We invited our crop of impressive summer interns to grab their go-to campus style and come together to reflect on their experiences working with team members at Vera Bradley over the past few months.
Seated among various departments in our home offices, our sensational six have learned a great deal about the process, made a few new friends and gained some useful knowledge for their future career path. Let’s listen in as they chitchat about Lunch and Learns, lakefront bonding and what it’s like behind the scenes.
On the guest list:
Q. So, where are you going school and what’s your major?
Rachel W: I’m going to be a senior at Butler University in the fall, and I am an Accounting and Management Information Systems Double Major.
Rachel G: I’m going to be a senior at Valparaiso University in the fall, and I have a Double Major in Marketing and Art.
Eric: I’m going to be a fifth-year senior at Purdue – getting a little extra time in there – and I’m majoring in Industrial Engineering. I’m graduating in December, which is coming very quick!
Megan: I will also be a senior at Butler, and I’m studying Marketing and International Business.
Lara: I will be a senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and studying Industrial Management Engineering.
Molly: I graduated in 2012 from Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in fibers. I’m the oldie of the group.
Q. Eric, what’s it like being the only guy in the group?
Eric: It’s good! Coming from engineering, it’s definitely a change of pace.
Q. How did you hear about our internship program?
Megan: I heard about the program from looking on the website. I was familiar with a few other people who went to Butler and were in the program, so I sought it out. I knew there were great opportunities here.
Molly: I worked at an indirect store in the South for about 7 years, so I know about Vera Bradley from selling it. So I checked it out online and saw the opportunities.
Rachel: I’m from Fort Wayne, so I have to know about it or I’m living under a hole or something! I thought it sounded perfect.
Eric: Same thing for me. I’m from Fort Wayne, so I’ve known about the company for a long time. I wanted an internship in Fort Wayne so I could live rent-free at my lake house, so I thought about the great companies in Fort Wayne. Obviously, Vera Bradley! I checked out their Careers website and here I am. It’s a pretty sweet deal!
Lara: Vera Bradley is pretty popular on the east coast. I’ve carried it since high school, so I applied and moved out to Indiana for the summer!
Q. How would you describe your campus style?
Molly: I went to an art school, so we were a little weird. If it was different, you wore it. I’d describe it as comfy but fashion-forward.
Rachel G: I’m in the art aspect and the business aspect, so it is two different worlds. Plus, it’s freezing in Valparaiso, so we’re bundled up a lot!
Lara: I’m in upstate New York and it’s a 70% male school, so I don’t really care too much about being fashionable.
Eric: I try to dress pretty nice for class. I can’t remember the last time I wore sweatpants!
Molly: We had to wear heels to all fashion classes in case an industry professional walked in.
Rachel G: I wear leggings, sweaters and huge scarves year round!
Megan: I wear yoga pants to my 8 am class but if I have a 10 am, I’ll go back and change.
Q. What was your first Vera Bradley style?
Molly: Mine was the Miller Bag in Green Apple forever ago!
Lara: I think mine was the Vera in Cupcakes Pink.
Rachel W: Mine was a Zip ID Case when I went to college.
Molly: Eric, what was your first Vera Bradley?
Eric: Well, they were nice enough to give us Totes on our first day so … a Tote in Marina Paisley.
Molly: That’s a good pattern! Perfect for the lake.
Eric: I actually have sewn my own Coin Purse with our team of sewers! She told me it turned out pretty well, although she’s probably just saying that.
Q. How has the internship program been for you?
Molly: I’ve loved it! I’ve gotten so much exposure to all parts of Product Development; materials, design and the actual product development.
Eric: For me, working in Continuous Improvement, I knew I’d be working with Distribution and Manufacturing, but I’m also working on a project with the retail stores, which you think engineering, you’d probably not be with the stores! But I love it, and I never thought I’d be working in it. It opens new doors!
Megan: The program, in general, is really cool because we’re not just in our department. We have our Lunch and Learns, so we get a full scope of the company, instead of only one side. I have a great understanding about Indirect Sales, but I didn’t know anything about Product Development until our Lunch and Learn.
