From the classroom to the factory floor: Richard Lekakh's internship at Caterpillar

Four years ago, Richard Lekakh was a freshman at Northeastern Illinois University taking the necessary steps toward a career in education. "I was gearing up to become a schoolteacher," Lekakh says, "and I was looking forward to it. But then, by chance, I took an internship at Water Tower Financial Partners." The glimpse into the business world led him to change gears, and change schools, too. 

Fast-forward to the present: Lekakh is going into his senior year at UIC Business, and just returned from six months at the Caterpillar headquarters in Peoria, where he held an accounting internship in the company’s East Peoria plant.

“It’s interesting to work within the manufacturing,” he says. “It strengthens your sense of connection to the organization.” That sense of connection was one of the things that led Lekakh to the internship at Caterpillar. “When you study managerial accounting, you get some sense of where every entry goes, where every number goes. At Caterpillar, I'm watching numbers feed into the reporting cycle while watching inventory move through the plant.”

When Lekakh transferred to UIC Business, it didn't take long to decide on accounting. "It only took a couple of accounting classes to know where I would focus," he says. It wasn't long before he was ready for his next internship. "This one was at SAP, right after they acquired Fieldglass in Chicago. I was brought in on their integration team, which involved a large volume of monthly payables and receivables to get everything up to speed during the transition."

For Lekakh, the big draw to UIC Business was the combination of location and career resources. “The Business Career Center deserves a lot of credit for the opportunities I’ve had,” says Lekakh. “I basically walked in and said, how can you help me get an internship? A few days later, I’m sitting down with Ciara Jones, and she’s helping me with my resumé, my elevator pitch, even rehearsing interview questions and responses.”

Lekakh's position at Caterpillar started where many internships start for UIC Business students. “I went into the Fall 2015 Business Career Fair with everyone else, I approached the Caterpillar reps, and thanks to Ciara, my preparation carried me through the process.”

In January of this year, Caterpillar helped Richard relocate to Peoria, where he kept up with his coursework remotely. “I finished a marketing course online, and UIC Business arranged the internship to allow six credits toward my MSA at UIC Liautaud.” Now that he's back on UIC's campus, he's working with the Business Career Center on his next internship, in public accounting. "With only a year at UIC Liautaud, the big priority is to take advantage of the school's opportunities while I still have access."

For more information on internship opportunities for UIC Business students, visit the UIC Business Career Center.