Internship Experience: Karen Henao, Merchant Analyst Intern at Kohl’s

In this “Internship Experience” blog post series, we will be featuring the profile and thoughts of our students from Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management as they return from summer internships.

Name: Karen Henao
Graduation Year: 2021
Majors: Retail Management / Marketing Management
Hometown: Morristown, NJ
Intern Company/Title: Kohl’s – Merchant Analyst Intern

Describe your position and some of your daily tasks? 
As a Merchant Analyst intern, most of my responsibilities align with those of the Allocation Analyst who I was assigned to shadow throughout the summer. Part of my job was to assist the Allocation Analyst by taking on some of their daily assignments, which included pulling sales reports for our vendors who wanted to see how their products are doing, summarizing our sales data to determine what’s selling and what’s not, as well as using our inventory tools to allocate product to our stores. I also completed three projects that showcased all of the new skills I have learned during this summer and presented it to my office and the other interns. 

How did you land your internship?
After applying to the position on the Kohl’s careers website, I reached out to the recruitment coordinator to let them know that I had submitted my application and was very interested in learning more about the program. The recruiter scheduled a phone call for us to talk and we discussed everything from his personal experience as an intern to life in Milwaukee, where the job is located. This initial conversation led to an invitation to interview, which eventually led to my internship offer. 

What did you learn from your internship experience?
I learned to analyze sales data to pick up on trends that describe how the business is doing and why it might be down/up, then how to present these findings to the office so that they can make strategic decisions based on this information. While this was just a small part of my job, it was one of my favorite takeaways from the internship because I really enjoyed being able to speak to the business and place some meaning behind the data.

I also learned a lot about managing my work remotely and how this can sometimes be difficult given all the distractions one might face at home. To keep on track, I would start the week off by organizing my calendar and writing down my “to-do” list, then finding a quiet spot in my house to get started on these tasks. This is a habit I am hoping to stick with through the end of college and into my career because it really helped me remain focused and motivated. 

Has your experience changed your plans or career choice when you leave college?
My goal has always been to move to New York City after graduation and land a role in merchandising with a big-name retailer. I have always been curious about the fashion retail industry, so this internship was my opportunity to feel out the field and see if it would be the right fit for me post-college.

After this experience, I am confident that I made the right choice by going the merchandising route over other roles I could have considered with my marketing degree. While I have always pictured myself starting my career in NYC, I have been reconsidering this dream on the chance that I get offered a full-time position in the Kohl’s Buying Office, which is located in Milwaukee. I was stubborn about this big move at first, but over time I have realized that the Allocation Analyst role is everything I am looking for in my first job after college and I would love to continue working for Kohl’s if given the chance.

How will your internship experience help you after graduation?
When I reflect on how much I have grown throughout my time as a Merchant Analyst intern, I think of how timid and nervous I was when I first started. This role required a lot of public speaking and sharing personal insights and opinions, all of which I wasn’t too comfortable doing just a few months ago. Now that I have had more practice with it, I feel like a pro when I present in front of others and I even get a little excited when it comes my time to speak. This is definitely an important skill to have, regardless of what role I decide to pursue post-grad. My skillset has also expanded so much throughout these last seven-weeks; whether I’m analyzing sales data or reviewing customer insights, I feel comfortable taking on a variety of different tasks that I may have never learned in my classes. I am confident that this internship experience has set me up to succeed after graduation because of everything I was able to learn and adapt to in just a seven-week period.

How has the Whitman School prepared you for your internship?
I can honestly say that a big part of why I was able to land my internship and succeed in my role was because of Whitman. Since my first year of college, I have felt an overwhelming amount of support from my professors and advisors who have guided me towards a promising life after college. Whitman provides its students with so many resources, both in and out of the classroom, that I have utilized to become a young professional in the retail industry. I walked into my internship with a variety of soft and hard skills in my back pocket (all thanks to the Whitman School) that I was able to highlight during my time as a Kohl’s intern.

What did you enjoy most about your experience?
Although the internship was held remotely due to COVID-19, I would have to say that my favorite part about this experience was getting to know the other interns and the people in my office. My biggest fear going into the virtual work environment was that I wouldn’t be able to bond with my coworkers and that this would limit how comfortable I felt within the office — but I was completely wrong. Kohl’s went above and beyond in breaking down these barriers by setting up small virtual lunches with the interns, assigning group projects for interns in different offices and offering online social events that took place outside of work. I was welcomed by my team members with open arms and at no point did I ever feel like a “temporary” intern. I was overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people I had the pleasure of meeting and working with throughout my time there. Everyone was very willing to give me their time and help me out in any way they could, which was something I really appreciated. Kohl’s prides itself on its amazing corporate culture and I could feel this warmth thousands of miles away, from the comfort of my own home.

Do you have any advice to students who are looking for an internship
Apply to anything you think you might be interested in and don’t be afraid to reach out to recruiters if you want to learn more. I definitely know that a huge part of my success in securing this internship was sending out that initial email to the Kohl’s recruiter seeking more information about the program. These recruiters are sorting through hundreds of applications every day, so you have a better chance of sticking out if they recognize your name because you have shared your interest with them before.

Kimmy Kimball