Q. What is a Lunch and Learn?
Megan: We go to different departments and buildings and hear different people talk and explain what they do. We have lots of opportunities to ask questions. There are so many things I didn’t even consider about my first Large Duffel – how they market it and how they make it – and we get to hear about the entire process from the idea to the store.
Molly: I think it helps us all understand and put into context how our specific role works, because we get to see the full process of Vera Bradley.
Eric: It’s fun to see the human side of the leaders in the company. We had one with Barb [Bradley Baekgaard], and she’s a great storyteller!
Q. How’s Fort Wayne?
All: We’re loving the TinCaps!
Molly: Yes, the TinCaps baseball games have been really fun.
Rachel W: When the weather’s nice. For the first few weeks it was rainy.
Molly: It’s supposed to be nice and hot now though. It feels like home! This is normal summer weather. I was shivering in May when we started.
Q. So you hang out outside of work?
Megan: A lot! We’re roommates (points to Rachel W.) and they’re roommates (points to Lara and Molly). We like to watch “The Bachelorette”!
Molly: And we’ve gone to the lake.
Molly: And we did the Classic.
Lara: And we went to the zoo and fed giraffes!
Molly: And I hung out with the kangaroos.
Molly: We went to the movies and saw “The Internship,” which was fitting.
Rachel W: And lots of fro yo runs!
Q. You’ve been busy! I bet the lake was fun …
Molly: We got really sunburned. And it was funny to see swans at the lake. In the south we have alligators in our lakes and y’all have swans.
Eric: And we made s’mores!
Q. So, what was most surprising about working at Vera Bradley?
Rachel G: I think how welcoming everyone was that first week.
Molly: Oh yeah, everyone was genuinely nice, not just polite. They honestly want to know how your weekend was or how your day is going. And they pop over and talk to you at your desk.
Rachel G: I think that has stuck out to me the most, too.
Rachel W: And everyone is willing to help you. If you have a question, they’ll sit down with you and show you how to do it and make sure you understand. I think that’s really good and I have learned a lot.
Megan: And it’s not nerve-racking to ask questions.
Molly: Everyone is friends with each other and hang out after work, so it’s a big family.
Q. What are your big plans for next school year?
Rachel W: I’m hoping to go to Africa! I’m going to do a 5th year Master’s program at Butler, so I’ll have another summer and I’d really like to travel.
Molly: I want to find a job. I’d love to work for Vera Bradley.
Rachel G: I think it will be a fun last year of school, but a little stressful.
Megan: It’s such a transitional year.
Molly: You have to take every opportunity you can!
Q. What is your biggest takeaway from the summer?
Molly: I think it’s everything I’ve learned from the entire process. This is a much bigger company than my other internship, and every person has a specific job, so it runs really smoothly.
Megan: For me, it’s my first experience in the corporate world, and Vera Bradley is a great transition into that because it’s not super formal. My internships in the past were very informal, and this has been a great experience in working 40 hours a week and having things that I’m working on.
Eric: The culture and core values that Vera Bradley cultivates are great. I have fun coming into work and talking to everyone!
Rachel W: I think for me, it’s learning the different aspects of the Finance department and how everything fits into Vera Bradley. It’s interesting to see what I like about it and what I don’t. It will help me decide what I want to pursue later on.
Lara: Getting a hands-on experience has been awesome. I read about it and study about it, but being involved has been a great experience.
Rachel G: it’s very insightful when you see, “Oh, I’m good at this,” or, “Maybe I’m not as good at this as I thought,” or “I want to go in this direction …” I think that has been super helpful.
Q. What will you be taking back to campus with you from Fall?
Molly: I love Perfectly Puffy! It’s my favorite thing ever. And the Bubble Umbrella is so cute!
Lara: I love the Pajamas.
Eric: I think it’s cool that there are a lot of items for college students in Back to Campus.
Q. Any advice for future interns?
Megan: I think it’s important to be like a sponge; to take everything in. Go to as many meetings as you can and just listen so you get a better understanding of what’d going on in the company.
Lara: Ask a lot of questions. Now’s the time!
Rachel W: Know what your mentor or manager’s expectations are of you so you can stay on track with meeting and exceeding those expectations.
Molly: Always go above and beyond.
Megan: Internships are like one big interview. You want to put your best foot forward. You only get one shot at a first impression and this is like a 3-month-long first impression.