Purdue Pathmaker and Aptiv: A Winning Combination
With excitement on their faces and passion in their voices, it is easy to see how Amy VanHorn and Dave Eagan feel about the approximately 40 Purdue Pathmaker interns who work for them at Aptiv. Their animation is reflected in the interns’ own contribution to the company. Dave and Amy run a “job shop” of sorts for Aptiv, which is a global technology company that develops safer, greener and more connected solutions enabling the future of mobility. As Dave describes it, the students provide a “low cost problem solving capability” for Aptiv. The students work directly with the Aptiv worldwide program teams in the user experience and autonomous driving spaces as well providing power electronics verification services for Delphi Technologies; both companies were under the Delphi Automotive umbrella before the December 2017 split. Amazingly, Dave and Amy run the whole show out of facilities in the Purdue Research Park utilizing Purdue students to solve complex problems.
The students who are hired by Alliance Group Technologies and work on Aptiv projects at the West Lafayette Lab, by definition, are on the technical side. The jobs typically fall into three categories – software engineering, hardware engineering, and systems engineering. Dave and Amy look for students in the following areas: Engineering (aeronautical, computer, electrical, and mechanical), Science (computer science, math, and physics), Polytechnic Institute (electrical and mechanical engineering technology).
The jobs are great learning experiences from a technical standpoint, but that’s not the real story here.
The real story is the support that Amy and Dave provide students to help them ultimately get a full-time job. This includes coaching the students on the finer points of business hygiene, supporting them through stressful periods, and being a proxy “mom and dad.” They understand what exam week means and adjust schedules to accommodate the additional time students need to study and avoid the sense of being overwhelmed. In addition, they insist that students work collaboratively, which often runs counterintuitive for students who’ve had less-than-ideal experiences on group projects in class. Speaking of the classroom, Amy tracks semester grades for each student and intervenes when she sees issues. The combination of a great technical learning experience coupled with excellent support translates into a high success rate of students turning the experience into quality full time positions.
While very understanding, they give direct and timely feedback to students. There is an opportunity for salary raises three times per year and an annual performance review. Along the way, there is informal feedback and dialogue which is the key to developing a good relationship and trust.
In terms of the advice that they would give to other corporate leaders looking to utilize student talent, it can be summarizing by a couple of words: Trust and Engagement. The effort put in translates directly in the quality coming out. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
Dave and Amy have been managing Aptiv’s West Lafayette Lab together since 2006. They have a long history together and with many, many Purdue graduates. They get sent wedding pictures, baby pictures and all the like. It’s a testament to the relationships that they have fostered and the passion they bring to the table. Although the actual work may be high level programming and engineering, the whispering wind in the background is the essence of good old fashioned management principles.
Aptiv and Purdue students are both lucky to have them!