My dad always told me “You can do anything for a summer. Take advantage of some crazy internships if they let you!” I have taken this advice to heart and this past summer it played out in full!
This past summer I had the opportunity to be a part of the DEKALB/Asgrow team in Western Wisconsin as a Field Sales Intern for Monsanto. It was filled with challenges, plenty of learning opportunities and a whole host of new and exciting adventures as I went through my 3 months with the company.
I found out about my internship through visiting the all-university career fair that K-State Career and Employment Services offers every fall. It is packed with 250+ employers in Bramlage Coliseum with companies looking for interns to full-time employees, engineering to family studies and everything in between. Monsanto was one of the companies looking for interns at the fair and after speaking to their recruiter I quickly found myself having a great conversation about my background with 4-H and FFA and skills that I had learned through those organizations. This conversation ended up with being invited for an on-campus interview the following day with a different recruiter.
Following the on-campus interview I was told to await a response and it came the last week in October. I was asked to be a part of a group of 40 Field Sales Interns that came from universities spanning the nation, Fresno State to Penn State. The next step was awaiting our location placements and this is where I was honestly almost giddy inside. When asked where I would like to be placed for the summer I chose to go out of my comfort zone and say “why not?” I had asked to be anywhere but Kansas and Missouri and try living in a new part of the country for the summer. I figured when else in college will I have the chance to really test drive a new part of the country so thoroughly and have a unique experience like this? After my options were given I chose to be a part of the DEKALB/Asgrow Wisconsin team and placed with my boss for the summer Kevin Altendorf, who was the District Sales Manager for, generally speaking, the western part of Wisconsin closest to the Twin Cities.
In general I was told that my responsibilities would include some general sales type work in regards to helping the team, but in all honesty I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. When we arrived in St. Louis at Monsanto headquarters for our orientation week, we were given much clarity as to our projects for the summer and what that would look like for the next three months.
We were tasked with three large projects and then expected to handle any other sort of work our on-site bosses had for us to do. These included:
- Customer Calls- this includes calling on around 40 current, past or potential customers of DeKalb/Asgrow products. This is to get exposure to real growers and what they do on a day-to-day. Since these are our customers getting a chance to meet them and know who they are is very important. I chose to use this experience to come away with why do they choose Monsanto products in general versus using competitors.
- Climate Corporation and Top Producers- This project consists of my calling on 28 “Top Producers” for Monsanto to discuss and complete a survey with. These are very large growers within my region, as they are high volume customers of Monsanto. Our role is to discuss Climate Corporation, a new company and technology to Monsanto that became available in November.
- Team Project- this means that I will be setting up a project with my trainer to the benefit of his work and the team. I chose this experience to be a market analysis of three counties within my territory to find out in what ways can we grow business with our customers within that area.
In terms of learning experiences this past summer I learned such an incredible amount. The biggest piece was I found out that I have the capacity to learn about any topic if I choose to work hard. I am not from a production agriculture background and knew nothing compared to many of the interns that I started with about row crops. The best thing for me was that I had an incredible mentor in my boss who was able to meet me where I was at and help me to learn more about the business and agronomy in general. I learned to not be shy about asking questions, because even though I may look back now on some of my questions during the first week and think, wow what was I thinking asking that, there is a huge amount of value to asking the basic questions.
My favorite part of the internship was getting to meet with the actual producers and visiting with them about their operations. This was something that, as an agricultural communications major, I felt I had been lacking in my experiences so far, and never felt like I was able to connect with on-campus assignments due to that. But now I can put a face to my writing projects. I can say to myself, I am writing this for Jim, or what would Adam want general consumers to know about his farm, so I can better advocate for them.
I would highly recommend this internship experience to anyone who has a desire to know more about sales or understand more about agronomy and row crop producers. You are very well taken care and given an incredible network to feel safe asking questions and relying on. As much as this project is meant for them to see you perform they also want to see you grow as not only a sales employee but as a person.
Rodd Whitney is a great contact to know more about the Field Sales Internship program as well as full-time placement within Sales at Monsanto.