One of the most significant ways Matthew Haeger’s undergraduate education at Kettering University helped prepare him for his current career is simply reinforcing the importance of ‘preparation’ itself.
Haeger, a Bay City Western graduate who has a Mechanical Engineering degree from Kettering, is a Project Manager at Hirotec America in Auburn Hills, Mich. According to Hirotec America President and COO James B. Toeniskoetter, Haeger is the youngest Project Manager the company has ever had. “Most project managers here are at least a decade or two older than Matt,” Toeniskoetter said.
Haeger, who was a co-op employee at Hirotec while attending Kettering, said that earning the trust of customers is purely a matter of exhibiting expertise in a certain subject.
“I just try to be as prepared as possible and know my information,” Haeger said. “It’s crucial to be confident and know what you are talking about. If a customer asks a question, you should have an answer on the spot. They’ll learn to trust you more if you can do that.”
Hirotec America is a member of the Hirotec Group, which was established in 1932 in Hiroshima, Japan. Through the years, HIROTEC has grown from a single company in Hiroshima to an industry leading global organization that includes 26 facilities in 9 countries. Today, HIROTEC has $1.4 billion dollars in sales and has become a recognized expert in providing world-class quality door closure panels, manufacturing equipment, and exhaust components to automotive manufacturers around the world.
Hirotec America solely focuses on closure tooling manufacturing, in which Haeger has used his engineering education as a foundation for his professional career. Through both his co-op experience and his knowledge of Hirotec’s engineering based work environment, Matt was able to make a very easy transition into being an effective and reliable project manager after graduation.
“The engineering education is a very strong core for what we do here,” Toeniskoetter said. “It sets the foundation. Without that, it’s difficult to make the necessary decisions that are required from an engineering perspective. However, engineering awareness is not the only tool that must be possessed to be an effective Project Manager. We are a project based organization, so our employees need to be versed in a wide variety of areas including finance, communication, and effective people skills. Keeping a project on-time and under budget while maintaining high quality and customer satisfaction is essential to the success of a Project Manager. ”
With Kettering’s education model being experiential-based, a company like Hirotec that also embraces hands-on learning makes a natural fit as co-op partners.
“We’re an organization that grows people,” said Brian McGinnity, Chief Financial Officer of Hirotec America. “The Kettering co-op program is interesting because it is different than typical summer internship programs. It allows us to have a constant flow of students and potential employees over a period of time that fit the needs of Hirotec employment opportunities. The Kettering model is very attractive from that standpoint.”
Kettering and Hirotec have been co-op partners since 2007; however, Hirotec also develops interns through other partner schools that go on to become employees. Additionally Hirotec currently employs several Kettering graduates who didn’t co-op here but were hired later into their careers.
Haeger valued the experience of learning about the company as a co-op employee, which made him eager to work there after graduating because he already knew the company well.
“As a co-op employee, I came in as freshman with just basic understanding of mechanical engineering and business practices” Haeger said. “I was able to work my way up through the ranks, learn all the different jobs and gain the knowledge I needed to get to where I’m at now.”
Haeger’s willingness to learn has also been a positive for Hirotec America and it has been a key to helping him advance quickly in the company.
“Matt really took initiative and had an excitement to learn,” Toeniskoetter said. “As Matt went from assignment to assignment, he just kept learning. Matt likes to get his hands dirty, and that’s something we like too.”