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Gaining perspective: My internship with a tobacco company


<p>While working for a tobacco company over the summer may seem daunting, Makenzie Ryder had a valuable experience she wouldn’t give up.</p>

While working for a tobacco company over the summer may seem daunting, Makenzie Ryder had a valuable experience she wouldn’t give up.

The concept of corporate internships always comes up during my classroom sessions and casual conversations. However, it wasn't until I secured an internship with Reynolds American, the powerhouse behind iconic tobacco brands such as Camel, Newport and Paul Maul, that I truly grasped their transformative potential.

As I embarked on my journey into the world of internships, I quickly realized that the experience would not only shape my summer but also provide a unique lens through which to view the tobacco industry.

As a college first-year at Miami University, I had heard about the importance of internships for career development, but it all seemed somewhat distant and abstract. However, being part of the Reynolds American team during the summer of my junior year in the vibrant city of Dallas, Texas, brought this concept to life in ways I hadn't anticipated.

Throughout my summer in Dallas, I was impressed by the brand marketing team and their dedication to advancing nicotine prevention education among youth. This aspect was pivotal for me to comprehend during my association with Reynolds, given my initial skepticism about aligning my values with a product featuring cautionary labels.

During my internship, I was tasked with overseeing a portfolio of 20-22 stores that sell high volumes of vapor products in the northern Dallas region. In collaboration with three fellow interns, we embarked on a journey to cultivate strong relationships with these retailers. Under the guidance and supervision of the fabulous Maribel Andrade, we effectively harnessed the tools she gave us to focus on securing contractual agreements and enhancing the presence of products in their marketing strategies. 

By pooling our data-driven insights, we formulated a comprehensive final presentation. This presentation included a timeline outlining our strategic steps, an analysis of store conditions before and after implementation and a thorough exploration of our collaborative teamwork experience.

The experience also underscored the importance of interconnectivity in the professional world. Networking took on a whole new dimension as I interacted with individuals who shared a common task and goal during the summer. Throughout this experience, I connected with numerous professionals and students from around the country.

During the course of my summer, I had the opportunity to collaborate daily with territory managers hailing from various regions across the state of Texas. These managers carry the weight of overseeing Reynolds' connections with numerous chains, including prominent names like 7-Eleven and Buc-ees, alongside small-scale retailers and local convenience stores. The role of territory managers involves conducting regular visits to these retailers throughout the year, while also managing contracts concerning new modern oral, vapor and combustibles.

My summer roommate, Julia Carino, is a senior at Clemson University who demonstrated the value of constructing words and maintaining professionalism in the workplace. Throughout our internship, she guided me on using the correct terminology and buzzwords in the corporate atmosphere.

"This internship meant professional growth and learning from incredible career professionals,” Carino said.” It meant networking with a wide variety of industry experts, building connections and gaining confidence in my abilities. If I could offer one tip to freshmen, it would be to stay curious and ask questions."

My internship reinforced the idea that internships are not just résumé boosters; they are gateways to hands-on education, skill-building and the opportunity to make a tangible impact. These insights aren't just relevant to upperclass students; they're equally pertinent to those at the threshold of their college journey.

"Reynolds American offers an exceptional internship that fosters professional growth,” Jagger Evans, a Dallas-based intern and senior at Middle Tennessee State University, said. “The most remarkable aspect of this experience is the accessibility to networking opportunities. Reynolds takes pride in its diverse array of employees, consistently enthusiastic about providing support. If I could extend one piece of advice to incoming freshmen, it would be to stay genuine and true to themselves."

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Throughout the summer, Jagger taught me the importance of practicing patience and recognizing moments to listen, rather than consistently speaking — an invaluable lesson that I've taken to heart.

And certainly, it's worth highlighting that Jagger's commitment has led to him receiving an offer and subsequently accepting a full-time position as a territory manager. This achievement stems from his successful completion of the internship this past summer.

My time at Reynolds was truly remarkable, leaving me enticed to consider a return next summer. I appreciated the opportunity to connect with new people, dive into corporate culture, immerse myself in the industry and simultaneously challenge my personal limits. 

Navigating my apprehensions about working for a tobacco company was a journey of personal growth and adaptation. Initially, I found myself grappling with ethical concerns and uncertainties about the industry's impact on public health. However, as I dove deeper into my role throughout the summer, I focused on the broader picture. 

Relocating to a new state for the summer posed some challenges that prompted me to acknowledge my difficulties in adapting to change. This summer with Reynolds facilitated my growth as a curious student, a budding professional and a young adult.

Makenzie Ryder, from Commerce, Michigan, is an accomplished senior pursuing a major in marketing and a minor in entrepreneurship within the Farmer School of Business. Alongside her academic pursuits, she finds delight in music and spending time with her family.