Working closely with counselors in the Career Management Center, College of Business students from all disciplines head out across Fort Collins, Colorado, and the country for internships in their fields.
From working in sales at Fortune 500 companies to serving in marketing and supply chain positions, students gain valuable insights into how they can use their degrees after graduation and learn more about what career path they want to pursue.
Why authenticity matters
Not many people can pull off listing pillow fort construction as a skill on their internship application, but meet Joe Santini.
Laughing, Joe recalled his parents reaction: “You’re crazy.”
But skillfully weaving together humor, professionalism and enthusiasm for the position, he landed a job at Mantooth Marketing Company.
Joe’s confidence in applying to the internship on his terms came from the foundational skills and real world experience he developed in the College of Business, and strategies he learned from the Career Management Center.
“Opportunities where you’re not being authentic aren’t going to be the ones you’ll get, or the ones you’ll want.”
“That’s just it,” wrote Mantooth in a blog post about its summer interns, citing Joe’s authenticity, enthusiasm, and off-the-wall antics as “just what our team needed and we were lucky to have him with us.”
The next step
One of the first things that drew Joe to CSU’s College of Business was the people.
“There’s just a sense of community here that I felt immediately and found immediately, that I did not feel at the other schools I applied for,” said Joe.
“We’re all willing to step in and support and help each other whenever possible.”
So when Joe began looking for internships where he could put his skills to the test, a strong company culture played a big part in his decision, and he found that in the smaller, grassroots marketing environment at Mantooth.
Joe’s responsibilities ranged from managing content creation for the company, promoting the Lagoon Summer Concert Series, and blogging about digital marketing trends.
“It felt like what I was doing was important, and it was being noticed and appreciated and that was very awesome.”
The natural curriculum progression in the College of Business, from learning broad concepts as an underclassman to practicum and capstone courses where students put their skills to the test working with real clients in the community, served as a “seamless transition” as Joe moved from the classroom into worklife.
Marketing aside, “If anything this internship taught me it’s adaptability,” Joe said. “I just feel really confident.”
An open door to global business
During her summer internship with Arrow Electronics, a Fortune 150 company based out of Centennial, Colorado, Taylor Hill joined a team of more than 100 other interns – and 18,000 employees – spread across the globe.
Working in the human resources department of such a large and complex organization has given Taylor, a College of Business senior, a unique opportunity to learn about how the company operates, and how the work differs from her first internship at a small finance company.
“It’s like a really open door policy. You can basically ask to sit in on any meeting or talk to anyone and they’re really receptive to it,” said Taylor, who has spent time shadowing executives and vice presidents.
“They’ll take you to lunch and just sit down and talk to you about your position and what they do. My favorite part has been learning about them as a person,” she said.
Hearing stories from people who have been in the industry for dozens of years, seeing what success means to them, the steps they took to get there when they were her age, and understanding their commitment and discipline has been invaluable to Taylor.
“It helps you decide if what you learned in classroom is what you’d be doing in real life,” said Taylor.
“I think the Career Management Center did a great job as well preparing me,” said Taylor, who did informational interviews to learn more about what types of positions would be a good fit for her.
She is now leaning toward returning to finance, and her experience with the company culture at Arrow has guided her to pursue work in a larger organization.
From face time to full time
Beginning a new job can be nerve-wracking: meeting co-workers, trying to understand what your role will be and how you can fill it. But as Daniel Brown walked through the doors of EKS&H in Denver, just weeks after graduating, he felt prepared.
Daniel entered the company as an auditing intern, a position that gave him a glimpse into the heart of the professional services firm that was recently ranked as the best place for recent graduates to work in Colorado, 21st in the nation.
“They pretty much treat us like first-year staff,” Daniel said. “It wasn’t just paper pushing or getting coffees.”
Instead, he was learning how the company’s audit system operated, working to understand how various teams in the organization cooperated, and meeting with clients. And by the end of his three months with the company he had been offered a full-time position.
Ready to work
In high school Daniel took all the business classes he could, and after arriving at the College of Business, his drive to learn more was met head on by faculty who spent time in and out of class helping explain concepts and mentoring students.
“Every professor I’ve had in the College of Business has been great,” Daniel said. “They give you a taste of everything.”
Accounting clicked with Daniel, and drawn by the strong career prospects, he was soon getting face time with a number of firms as they recruited heavily at Career Management Center events just steps away from the classrooms.
The community in the College of Business’s accounting department also helps promote strong connections among the students, and prepares them with real work experiences.
Daniel joined fellow classmates in the spring to offer free tax assistance to those who needed help, contributing to a deeper understanding of the role of accounting.
“It is more than an asset on the balance sheet, or a dollar on the income statement,” Daniel said. “It is the people who are in front, and behind the scenes.”
“I never felt like I didn’t fit in,” Daniel said, looking back at his undergraduate experience at in the College of Business. “I wouldn’t be where I am without it.”
The next steps
Now Daniel is putting his skills to work, pursuing a Master of Accountancy at the College of Business and preparing to become a Certified Public Accountant, after which he’ll be able to return to EKS&H and start his career in its auditing department.
The benefits of becoming a CPA, and an increase in credit hours required to gain licensure, made the 9-month master’s program a natural continuation of the path Daniel had been on since starting at CSU.
A 1,700 mile gamble to pursue her passion
Kacee Fiddes had to make a tough call after she graduated from the College of Business. Accept a safe, full-time job, or pursue her passion and make a gamble to travel 1,700 miles across the country – on her own dime – for an internship working in fashion.
“It was a really difficult decision for me,” said Kacee, “but I knew I needed that experience to be happy in a full-time position afterwards.”
