Tag Archives: internship

Fashion changes, values do not

It’s not every day that the president of a billion-dollar company hands out his email address to a group of undergrads. But not every company president is like Blake Nordstrom.

Nordstrom
Blake Nordstrom discusses the importance of company culture in an undergrad retailing class.

On April 30, Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom, gave a brief presentation and answered student questions in an undergraduate retailing course. He began his presentation with a wide smile and disarming honesty. “We have a motive here; we’re hoping some of you will come work for us,” he said.

After a little backstory on the humble beginnings of both the man (who started in the stockroom of the shoe department) and the company (which started as a Seattle shoe store), Nordstrom launched into a discussion on the impact of company culture. “Fashion changes, values do not,” he said. Over the course of the presentation Nordstrom emphasized his company’s commitment to both their customers and employees. He attributed much of their success to an inverted pyramid model where customers are at the top, followed by the employees who work most closely with customers, and management is at the bottom. “Our business works when we live that pyramid,” he said.

Nordstrom elaborated on his company’s commitment to customer service and customer experience. “It’s all about making the customer feel good,” he said. He underscored the importance of making the customer feel empowered, as if it were their name, not his, on the door. Online shopping is one part of that customer empowerment strategy. “Ecommerce helps customers shop on their terms,” he said. On the subject of the retailer’s liberal returns policy, he stated believing in the customer creates trust, which in turn creates sales volume.

Next, Nordstrom talked about the importance of employee growth. “We really believe leadership development is grounded in experience,” he said. He emphasized the company’s practice of promoting from within and how they strive to give managers hands-on training, citing that most managers cut their teeth on Nordstrom Rack stores before moving to full-line stores. He then discussed the company’s commitment to social responsibility—embodied by the Nordstrom Cares project and its motto, “leave it better than we found it.” Nordstrom emphasized importance of having workers who want to be associated with the company and its values. He stated job seekers should make sure a company’s principals align with their personal principals.

Nordstrom ended the presentation by discussing the company’s internship program—and its 80% retention rate—before opening up the floor for questions. Students asked questions ranging from potential international expansion to the impact of social media. On the subject of social media, Nordstrom discussed their success in creating excitement and energy. “We’ve got to try new things. If it doesn’t work, we learn from it quickly and move on,” he said.

Sten Karlholm combines his passions for Swedish and sports

Guest post by Sten Karlholm, Foster senior and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

SwedenSportsInternBlogMy education seems to have taken the scenic tour, as my passion for traveling combined with my studies opened up opportunities and happily postponed my graduation. The journey all began while finishing my third year at UW, which I spent as an exchange student in Uppsala, Sweden as part of the Certificate of International Studies in Business Program (CISB). I had accomplished many of the requirements during this study abroad year, but there was one last challenge I was looking to complete during the summer: the International Business Practicum. It was mid-June and I had been applying and seeking out internships in Sweden for the past two months to no avail. As the long days of the Swedish summer began to come into full effect, there was a sense of anxiousness and uncertainty. I began preparing for the expectation of autumn quarter and flight back to Seattle. I had applied to one job on a whim, with the tag line “Passion for sports.” I had emphasized my passion for the game of basketball and my affinity with golf in my cover letter. After a telephone interview and my first ever sit down interview conducted in Swedish, I was offered a job as part of the opening team for a new Nike Factory Store in Stockholm.

I accepted this opportunity to further my proficiency of the Swedish language and master the fundamentals of Nike in the retail setting. I was dedicated to showing a high level of commitment on the job, tackling the unfamiliar terms of shoe specifics in Swedish while giving the best customer support. Recognition came my way as I took over further responsibilities like closing the store, accounting and submitting daily sales reports.

Nearly a year had gone by and it was time to continue my studies at the Michael G. Foster School of Business. This period away gave me the time to reflect on what I wanted to aim for within a future career, and influenced and ignited my passion for fashion and sports. With this goal in mind, it motivated me to keep looking for opportunities and ultimately led me to where I am today as the product management intern for Club and Balls within Nike Golf at the European Headquarters in Hilversum, The Netherlands.

