Last spring, Claire Hubacek attended the University of Mississippi Engineering, Manufacturing & Technology Career Fair on a mission: to find a co-op position. After meeting with representatives from Toyota at the event, the Flowood native received a call from the company a week later.
The senior, double majoring in computer science and studio art, was attracted to the opportunity with Toyota because it provided her a chance to branch out beyond her academic experiences.
“Toyota offered me an Information Systems/Information Technology Co-op,” Hubacek said. “At Toyota, I was excited to learn more ways to apply my knowledge in a real-life setting with hands-on experience and even more so to be able to work on projects that directly affect the rest of the company.”
As a co-op student, Hubacek was required to complete a Toyota Business Practice project. These TBP projects are designed to teach co-ops the “Toyota Way,” as well as problem-solving techniques that the company has used for decades to solve problems.
“My TBP assignment was reducing money wasted on repairing and maintaining a piece of information systems equipment used within the company,” she said.
Her main accomplishment at the company was identifying an issue that reduced repairs by 80 percent and establishing a chain of command for maintaining the equipment. Ultimately, her work stopped a problem that had cost Toyota more than $100,000 and saved the company at least $50,000 a year going forward.
Hubacek said she was proud to present the results of her project to the plant president, national information systems manager and North American CIO at the end of her co-op. While she found success, she faced several challenges, including those of implementing ideas in a large company as a paraprofessional.
“Executing changes in a company requires many different levels of approval and cooperation,” Hubacek said. “As a female in a factory setting who is at least 10 years younger than anyone I worked with, I had to communicate with a lot of different people and be absolutely certain in my ideas in order to get the support I needed to implement the changes and have their support to maintain those changes.”
Hubacek advises any student interested in a co-op experience to keep their grades in mind. Initially, she was surprised to find that Toyota would not consider any co-op applicants with less than a 3.0 GPA. She encourages potential co-op students to maintain a high standard of academic success to be competitive.
She also encourages students to attend career fairs and events hosted by the School of Engineering and the Career Center.
Overall, Hubacek had a great experience working with Toyota.
“As a computer programmer, taking this position really didn’t seem to fit with my career goals,” she said. “However, it was invaluable as an experience in engineering and working with a large company. It has additionally helped me refocus my future career goals in ways I didn’t expect.”
Hubacek is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Association of Computing Machinery and the university’s Mock Trial team. She has been selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi society and Upsilon Pi Upsilon computer science honor society, and she is involved in Hip Hop Rebs and her sorority, Alpha Phi.
Following graduation in May, Hubacek hopes to go to law school to study intellectual property law to represent engineers who are also innovators.