So she went for it, packing her car and driving to Philadelphia where she began working as a global trade compliance intern at Urban Outfitters’ headquarters, putting her supply chain concentration to use.
The impact of company culture
With grass-covered chairs on their rooftop patio, the option to bring your dog to work, and fitness opportunities on their campus, the company has a unique culture that was a draw to Kacee.
“It’s one of the most desirable retail companies to work for just because of how creative and free-thinking it is,” she said, describing the nurturing and supportive atmosphere at the lifestyle retailer.
Now, more students are looking at company culture as a selling point for accepting a job as the number of opportunities they can pursue begin to grow.
Making a difference
But within the cheerful work environment, Kacee was doing some serious work, helping to make sure that the company’s supply chain was socially responsible.
“I like the concept of being on the leading edge,” Kacee said, “ahead of the industry, and making sure none of that stuff is happening within your supply chain.”
Many fashion and retail companies have been dogged by problems stemming from a lack oversight of their vendors, which has led to issues of child labor exploitation, poor working conditions, and unfair wages.
Working on one large project during her time with the lifestyle retailer was an incredible experience for Kacee, and provided valuable insights into what type of career and position she wanted to pursue.
“It makes me feel like I’m doing something very tangible,” said Kacee, with the hands-on approach sometimes hard to find in an office position.
The power of choice
“You’re able to change your mind a little bit easier when you’re in a part-time position,” said Kacee, “It was extremely valuable to test out this industry and see how I feel about it before committing to something that would have been a lot more demanding and long term.”
Ultimately, Kacee’s gamble at the beginning of the summer was well worth it when she accepted a full-time management position at Amazon working as an operations lead in a Milwaukee fulfilment center.
“I grew up in Wisconsin so it’s kind of coming full circle for me,” she said.
The ability to have so many career choices in front of her isn’t something that Kacee takes lightly, and she understands it isn’t an option that’s available to everyone.
“I’m going into a field that has openings for me so I feel I have some leverage to find what’s right,” Kacee said. “I searched for jobs with companies I wanted to work for instead of just searching for job titles.
“We want to work for companies that align with our values,” said Kacee. “We could go in so many directions then it becomes a personal choice.”
Going where you can grow
When Michael Wells was a little kid growing up in Colorado Springs he had already picked the college of his dreams: He wanted to go to Stanford.
“That was my goal. That was everything,” Michael said.
But as a high school student attending a tour at the university in the heart of Silicon Valley, he was surprised by a somewhat chilly reception.
“Every building is locked off. They didn’t want you to talk to anyone.”
A few months after returning from his visit to California, Michael was visiting family in Fort Collins, made an offhand decision to walk around CSU’s campus, and absolutely fell in love.
“The people were so nice, so genuine, I actually got to talk to teachers,” said Michael. “The openness that I got, I knew that’s what it had to be.”
Following a good feeling
Starting classes in the College of Business, Michael began to realize that the feeling he got on campus was part of a strong set of community values that led professors to help students through project breakdowns at 6 in the morning, and led students to help each other understand complex topics and tackle group work, even if they weren’t in the same courses.
“That’s just something that I’ve just enjoyed and loved, and I always know I have someone to fall back on,” Michael said.
As a sophomore, he had already found his way into two internships, and as the chair for the 2016 Business Day event, had created programming to help students network and learn about what companies in the area do.
Learning about business to one day start her own
Addie Arnold dreams of someday owning her own business, a coffee shop, or maybe a cafe. When she came to CSU she wasn’t sure exactly what her passions were, but knew she’d find a place to develop them under the College of Business’s wide umbrella of programs.
“Business in general is such a broad major that it can be applied to anything you go into after graduating, and that was a big selling point for me,” Addie said.
This summer, heading into her senior year, she decided to pursue an internship in finance and tackle head on one of the more challenging subjects she studied.
Moving forward at FirstBank
After attending a meet and greet with FirstBank employees organized by the college’s Career Management Center, Addie applied and was accepted into the bank’s summer program, along with three fellow business students.
Put up in a hotel near the company’s Lakewood headquarters on a “mini vacation,” Addie trained with other interns on simulated teller lines and learned how to complete transactions.
Soon, Addie was standing behind her own teller station greeting real customers as they came into the Fort Collins branch where she worked.
It was hard at first, but she soon got the hang of it.
“I learned a lot. You just have to be open to asking questions,” said Addie, who cycles through a variety of positions in the bank to experience how they each operate.
Addie Arnold (left) and a fellow FirstBank intern paint over graffiti in the Globeville neighborhood of Denver during their community volunteer day.
“I’m getting more of a real life view of what finances look like.”
Outside the office, FirstBank’s team took volunteer trips to paint over graffiti and had the chance to watch a Rockies game from the company’s box seats.
“Having different internships and learning about different paths you can take is really beneficial,” Addie said, and she’s confident the insight and skills she’s developed will help if she decides to launch her own company in the future.
Learning while lending a hand
It’s 90 degrees at noon and Lucas Edwards is filming octogenarians throwing javelins. The Early Career MBA student spent his summer interning with the Rocky Mountain Senior Games, helping shape their marketing strategy and produce content for use across their website and social media.
“As a graduate student they really look to me to not just kind of learn from them, but to really help to benefit the program,” said Lucas. “I saw the ECMBA as an opportunity to really broaden my horizons if you will and not pigeonhole myself to one specific category, and so far it’s been a great learning experience.”
Working closely with counselors in the Career Management Center, 100 percent of the 2016 ECMBA class was placed in internships. From working in sales at a Fortune 500 company to serving in marketing and supply chain positions around the world, students gained valuable insights into the ways they could use their degrees after graduation.