Blog & Tools

More than an intern, at SDN, I was a valued member of the team

As a student studying at South Dakota State University, we were bombarded with encouragement to attend job/internship fairs the day we stepped on campus. I never understood why I should attend as a freshman who barely has his life together, until now.

I first interviewed for an SDN Communications intern position as a freshly turned advertising major at an SDSU job fair.

Did I get the job? Well, no. But I walked away knowing I’d be back.

With just one interview, I could tell that SDN was a place I wanted to be. From the outside, the job might not sound so interesting, but the wide variety of opportunities in design, inbound marketing, writing and analytics, and an amazing company culture to boot, made SDN an attractive fit.

Before that interview, the telecommunications industry never registered on my radar as a student studying advertising and looking for an internship, but opportunities to do real work there inspired me to re-apply.

I scored another interview for a summer 2022 position.

About a week after the interview, I received an email from digital marketing specialist Andrea Leesch and director of human resources Amy Preator extending an offer. I was ecstatic, my persistence paid off.

Over the course of the summer, I met passionate employees and discovered a vast network of professionals across South Dakota excited to help me explore and learn. The preconceived notion about the telecommunications industry was far from the truth.

SDN summer picnic
SDN Employee Summer Picnic

With the wide variety of experiences available to me, I had a few things in mind that I wanted to accomplish during my internship, but I knew I needed to improve as a designer and writer.

SDN’s marketing department may be small, but they are mighty. The resources were always available for me to fully excel. The same goes for all departments across SDN; everybody authentically made it clear to me that they wanted to help.

One of the more memorable moments of the summer came early on when the marketing team members assured me, they were here to teach me and answer my questions about marketing in telecommunications. Likewise, they expected me to teach them what I’d learned in the classroom about the constantly evolving marketing world.

That moment confirmed I was in the right place -- a company that values my input and puts the trust in me to handle such a wide variety of responsibilities.

I was given full responsibility of the graphics and visuals of SDN’s annual Golf Classic, from hole signs, sponsor banners and other printed materials, as well as creating graphs and content for the 2021 Cyber Threat Landscape Report to be used in the upcoming Sioux Falls Cybersecurity Conference.

2021 Annual Cyberthreat Landscape Report

One of my favorite design projects: creating three cybersecurity-related infographics to complement the Cyber Threat Landscape Report. From researching three important and relevant topics, to designing each poster, it fulfilled me professionally and will remain in my portfolio as an example of my work.

Not only design, but I immensely improved my writing skills with help from Leesch and vice president of marketing and community relations, Vernon Brown.

Both Leesch and Brown come from writing backgrounds, so I had the best possible guidance in crafting my blogs. They taught me to create a story and make each paragraph interesting to propel the reader to the next. In my mind, it’s like an extremely rewarding puzzle to piece together and look back on.

Along with a myriad of different skills achieved while working in Google Analytics, auditing the website’s metadata to improve search engine performance, photography for blogs and posting on various social media platforms, I’m proud to say I achieved my internship goals.

"Golden Calf" Sculpture | Photographed by Dylan Nichols

Though it’s hard to pick out one internship experience as my favorite, the SDN Golf Classic tops my list.

The weeks leading up to the event may have been hectic at times, preparing for such a large tournament, but it all paid off. I got to experience firsthand how much people truly celebrate and look forward to this tournament each summer.

SDN Annual Golf Classic

My job during the event was to tour the course and make sure the golfers and volunteers were having a good time. I was lucky enough to meet all kinds of industry leaders from all corners of South Dakota and maybe hit a mulligan or two.

I am extremely thankful for the opportunity I was given at SDN, and I won’t soon forget it. I’m eager to begin my final year of school and excited to take the skills learned this summer into my future career.

I’m glad to say that my journey to where I am now wasn’t a straight line. I learned the grit and determination needed to get something that I want, especially after being turned down.