A Summer in Their Shoes

Two Nazareth students go a step beyond and intern with Zappos and Steve Madden

by Sofia Tokar

Yomayra Guerrero

It’s the summer before graduating from college. How do you make the most of it before embarking on a job search or further studies?

“Internships are an amazing way to network and develop skills for your field,” says Joseph Christian ’15. As an information technology major at Nazareth, Christian was required to complete two internships before graduating. With one already done, “I knew I wanted to intern somewhere big.”

He spent nearly a year searching, applying, and interviewing for various positions before accepting one in late May. It was for an information security internship offered by Zappos, the nationally recognized online shoe and apparel shop based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In addition to developing his cyber security skills as a penetration tester (or ethical hacker) for the company, Christian participated in daily projects, vendor meetings, and team lunches at corporate headquarters. Zapponians (the informal term for the company’s employees) also experienced team-building activities such as hiking, community service projects, and boat trips.

“Las Vegas and Zappos are definitely ‘work hard, play hard’ experiences. Working hard allowed me to attend Black Hat USA 2015 and DEF CON 23, massive computer security conferences with thousands of attendees,” explains Christian. “I networked with industry professionals and learned cutting-edge security concepts.”

Zappos’s management style is a Holacracy, in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout self-organizing teams. “As someone who eventually wants to build his own security company, it was valuable to see an alternative corporate structure.”

And as for playing hard? “It’s just what you’d expect in the Las Vegas atmosphere,” shares Christian.

Because experiential learning is a hallmark of a Nazareth education, internships are open to all majors. Communication and media major Yomayra Guerrero ’16 wasn’t required to complete one. However, that didn’t stop her from accepting a human resources internship in her hometown of New York City with Steve Madden, one of the nation’s leading companies for fashion footwear and accessories.

“I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge and adventure,” explains Guerrero. “Internships give you experiences you can’t otherwise gain in a classroom by letting you explore areas beyond your immediate academic interests.”

In the dynamic and fast-paced fashion industry, “there is never a dull moment.” A typical day for Guerrero at Steve Madden included attending project meetings, managing communications, developing presentations, conducting workshops and orientations, and researching the latest policies and ordinances.

“The experience taught me a lot about myself, especially in terms of future career choices,” she reflects. “I love doing research, but I’d much rather be hands-on and active while building relationships and working with people.”

Guerrero’s advice? “Take initiative. Experience and exposure are your best teachers. In that way, Steve Madden and Nazareth have both prepared me for the world beyond campus, both as a young professional and a scholar.”

Plus, it never hurts to get your foot in the (footwear) industry door before graduation.

Sofia Tokar is a freelance writer in Rochester, New York.

Editor's Note: Joseph Christian recently accepted a full-time position at Paychex.

Meet the Interns

    Joe Christian
    Julia Madore
    Alessio De Michele
    Yomayra Guerrero