August 13, 2014 | By Bobby Lee
Ross Muniga’s family may have moved from Michigan to Texas, but his love of automobiles has never wavered. That drove the rising senior in Albion College’s Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management to pursue and eventually land an internship in the International Procurement Services department of Mercedes-Benz USA this summer.
A Grosse Pointe native with family members also in the General Motors family, Muniga has been based in Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. headquarters in Montvale, New Jersey. He is working on the cross-functional team that supports the operational buying teams in the Americas, with duties ranging from project management to coordination of a buyer “boot camp” in September. His role has seen him correspond with staff around the globe.
“It is quite a jump going from a CPA firm with eight partners in Jackson to the huge campus of Mercedes buildings,” Muniga admitted, referring to the difference between the internship he completed during the spring semester and what he has tackled this summer. “The New York metropolitan area suits my personality. It is fast, with people always in a rush. There is so much to do.”
While Muniga, a CPA-track accounting and business and organizations double major, has been active in adding practical experiences to his résumé, he admits he would not have been aware of the Mercedes opportunity had Brooke Kaltz, ’05, not contacted the College’s Career and Internship Center.
Muniga says Kaltz, a Gerstacker alumna who manages strategic projects in the International Procurement Services department at Mercedes-Benz USA, is well aware of the type of student Albion produces.
“She understands the expectations placed on Albion students—that high-quality work is produced with 100 percent effort,” he said.
Mercedes-Benz USA has a robust internship program; according to Kaltz, more than 25 interns are in New Jersey this summer. The majority of them, however, come to the U.S. from Germany. So when an opportunity arose to hire an intern from the States, Kaltz took action.
“I’ve always wanted, as an alum, to be able to give back to the [Gerstacker] program,” she said, adding that she found the institute’s focus on internships particularly valuable. Muniga emerged as the choice after a shortlisting process and phone interviews—and was put right in the mix upon his arrival.
“We make our interns do real work because we need the added capacity,” Kaltz said. “We don’t give them fluff work. He is fully engaged and has been able to acclimate himself quickly to our very intercultural, international environment.”
Muniga started the internship shortly after completing his spring-semester final examinations in May, learning the processes and abbreviations he would be using during a multiday training session. He got an idea about the pace of the work during a meeting about international tax.
“Mercedes treats its interns as if they are managers,” Muniga said. “There’s not a lot of hand-holding. Resources are available [if the intern needs help], but we are expected to be able to do some problem solving on our own.”
What does he think of his supervisor?
“Brooke is a very good leader, which is what you want in a boss,” Muniga said. “I enjoy her style of work, where a task needs to be completed in a straightforward method, and she is very direct with expectations and necessities in regards to projects.”
More broadly, “I cannot put enough thanks into what alumni do for students at Albion,” he said.
With his final project scheduled to launch October 1, Muniga said his goals are to demonstrate his organizational and time-management skills through steady progress.
“It was scary at first to find myself in this big environment, but by staying organized, utilizing the time- management skills I’ve honed at Albion, and creating good relationships in the workplace, I’m developing skills you don’t find in a textbook,” Muniga said. “It is how you become a professional.”