Interning is an intimidating yet exciting prospect

Walking into the office for the first time brought to the surface an array of emotions that reminded me of the feeling I had as a freshman walking into high school or college for the first time.

Not knowing what the Seattle traffic was going to be like, I left my living quarters hours before I was due to arrive at work. This only added to my uneasiness, because I arrived at work over an hour early. Sitting in front of the secured main entrance, watching employee after employee walk in allowed me to take in the scene a bit. When I finally grew the courage to step up and ask someone for information I was pleasantly surprised by their response, “you must be one of the new interns, Welcome!”

WOW! I had built up all this anxiety about what this environment was going to be like, and for what, a warm welcome? This has been the case over and over since arriving here at REI. The organization, or maybe better said, the employees of the organization, have created a work environment that facilitates creativity, team work and institutional pride that trickles down from the highest levels of management.

Since arriving on campus I have had the opportunity to take part in several amazing events and learning experiences. The first day consisted of (as expected) meeting my team, receiving my employee identification and access card, a campus tour, receiving a workspace and most importantly an idea of what will be expected of me throughout the summer. The next amazing activity I was privileged enough to take part in was REI Campus Day 2016. image As a volunteer I helped guide some of the many vendors to specific locations around campus where they were to setup and prepare to show the merchandise they currently offer or may be introducing in the near future. I was also able to assist with raffle sales, temporary badge organization and last but not least, picking raffle winners. By far the most surprising part of the day was the swag (cool free stuff vendors were giving away to REI employees) that was handed out at each vendor table. I have to admit, at first I was a bit uncomfortable taking it, but after roughly 5 minutes, I got over it.

Campus day concluded with a departmental meeting regarding picking the assortment of one of REI’s many product lines for spring of 2017. Walking into the meeting I was expecting to be a fly on the wall, but quickly found out that I was going to be having an active role. The last major event that I was part of this week was a vendor meeting. My Category Merchandising Manager felt it was a good idea for me to see all sides of the position. This meeting was to inform a vendor that we would be scaling back their assortment tremendously. I felt the meeting was great exposure to the true nature of the position, not just the glamorous aspects. Due to the size of REI assortments, one has to understand that this type of a decision could make or break a smaller company, and it seems like my team here at REI does not take that lightly.

As my first week at REI working as an intern assisting with buying and merchandising concludes, I have almost nothing but positive feedback. The only hiccup that I have been able to pinpoint is my inability to be integrated into the computer network. I think that my wanting to hit the ground running and dive right in has made the issue seem more difficult then it truly has been.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog as I will be breaking down my summer intern project and highlighting some of the meetings and interactions I have had with managers and other departmental staff at REI.

I am an eight year veteran of the United States Army. I served my country as a Forward Observer during two tours - in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am a senior at the University of Arizona and will be graduating December 2016 with a B.S. in Retailing and Consumer Sciences. This summer I'm working as a Merchandising/Buying intern at REI's corporate headquarters in Kent, WA.