Retailing Alumni

My Internship That Led to a Career

Jason Knode shares his story during his internship with REI in Kent, Washington where is is now an Assistant Category Manager in men’s outerwear and baselayer.

Throughout my life I have had some pretty amazing life experiences. I have played in championship hockey games, seen wildernesses that are remote and untouched, traveled the world, lived abroad, skied the Austrian Alps and dove with manta rays and sharks. An experience I am going to have to add to this list is interning at REI and experiencing all Seattle has to offer.

The summer began with eternal optimism. I was driving up from Arizona with my best friend Maddy in the passenger seat, taking in all of the west coast together. As I crossed into Oregon from California I came across one of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. Mount Shasta was just standing there all by itself in all its snowy glory, and I remember saying to myself “this summer is going to be epic”. When I arrived in Seattle I was smiling ear to ear. I was ready to get to REI and prove that I was ready for all challenges that were to present themselves.

This summer was full of new adventure. From the second day on campus all the way to the day I presented my project to leadership, my REI experience has been among one of the best in my life. I was able to meet vendors, conduct meetings with leaders and fellow employees, have lunch with the President and CEO Jerry Stritzke, learn many of the different ways you can look at merchandising a product, develop analytical skills specific to merchandising, cross-train with several different partners, and most importantly, felt like I was able to take ownership of my project and make a difference.

As the Seattle summer weather turns from clouds to sun it reminds me of how this incredible summer developed. When I arrived I thought I knew what I was getting into, but really I had a cloudy perspective of what I was about to encounter. As the summer developed the fog began to burn off and the sun began to appear. The information and newness was no longer causing me anxiety, and I was able to really dig in. All of this clarity would have not been possible if not for all of the amazing people I have had the privilege of meeting and working with. The support I have encountered this summer has been nothing short of exceptional.

The challenges were real, the expectations high and I would have had it no other way. For those of you who have followed my summer, I thank you. If you are reading this because you truly wanted some insight on what a summer in a new city working as a merchandiser would be like, I hope I was able to help clarify things. I’ll leave you with this thought. Be bold, be daring and step out of your comfort zone. Make your education your own because in the end, it is yours for life.