When Brianna Kuhl ’11 began her internship at SapientNitro in early January, she was immediately placed on a creative team. Though this is just Kuhl’s first internship, she is already an active contributor on the team that is working with SapientNitro’s client, ConAgra Foods’ Healthy Choice.
“It’s a super-inviting environment,” said Kuhl, a Marketing and International Business major at Rider. “When anyone has an idea, everyone listens. If I have something to say, I feel I can open my mouth and contribute ideas.”
After placing first in a case competition at SapientNitro’s New York City office in December, Kuhl was one of six Rider students to be offered six-month paid internships with the company, which specializes in interactive marketing, creative design and technology services.
As part of the case competition, organized by SapientNitro and Rider’s Pathways for Marketing and Advertising Program, five student teams from the College of Business Administration were asked to provide recommendations for ways ConAgra’s Healthy Choice line could increase the number of times its target audience – women ages 25 to 44 – uses the product. Antonio Aiello ’11, a Marketing and Advertising dual major, is also interning with SapientNitro.
“The Pathways program is designed to showcase some of our best students. The program also introduces these students to major corporations and helps them understand the various career paths and opportunities available to them,” said Dr. Cynthia Newman, associate professor of Marketing and director of Pathways. This was the first time that a participating organization offered paid internships.
The opportunity to work with SapientNitro evolved from conversations with Alan Wexler ’85, M.B.A.’90, who is the senior vice president and managing director of North America for SapientNitro, as well as a member of the College of Business Administration’s Executive Advisory Council.
“Personally, I benefited from an internship at Rider when I was a student. It was an amazing experience and I am glad to help students get the same opportunity,” Wexler explained.
In fact, Wexler gained a number of lessons about leadership, motivation and commitment during a co-op with IBM. During Wexler’s junior year at Rider, Nancy Fritog M.B.A.’84 recruited him for the program.
“It was a fantastic program. The people who worked at IBM facilitated classes for us. It really wasn’t about performing work, but it was more of an investment for us and the company,” said Wexler, who remained with IBM part-time during his senior year and was offered a full-time position after graduation. “There were things that Nancy taught me about leading and trusting people. She had an incredible amount of trust in me, which gave me a lot of confidence.”
Wexler began working at Sapient in his early 30s. “I didn’t realize the importance of company culture until I came to Sapient,” he said. “At the end of the day, you can train people with skills, but that’s not really what brings success to our company. It’s the fact that our people are part of a culture that is highly motivated.”
In his current role, Wexler is not only responsible for business strategy, growth and operations, but he also focuses on building relationships with his employees and his clients.
“We keep people challenged, growing and empowered by offering opportunities to learn and succeed. We always look to see that they have an ability to make an impact,” Wexler said. “I’m looking to empower people of all ages, especially those at the formative stages of their careers.”
By participating in Pathways, SapientNitro not only gives students a glimpse into its leadership and work environment, but it has a chance to “test-drive” prospective employees.
“I look to recruit people who are a cultural fit, so their values are in line with the core values of our company. I look for thirst for learning and flexibility, and I also look to see how a person would fit in with the team,” he said. “The Pathways program is a win-win situation, allowing SapientNitro to benefit from exposure to top talent in the University while providing students with an opportunity to learn from industry professionals.”