Keeping up the pursuit of acquiring an international internship paid off as I have now spent seven months learning the ins and outs of Nike and the European marketplace. Every day I am conducting competitor analysis of the club and ball market for various regions and currencies in Europe. I’ve also been an integral part of updating pricing and catalogs for our recently released Covert 2.0 and upcoming RZN golf ball. I was even presented the chance to assist in the set up and lead the tear down at the Nordic Golf Trade show in Sweden due to my language proficiency. Not only was this a phenomenal experience as an intern, but as a result of my abilities I was selected to help out during our go-to-market sales meeting in Spain.

I had finally achieved the goal of receiving an international internship, but the experience is so much more than ticking a box for completion. The lessons learned and experience gained will be invaluable as I continue to pursue a career within international business. I am truly grateful for the opportunities that I’ve received and the support from my peers and colleagues along the way.

CISB students intern with Pacific NW Advisors

Pacific NW AdvisorsCameron Geisler, Carl Mars and Matt Sink, Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) students, recently completed internships with the Latin American Division of Pacific Northwest Advisors, an international network of global business advisors. Stephen Murphy, senior advisor for Latin America, said it was “a pleasure working with these talented students.”

As an intern, Geisler created a slide presentation concerning Mexico, NAFTA and CAFTA. He conducted extensive research, including research to ascertain who the business “movers and shakers” are in Mexico. He also investigated which international firms and Washington state organizations have invested in Mexico. He presented his findings to the Board of Directors of the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce (Seattle) where he received much critical acclaim as well as feedback. He also presented to a group from Seattle University that were going to visit Mexico on a service trip.

Mars worked on a presentation about “Doing Business in 21st Century South America,” in which he emphasized the nuances of business in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina. He presented to the international team of the Washington State Department of Commerce and the Marine Resource Group of Saltchuk, Seattle’s largest private equity firm.

Sinks’ work focused on Brazil, including a presentation about the future of Brazil which highlighted infrastructure, business and investment opportunities for Washington state firms. He presented at Skagit Valley College’s “Global Fest 2013.”

Learn more about the Foster School’s Certificate of International Studies in Business Program.

Interning in rural Kenya

Guest post by Nathan Whitson (UW business major graduating in 2012)

SAM_0286As part of my international studies at the UW, I desired to volunteer abroad during my college career. The summer of my sophomore year (2010) I traveled to Kenya as part of an informal internship at a small orphanage called Watoto Wa Baraka.

My time in Kenya lasted 6 weeks, but it was jam-packed with new experiences and encounters. Kenyans are wonderful. They help before you ask and smile before you can react. This attitude puzzled me, because in deep poverty, they persist and love the life that they were dealt. I quickly began drawing differences between Kenya and America, a natural process that creates unique global views.

Global conversations
Kenya was not the only thing new to me. So was everyone around me. While in Kenya, there were few Americans and many of my peers were European. I did not know what to expect, but my understanding grew as we discussed everything from politics to education. In addition to learning about Kenyan culture and society, I gained a unique understanding of different communities from around Europe. I now have a mini network of people from around the world that I can connect with in the future.

Preparing food at a Kenyan orphanage
Preparing food at a Kenyan orphanage

Making an impact
As volunteers, we spent time looking after the children, helping in the local school and hospital, aiding with laundry, harvesting and cooking food and traveling around to different communities in the area. This internship taught me what simple living really is. I am deeply humbled that I was able participate in an international internship this summer because the experience truly cannot be replicated. Kenyans are the most resilient people I have ever met, leaving me with the hope that a bit of this attitude rubbed off on me. I feel that this is true of all internships; they are gateways into the real world. Not every internship defines what your career will be, but it shines a light into what exists at that next level.

Resources
If you are thinking of interning abroad, my recommendation is to fully commit yourself to a program and go with it. A variety of great resources exist for those looking to make a difference abroad or gain experience locally. Here are a few I would recommend: Volunteer Match (opportunities abroad/locally), Intern Match (local internships) or UW Husky jobs.

Nathan Whitson is a junior at the Foster School of Business focusing on finance. He used his “summer break for something more heartfelt than simply a check every two weeks and it definitely paid off.” His Kenyan internship was organized by himself via Volunteer Match.