at Embry-Riddle, combining two of my loves. Bringing my passion for the company and its culture into my interviews greatly helped me get where I am today.
What were your responsibilities?
During my most recent Southwest internship I was a Customer Experience Intern within the Marketing Department. The Customer Experience team makes it their goal to ensure that every passenger is satisfied with their Southwest experience, from the airport journey through the inflight experience. During my internship I was able to work on projects that increased Southwest customer satisfaction, specifically pertaining to inflight services, the airport journey, and various company policies. I performed competitive analysis to help Marketing with future initiatives, conducted inflight service auditing, and created an airport scorecard to help my team better understand areas of improvement at each Southwest station.
What was your favorite memory of your time at Southwest?
The memories I made with my team this past summer were unforgettable. My last day was very sentimental and it was even harder to leave than the previous year. My team took me out for lunch and exchanged words of encouragement. My manager even bought me a thoughtful gift, with one of the items being a compass necklace. I wear it frequently because it encourages me to reflect on the path I have taken in life to reach where I am today and also to focus on the direction I want to go in my future. My team also knows how to turn every situation into a fun environment, so during my internship you could find me laughing quite frequently in the office. Whether it was our daily one-minute plank sessions to stay fit at our desk, the cake we decorated as a team for Southwest’s birthday, or the team-building trip we took to the local arcade, every memory was a positive one.
What are your career aspirations and have they changed since you completed your internship/co-op?
My aspirations are to end up working in a full-time role for a major carrier once I graduate in May. I am very passionate about working on projects that deal with the airport journey or inflight experience. I wouldn’t say my aspirations have changed since starting at Southwest, but my opportunity to connect with various departments in my internship helped me determine where I would specifically fit best within the airline industry.
Please tell us about your learning experience, both professionally and personally. What are the benefits you will take away from these experiences?
Professional Learning Experiences:
- Gathering a better understanding of the various teams that make up an airline
- Communicating effectively with management
- Meeting tight deadlines and producing high quality work
- Asking questions when I do not understand a project or task
- Collaborating with multiple groups of people to achieve one goal
- Analyzing and presenting data in a professional manner
- Being concise with my writing and presentation skills
- Developing quality visuals to be used in presentations
- Advancing my public speaking skills in front of large groups
Personal Learning Experiences
- Gaining a better understanding of what type of projects I like to work on and the skillset I bring to the workplace
- Showing up to work with a smile and a positive attitude
- Understanding the importance of developing relationships with other people in the workplace
- Realizing that Southwest is a company I would be proud to land at in the future
What were some of the most beneficial parts of the internship?
If I had to specify, there were four areas of the internship that I found to be the most beneficial:
- Engaging work
I was frequently provided with projects my team knew I would be interested in and enthusiastic about. I learned that any task given, big or small, was of good value to my team and enjoyed the opportunity to make a difference in the Southwest customer journey. I felt like a functioning unit of my team and enjoyed feeling appreciated and useful to the company.
- Building strong relationships
Southwest is an airline built on developing meaningful connections with others. During my internship I was given the opportunity to get to know my team and department, along with interns throughout the entire program. There were over 150 interns from different states, countries, and schools pursuing various areas of study and we were all able to connect with each other and build strong relationships. These are relationships I will carry into the future.
- Serving the community
One of the best indicators of Southwest’s culture is how they encourage Co-Hearts (employees) to give back in their communities. As interns we were encouraged to log community service hours and were provided with opportunities to demonstrate our servant’s heart throughout the internship. During my time at Southwest I served at the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas with my team, helped prepare an event for local Veterans, and boxed food at the North Texas Food Bank. Southwest even has a program where they donate tickets to those in need and to me that clearly demonstrates where their values lie as a company.
- Travel Experience
Another beneficial portion of both internships were my travel benefits! I was able to fly space-available to any Southwest location. Over my two summers I easily made my way all over the United States and to some International destinations as well. I spent time on the weekends anywhere from the Caribbean or Cancun to Seattle or New York City. I even frequently flew to another city for dinner and returned to Dallas the same evening. During these trips I formed meaningful friendships and connections with other interns that I will hold onto for the rest of my life.
In what ways has your co-op/internship experience impacted your college experience?
My internships have easily been the best part of my college experience. I am grateful for the quality college education and life experiences I have received through Embry-Riddle which have helped me grow as a person and prepare for an internship like Southwest. These internships have guided my thinking and helped me focus on where I want to go in my future. I am excited to complete my last year and reach the future awaiting me in the airline industry.
What advice do you have for students interested in obtaining an internship?
I would encourage every student to do an internship and to go for more than just one! I find that internships are a fun, engaging way to spend the summer. When you find yourself doing what you love in a place that you love, every day it is something you look forward to. If you are interested in pursuing an internship, look for different ways to become involved on campus. Step up into organizational leadership roles, work on meaningful projects in your classes, and create a resume that looks professional and will impress. Go to networking roundtable events on campus and make connections, get to know your professors on a personal level, and be confident enough to apply for internships you are interested in. If you don’t get the internship that you want, find out what you could have done better and try again next year. If you are willing to put in the work and keep a positive attitude, you will get far in your internship search and your future self will thank you for it!