Summer interns helping at the 2019 World Tech School. Pictured (from left): Mackane Burchfield, Iris Wormington, and Maricela Maqueda.
Other than the tunnel vision view of poultry farming I had from growing up on a broiler farm, my first real exposure to the poultry industry was in 2017 when I attended the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) as a college freshman. There were a handful of companies present with which I was familiar, but most employers were new to me. I remember an upper classman making the statement that Cobb was the best company in the industry. She said, “You’d be lucky to get an internship with them. They’re a big deal.” I appreciated the challenge in her voice. The next year when IPPE rolled around, I was not selected to interview with Cobb. Undeterred, I spoke with a Cobb recruiter about what exactly Cobb needed in an internship candidate. Perhaps the recruiter felt pity or genuinely wanted to extend me an interview because she offered me a chance to come in the next morning. Looking back after two years of interning with Cobb, I am so thankful for that conversation. It led me down a better path than I could have ever imagined.
My first internship year started at Bear Hollow, the original pedigree farm. The time I spent on the farm was a great foundation for my formal and applied poultry education. The management team at Bear Hollow worked hard to make sure I experienced the entire production system from hatchery to load-out. This experience was invaluable when I started my poultry studies at the University of Arkansas. Concepts that were abstract to many students resonated with me because I understood their application. This advantage kept me engaged and inquisitive when learning about an evolving industry. Perhaps more impactful was how I grew as an employee. I asked a lot of questions about team dynamics that summer. How do you build team moral? How do you lead people who have more experience than you? What qualities have you identified in the best team managers? Team members were sincere and honest when answering my questions. Asking those questions and observing employee behaviors were among some of the best teamwork lessons that I have learned to this day.
In addition to my work at Bear Hollow, I participated in a group project with all the other interns. For this activity, I served in more of an HR role when our team was asked to illustrate how a career at Cobb may progress. This included conveying job changes, promotions, and career opportunities that Cobb can offer employees. The intentions behind this project were to strengthen Cobb’s succession plan by developing current team members and searching for strong new hires. This experience was helpful to learn how to build a successful career. I also realized how intentional Cobb is with every person hired. Cobb’s core value of Family was evident in this project.
After completing my internship at Bear Hollow, I continued working as an intern in the World Technical Service Department. Fortunately, I was able to continue my college education at the same time. It was with the World Technical Service Department that I truly began to understand the global reach Cobb has and its commitment to sustainable poultry production. I worked the 20th anniversary of World Tech School where I saw a glimpse of poultry production all over the world. There was so much to learn from every individual who visited. I am thankful for the conversations I had with many of the participants regarding the future of poultry sustainability. World Tech School changed my mindset from “chickens are grown on family broiler farms to feed American families” and repositioned me to think about the bigger picture. Comprehending our global magnitude grew my appreciation for prevention sciences including disease control and nutrition. I have always been proud to be a food producer, but my pride grew tenfold when I understood just how much precision and innovation surrounds modern protein production. This perspective matured my thinking and elevated my problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
Most recently, I worked with the sales team recording product performance data on a newly released male line. I was tasked with sub-projects and designing the path to a solution. It was then that I felt I had really grown into my role. I was given responsibility with the freedom to develop a product using my vision. I had always felt like I was a part of the Cobb team and family, but when I was given that extra responsibility, I began to consider Cobb as a place I could launch my career postgraduation. The feeling of contribution and being treated as a peer by individuals far more experienced than myself has given me the confidence to proceed in my education and career. There are many skills and qualities I gained during my time at Cobb, but the validation I have experienced through my work is the most valuable thing I will take with me.
I would encourage anyone interested in an internship with Cobb to start by applying through IPPE. If you are not selected for an interview prior to the convention, sign up as a walk-up and be prepared to share what you know about Cobb as well as ways you would contribute. Additionally, it is always helpful to know what kind of internship you would like so that you can be placed in a mutually beneficial position. Moreover, in any role, be engaged. Not every job is going to be fun, and you may not enjoy everything you are asked to do. However, there is something to learn from every role and person. By asking questions and thinking about the big picture, you can gain applicable knowledge that will serve you for life. A final thought for those considering an internship in this industry: Be prepared to show up early, be willing to do dirty jobs, ask questions, and learn how to work with people.