Editor's note: Intern Spotlight is a Ball State Daily News series profiling Ball State students and their internships. If you have any suggestions as to who we should feature next, send an email to features@bsudailynews.com.

While exploring the interior of a computer with his father, recent Ball State graduate Aaron Whitfield’s interest in computers and technology began to grow. 

As a child, Whitfield and his father would take apart their home computer, clean it and even apply their own modifications. It was those chances to learn from his father, one of his mentors, that sparked Whitfield’spassion for teaching himself and others about technology.

“I look at computers as kind of like cars in the sense of everybody uses a car, but nobody knows how they work,” Whitfield said. “If you think about it, like, I don’t know how my car works, I just turn my key and I drive, and I think that it’s the same way with computers.”

While computers started as a compelling mystery to him, Whitfield’s curiosity lead him to delve further into the functions of computers work and eventually, he gained his degree in computer technology. 

Throughout his time at Ball State, Whitfield used both the classroom and Cardinal Career Link to learn as much information as he could. He understood while some things must be learned in the classroom, other lessons require real-world experience. 

Among his various internships throughout his college career is his current position as a networking intern at Keihin North America, where he has been working for almost two years.

Keihin North America is known for its work in the automotive industry creating different parts for various manufacturers such as Honda, but Whitfield’s work is focused on the computer systems and the people within the company.

Maurice Henson, network administration manager at Keihin North America, said he sees a shift toward technology in both the automotive industry and everyday life. 

“With any company, you’ll have human resources, you’ll have research and development departments, everyone in those departments are exchanging emails, they’re exchanging files they’re using laptops they’re working with cell phones. The IT department makes sure that those things stay in working order,” Henson said.

“Also when it comes to the actual production department, we take the lead in gathering the data as to how many parts are made, if there are any defects in the parts, all the trend data around the parts that are being made on the shop floor — we manage the systems that keep track of that data.”

Whitfield works from Keihin North America’s branch in Muncie and meets with Henson, who is mainly located at the branch in Anderson, two to three times each week. Typically, Henson receives requests from employees who need technical help and assigns Whitfield the issues that seem to be within the realm of his capabilities. 

“We all kind of chuckle when working with Aaron because he tends to be wise beyond his years when it comes to asking questions, solving problems,” Henson said. “It doesn’t matter what level the person he is speaking to is at, he’s always courteous and professional but he’s not afraid to speak up and ask questions and get something done.”

Henson said another one of Whitfield’s skills is knowing what he does and does not know and being willing to ask for help when he needs it. 

“When you get asked a question about computers you never know what the question could be,” Whitfield said. “You could ask me, ‘How do I do something in Microsoft Word?’ or somebody could come to me and say, ‘My laptop isn’t charging. Why?’ and you're asking a question about Microsoft Office, while somebody else is asking about the hardware of their laptop. So, I think with computers, there's so many different types of problems and you need to know a lot about the overall subject so that you can better understand a computer.”

Willingness to learn and problem-solving skills are among the top things Henson said he looks for when hiring interns in information technology (IT), and it is especially important that interns at Keihin North America are aware of the responsibility they have in the IT department. 

“A lot of what we do, and a lot of what Aaron is entrusted to do, has the ability to stop the entire plant, which is between 2-300 people that can’t work if you happen to do something incorrectly,” Henson said. “So especially on certain systems, we have to take the consequences of what we do pretty seriously.”

Among Henson’s biggest worries when working with interns, however, is making sure that each intern receives an experience that will help prepare them for their future careers. This is why interns are included in the same evaluation system that full-time employees experience. 

While Whitfield said he still feels he has a lot of learning ahead of him, he sees his degree and the experience he has gained at all of his internships as supplements in helping him become a “viable candidate” for when he is ready to begin his career. 

Henson, however, said he is impressed with Whitfield’s progress and natural talent. 

“Aaron has a very high ceiling,” Henson said. “There are those people you meet in life that you know they’re going to be something when they grow up, so to speak, and for Aaron, really, the sky's the limit as to what he can be and what he can do.”

Contact Brooke Kemp with comments at bmkemp@bsu.edu or on twitter @brookemkemp.