University of Florida Homepage

Taking Stock of the Future at a Beyond120 Internship

Eleven weeks at McLane Company presented new perspectives, valuable experience and job offers for two students

By Andrew Doerfler

Just a few months ago, NICOLAS TOMIELLO found himself at a crossroads. After three years as a philosophy major at UF, he valued what he had learned in his classes — but he didn’t know what his career path would be.

“I felt like I was building skills for life,” Tomiello said, but he was unsure how he could transfer them to a career. He had tried to explore job prospects by applying to internships but had found little luck. “I didn’t know what I was doing wrong,” Tomiello said.

As his junior year neared its end, though, he received an email about Beyond120, a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences program that fosters and promotes experiences outside of the classroom. The message invited him to a session that would feature information about an exclusive internship opportunity. Although dispirited by his search up to that point, Tomiello decided to attend.

That decision would end up reshaping his post-college plans. Tomiello was selected for a summer internship at McLane Company, a national grocery distribution and supply chain leader with a facility in Kissimmee. Eventually, he would return to campus for his senior year reinvigorated with a sense of purpose and confidence in his major — not to mention a standing offer for a full-time job once he graduated.

Through the 11-week internship, Tomiello and fellow intern THOMAS MOORE, a UF economics major, rotated among departments at the McLane facility, seeing the ins and outs of different steps in the supply chain.

“I don’t know any other program that offers such a hands-on experience to help you develop.” — Nicolas Tomiello on Beyond120

But Tomiello and Moore weren’t silent observers: Each week, the interns presented what they’d learned to McLane executives — and offered their perspectives on what could be done differently. Having such a direct line to company leaders as a 21-year-old intern came as a pleasant surprise for Tomiello.

“I felt like they were stopping their whole world to meet with me,” he said. “They said, ‘We’ve been in the company for 10, 20, or even 30 years. We might be blind to mistakes we’re making.’”

For all their interest in his presentations, Tomiello could tell the higher-ups didn’t only want his advice: They were also trying to gauge his analytical and problem-solving skills to see if he fit a more permanent role in the company. Executives like Division President Jim Tidmore would offer advice on how to improve Tomiello’s presentations and welcomed questions on just about anything.

Tidmore said the original plan was for McLane to only hire one intern — but they were so impressed with Tomiello and Moore’s interviews that they decided to bring both on board. The students continued to impress as they acclimated to ever-changing hours and complicated processes.

“The work never scared them. There are a lot of moving parts within the four walls, but they never flinched,” Tidmore said.

For Moore’s part, he appreciated the chance to grow comfortable communicating with upper management. But he also had grander ambitions in mind. The now-senior hopes to start his own business, so he savored the firsthand look at the inner-workings of a major company.

“The work never scared them. There are a lot of moving parts within the four walls, but they never flinched.” — McLane Division President Jim Tidmore on the Beyond120 interns

For his presentations, Moore was assigned to come up with ideas to improve employee retention. He took the task seriously, reading research papers on what makes workers stay at a company.

“It was a unique challenge,” said Moore, who is weighing graduate school after he finishes his economics degree. “I didn’t really understand retention before.”

The Beyond120 class that accompanied the internship, meanwhile, gave Moore an opportunity to reflect on his experiences and note the areas where he can continue to grow. In addition to promoting internships, Beyond120 courses and other offerings give students the tools they need to succeed once they leave campus.

“I don’t know any other program that offers such a hands-on experience to help you develop,” Tomiello said.

Tomiello admitted that when he first learned about the internship, he wasn’t sure how working in supply chains and logistics would be relevant to him as a philosophy major. But Brittany Grubbs, the college’s internship and experiential learning coordinator, assured him that he would find value in the experience. It didn’t take long to see that she was right.

“The internship was predicated on me asking questions and seeing different perspectives,” Tomiello said. “These are exactly the skills I’ve been building with my philosophy degree.” This experience also spurred newfound aspirations in Tomiello. He noticed that those in the most influential roles at McLane often had been to graduate school — and he hopes to pursue a master’s degree focusing specifically on supply chain management.

He now has a full-time offer for a supervisor position at McLane awaiting him once he graduates. The stability and advancement opportunities in logistics appeal to him — but more importantly, he wants to work at a company where his perspective is valued. “Ever since I was a kid, I just wanted to have a voice,” he said. “At McLane, I felt like I had the opportunity to make a difference.”

BEYOND120

Whether at small businesses or multinational companies, internships are an excellent recruitment tool for student talent in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For more information on how your organization can take part, please contact Internship and Experiential Learning Coordinator Brittany Grubbs at internship@advising.ufl.edu.

Click here to read more stories from this issue of Ytori.