Daktronics Celebrates 30 Years of Internship Experience
In 2010, Daktronics celebrated the 30th anniversary of its internship program. During this time, Daktronics has strived to provide a great learning experience in real-world business for young adults aspiring to launch careers in a variety of fields. Vice President Frank Kurtenbach has been heavily involved with the program since its beginning. When recruiting, he prefers to use a model stressing the significance of having an internship contribute to the path of finding a career.
"When you look at your college career, you focus on taking a few classes for your first three years. After that, you start to look at jobs and establishing a career. The only problem is, you often don’t have the experience to get a professional job," Kurtenbach said. "You need experience to get a job, but you also need a job to gain experience. Internships are a great way to get that real-world experience in order to boost your career."
This desire to make Daktronics internships hands-on with significant responsibility is the culture Kurtenbach has tried to create, which is stressed to each new class of incoming interns. Being an intern at Daktronics means you represent approximately 3000 other people whenever you interact with those outside of the company.
"We’ve been able to establish a culture here that has not been replicated by any company yet," Kurtenbach said. "Many times I have had people ask how Daktronics can afford to send so many employees on trips to conventions and demos. What they don’t know is that almost half of the people in the booth are interns, who dress professionally, know the product, answer questions, and have the lingo down."
Jeff Robbins, Corporate Purchasing Manager, was the very first intern to go through the program. In January of 1980, he heard about the opportunity from his advisor at South Dakota State University. After interviewing and being hired for the job, he began working on wrestling scoreboards for the national wrestling championships, where he traveled to sites in Oregon, Nebraska, Kansas, and Illinois for 30-straight days.
"My experience with Daktronics was great. It helped me learn about my strengths and weaknesses and understand what I liked or didn’t like to do," Robbins said. "Other internships offered during this time did not allow for interns to be so heavily involved with activities and products and use the knowledge that they gained in actual business activities."
The variety of internship opportunities contributes to the program’s success. Departments that hire interns on a regular basis include sales, engineering, personnel, administration, manufacturing and many more. Within each of these areas, interns are relied on and contribute significantly to the overall structure and productivity of the company. It is this aspect that influences many interns to accept full-time positions.
Jay Parker, Sales Manager for LSV, started out as an intern and has 16 years of experience with Daktronics. When he recalls being an intern, he remembers the "sink or swim" attitude that is also stressed by Kurtenbach.
"We rely a lot on interns to do the type of work that a full-time employee would do," Parker said. "For many people, this is the first real-world experience and taste of the professional world of work."
With that attitude as an incentive, many students flock to the internships provided by Daktronics time and time again. Each year there are two sessions for internships: January-August and May-December. What started out as just a few interns at a time has grown into about 30 interns per session, with each intern getting a unique perspective that will ultimately shape his or her future.
A past sales intern, Samantha Stratman, is one such intern whose work on a billboard trip resulted in a job offer from Huston Electric. Her internship gave her a head start in the job market by providing experience desired by employers and development of personal attributes that made her who she is today.
"The internship has taught me a lot about my capabilities as a person. I’m now a firm believer that I am in charge of my own destiny and that in order to gain success in my future career I will rely on three tools to get me there: ambition, willingness to try and a strong sense of identity," said Stratman. "There are a lot of paths to success, but staying true to yourself and your values will not only get you there, but make the journey worthwhile."
With the success of the program and the optimism towards the future of the company, it can be expected that many more students will continue to take advantage of the experience offered by Daktronics. For more information on the internship program, you may contact Karen Weisbeck, Internship Coordinator, at 800.843.5843 or Karen.Weisbeck@Daktronics.com.