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If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it. – John C. Maxwell

The summer prior to my last year of college, I decided it would be a good idea to seek out an internship to gain some much needed experience in the real world prior to graduating.  Looking back on it now, I realize I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and/or where it would lead.  But I also realize it was the best decision I could have ever made.

And I know I am dating myself, but at the time there was no structured University Relations Program like what we have in our organization right now … there was no Google to search out The Best Internships … there wasn’t even an Internet!  It was either mail out resumes, or pound the pavement with local companies in the area.  I did both.

I was fortunate to have crossed paths with a leader who saw potential.  After all, I had very little by way of experience to offer to this telecommunications company who created billing software.  In fact, my entire undergraduate studies around computer science had been with object oriented programming languages and the Apple Macintosh computer.  Yet here I was sitting in front of a dumb terminal doing COBOL table maintenance. Seriously!?

It was the first of many opportunities/challenges I was presented with over the first 15 years of my career with the same company to learn … about how the real world differs from text books … about the various roles necessary to ensure success within a team/company … about what interested me, and what didn’t.  And during that time of exploration, and the prodding of another leader, I eventually landed in this role called Product Management. Funny, I don’t ever recall studying anything even remotely close to that title in college … and yet here I sit using almost every element of that education (marketing, finance, creative writing, critical thinking & analysis, etc).

None of where I am today would have been possible without some investment by two leaders who saw potential … thank you Carolyn for the initial opportunity to get my foot in the door … and thank you Dee for exposing me to Product Management.

Given what my pursuit of an internship has meant for me personally, as well as where it has gotten my in my career, I didn’t hesitate when our University Relations team came looking for volunteers to take on interns for this upcoming summer.  I only hope that I can encourage them the way I was encouraged.  And maybe, by exposing them early to the Product Management role they probably are not directly learning about in college, a new generation of product management leaders will be on the way!