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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

YMA Fashion Scholarship at Brandeis: my internship at Ross Stores

Published: October 14, 2011
Section: Features, Top Stories

Last year, as a senior, I applied for the newly announced YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) at Brandeis. The YMA FSF’s mission is to recruit and cultivate the best students so they become the next generation of leaders in the fashion industry. Not only did I win a $5,000 scholarship but, most importantly, I made business contacts that I would never have had the chance to make before my internship this past summer at Ross Stores, an off-price clothing retailer.

I never expected to end up as a buying intern at Ross this summer; we just sort of found each other. I’m not a keen believer in love at first sight but, I have to admit, there was an instant deep attraction to the things that make Ross Stores different from any other company for which I’ve worked. Let’s start with the fact that I met my division’s general vice president at a gala honoring scholarship recipients (including me) in the previous winter. I told her I’d love to work as an intern for Ross but I never expected she would help me set up not one but seven separate interviews to help me get a better idea of what I’d like to be doing during the summer.

I’m an economics major but I’m also a professional photocopier, coffee runner and head nodder. I don’t know what most GVP’s do in most of the companies for which I’ve worked because I’ve never even met them. Ross may be the first place where someone finally got that cartoonish light bulb above their head and realized: Interns are people too! As a matter of fact, we can be very useful people to a company (not to mention we can be persuaded to work for free …).

Everyone at Ross seemed to have that idea, although I’m happy to say I was not asked to work sans pay. My first day I received an hour-by-hour schedule for the next nine weeks, explaining which training I’d be taking and when. I compared with a new assistant buyer in my division: We had basically the same schedule! From the first day at Ross, I was being tested on my progress, challenged to take on more responsibility each week and cultivated to become a Ross employee.

Sounds fun, right? It was! My days were never the same; I would leave the office each day for various market appointments and spend time interacting with my fellow interns (65 of us total) as mandated by some very charming group bonding activities. I was my boss’ shadow and, everything she saw, I saw too. Throughout the internship, the scholarship program that had led me to Ross sponsored a series called “Breakfast with the Boss,” allowing me to sneak out of the office every now and then to meet nearly one-on-one with a CEO or senior manager of a major company. Needless to say I jumped at the opportunity to meet with Ross’s CEO, Michael Balmuth.

By the end of my nine weeks, I was working in sync with assistant buyers and sharing the department workload where I could. Unfortunately, just when I got the hang of it, they gently reminded me the internship was over. I had no retail experience when I started my internship but I left with a clear understanding of what it would be like to work full-time as a buyer.

What have I learned? Well, I’ve learned how to work with systems like Retek and RDW and how to read a sales ladder. But you don’t care about that. I never expected to end up at Ross this summer but I’ve learned that even abstract expectations can be exceeded. Sometimes the best fit can find you.