Aahil Makhani really had it made as a senior at Auburn University in 2020-21. Not only was his schooling paid for, thanks in part to a scholarship from the Material Handling Education Foundation Inc. (MHEFI), but he already had accepted a job offer from Target as an operations manager at an e-commerce fulfillment center. His classmates may have been stressed about their finances and their future, but Makhani had a good gig waiting for him at one of the country’s leading retailers.
“It was a huge load off because all of my friends had to deal with virtual career fairs and online job interviews on top of senior-level classes, and it just seemed like such a nightmare,” Makhani said.
Makhani earned his job offer by completing a six-week internship with Target at the same 2.1 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Savannah, GA, where he now works. While wearing a mask and adhering to social-distancing guidelines, he got a crash course in the facility’s operations and made such a good impression that they asked him to come back.
Makhani, 22, graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and supply chain management and got right to work at Target. The facility has three operations managers supervising each shift, and after finishing his training, he would be assigned to weekend operations, working three 14-hour shifts each week.
Primarily focused on outbound operations, Makhani is in charge of scheduling workers for each shift, assigning them job functions and ensuring that the fulfillment center meets its daily goal for packages shipped. He also reviews key performance indicators and looks for ways to make operations more efficient.
“Because I’m the manager of a team, half my job is making sure they have what they need to be safe and successful, while the other half involves having a data-focused, continuous-improvement mindset,” Makhani said. “We’re constantly looking at how we can make this process better, or how we can make this tool run faster, or how I can build a calculator to help me plan for the day better. So it kind of combines my two areas of interest really well.”
Makhani said a scholarship from Auburn covered his tuition but not his room, board, books and fees, so he was grateful to have won a scholarship for his senior year from the MHEFI, which has awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships and grants since its inception in 1976.
MHEFI is an independent charitable organization dedicated to supporting the study of material handling, logistics and supply chain, exposing students to the many opportunities in the industry. More than 1,000 students and educators have benefitted from MHEFI support, and for the 2021-22 academic year, the organization awarded 38 scholarships totaling $137,600.
“Because of the MHEFI scholarship, I was able to graduate without having to pay basically anything out of pocket during senior year, so it was really helpful,” Makhani said.
Makhani, a native of Karachi, Pakistan, moved to the United States with his family as a young child. Growing up in Birmingham, AL, he got an early education in supply chain management by helping his father run the family’s gas station and convenience store, even taking the helm in his father’s absence on several occasions.
“Seeing him work with vendors, run inventory and manage the whole gas station by himself really gave me a sense of how you should run a business and how the flow of goods really impacts a business,” he said.
Makhani said he’s planning to go back to school in the next few years for his master’s degree in business administration and hopes to eventually become a business executive. He said he’s proud to work for a company like Target, which increased its minimum wage for all employees to $15 an hour in 2020.
“That’s an issue that’s really personal to me,” he said.
When he’s not working, Makhani enjoys visiting coffee shops with friends and exploring downtown Savannah. He’s also a trivia buff who recently got his 15 minutes of fame by representing Auburn on “College Bowl,” a trivia game show airing on NBC. In mid-June, he said the show had sworn him to secrecy about whether he had advanced in the competition and would be appearing on future episodes.
“You’ll have to watch to find out more,” he said with a laugh.
To learn more about MHEFI, visit mhi.org/mhefi.