How an Internship Can Help You With That Career Decision



Alex Oakley

Junior Accounting Major

Hometown: Mattoon, Illinois

Internship experience:
Caterpillar Corporation
Facility Internship, Decatur Facility


With all of the career opportunities available to students today, it is not surprising that many undergraduates will change majors a few times during their academic careers.  While some students finish an undergraduate degree right after high school, others decide to put college education on hold until they have a better grasp of which direction they want to go in life.  That is the choice that junior business student Alex Oakley faced when he graduated from Mattoon High School in 2003. 

At the time of his high school graduation, Alex was not sure which career he wanted to pursue.  This prompted him to join the US Marine Corps in 2005.  After four years and two deployments in Iraq, Alex was honorably discharged and began taking core classes at Lake Land College.  After graduating from Lake Land in Spring of 2011, Alex started a summer internship with Caterpillar Corporation.

Caterpillar provides two different types of internships, corporate and facility.  Alex’s internship was the latter.  He worked as an accounting intern at Caterpillar’s Decatur facility.  The focus of his internship was the “Asset Cleansing Project” at the Decatur facility.  For the project, Alex and another intern were responsible for looking at Microsoft Excel master lists of everything capital that CAT had at the Decatur facility.  The assets were broken down and sorted by department.  Working closely with section heads, Alex would focus on the assets in each section to determine what each section had or did not have, according to the accounting books and the master lists.  Anything that did not have net book value that was still in existence would be kept.  Anything that did not have book value and was not in existence was “cleansed,” or removed from the lists.  Items that still held net book value were signed-off on by accounting managers.  Once a section was complete, the accounting managers would provide their approval by signing off on the edited lists.  If the managers did not approve, Alex would have to follow up with different section managers, and even other employees who may have previously worked in the specific department.  Any discrepancies were resolved after the accounting team and other department managers agreed on the final outcome of each item.

This project was very important, as it is a violation of generally accepted accounting principles to have unaccounted for or falsely accounted for assets on the books.  Upon completion of the project, Alex was able to share his ideas and experiences to help efficiently maintain accurate bookkeeping.  The new master lists and ideas were forwarded to the Peoria facility, where Caterpillar’s headquarters would complete the Asset Cleansing Project and consider Alex’s ideas and suggestions.  The accounting internship with Caterpillar Corporation helped Alex to understand the importance of being empowered while thinking critically.  He said, "The most challenging part of the internship was becoming a real part of the team and then having to leave at the conclusion of the summer.  That being said, it was definitely a good preview of things to come.”

Alex plans to return to Caterpillar for a corporate internship during the Summer 2012 semester, and he is excited to see which of his ideas are being implemented.