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Five Takeaways from Our Intern Innovation Challenge Winner

I’m wrapping up a three-month marketing internship at Magna and heading back to Michigan State University in late August, where I’ll start my sophomore year with a newfound passion for the automotive industry and unforgettable resume-boosting experiences at an amazing mobility technology company. Here are a few of the highlights:

Winning the Intern Innovation Challenge. When I walked into Magna on my first day, I didn’t know an A pillar from a B pillar. I’m still developing the engineering side of my brain. But I learned fast. Thanks to Magna experts, I was introduced to new innovative technologies, including Magna’s driver and in-cabin occupant detection system. It’s awesome, but I was encouraged to think big and I had an idea. What if the Magna system could also monitor the internal temperature of an electric vehicle? If it gets to an unsafe level, the heating and cooling system would automatically kick on and raise or lower the temperature. This would prevent injuries or deaths to kids or pets who are inadvertently left in the car. My idea won! One of the prizes was Tony Fadell’s book Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making, a must-read, according to CEO Swamy Kotagiri.

“I was encouraged to think big and I had an idea.”


Rachel Fangrad

Best Role Models. Magna is such a welcoming environment. A Magna core value is to be collaborative. That means you can set up a meeting with pretty much everyone. One of the three Innovation Challenge judges was Rhonda McNally, Magna’s Vice President of Marketing. After I presented, she had a big smile on her face and said, “You did an amazing job!” Someone with all of that experience was impressed with an intern like me. I want to be her someday.

Katelyn Mitchell standing with two other people and holding a certificate
Katelyn Mitchell presenting ant the Intern Innovation Challenge

Switching Gears. I’ve been a big basketball player all my life. It’s been my passion, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to focus on in my marketing career. My dream was to work in the sports and entertainment industry. But since my Magna internship, that’s changed. I found Magna on LinkedIn, saw the intern roles and responsibilities, and said it would be an awesome fit. I’m really interested in the automotive industry now. I’m even starting to notice automotive product placement in places like the Barbie movie. I pointed that out to my friends right away. I said, “Hey, Magna makes battery enclosures for Ken’s Hummer EV!”

Networking. There were about 100 Magna interns this summer, and there were lots of opportunities to get together. We did plant tours, where it was cool to see behind the scenes of how our products come together. I loved touring the prototype facility in Troy. It was the first time I was able to see advanced robotics and all the amazing technology in the Magna plants. The tour also gave me insight into what HR and Marketing teams do at the various levels. And, I was introduced to how logistics and supply chain works at a big Magna shipping warehouse. Great experiences for Magna’s next generation!

Access to Top Execs. The Magna interns were able to meet with CEO Swamy Kotagiri and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Eric Wilds. Afterwards, I was able to set up a one-on-one with Eric and learn what he does. He’s such a great and humble guy, one who meets you on a level playing field. He was curious about my experience at Magna. I remembered the Magna core value never settle. I told him I like a challenge and I wanted even more of a challenge – even beyond this year’s Innovation Challenge. I would love to come back for round two next year!

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