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Food For Thought: My Internship with The Wonderful Company

I’ve always loved the nuances and connectedness food and wine bring to life. Whether it’s sharing chilled Rosé on a hot summer day with friends, or finding the perfect dinner pairing. I have always been fascinated by agriculture and impressed by how it can unite communities.

Growing up in Napa County, the food and wine industries have always been a passion of mine. I was constantly surrounded by a culture that embraces high-quality produce and a good bottle of wine. It was more than a meal, it was a way of life—that’s something ingrained in me.

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Following my lifelong passion, I joined UC Davis for the university’s century-long pioneering research contributions and global impact on the ag industry. That led to my opportunity to intern for The Wonderful Company as part of their Strategy Group.

From my first day on the team in mid-June, I got a first-hand look at the nuances of a $5 billion consumer packaged goods company.

You may not be familiar with The Wonderful Company as a household name, but if you’re involved in the California ag and wine industry, you know it’s a major, diversified global player with brands including: POM Wonderful; FIJI Water; Wonderful Pistachios and Wonderful Almonds; Wonderful Halos; JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery; Landmark Vineyards and Winery; JNSQ Wines; pest control company Suterra, flower delivery service Teleflora; and sea freight company Neptune Pacific Line.

Here’s how I was able to land this incredible opportunity.

MY LOVE FOR GOOD FOOD

From my earliest memories, I loved cooking with my mom and grandma. We would bake cookies, or prep a salad to go with dinner. I really enjoyed learning about how to combine different ingredients to make something delicious.

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When I moved to North Carolina to attend Duke University, I continued to cook. I even started hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my friends who stayed on campus in my junior year because the trip back to California was so long for just a few days.

A few holidays in, cooking became part of my identity, so when I decided to pursue a career in the wine industry after college it felt like a natural transition.

For the next seven years, I worked closely with grape growers and even worked a harvest in Napa Valley before deciding to return to school and join the UC Davis Full-Time MBA program. I wanted to gain the right skills to advance my career and explore opportunities.

AG INDUSTRY INTERNSHIP

Just before classes began in the fall of 2019, I attended the School’s annual UC Davis Food, Agriculture and Energy Employer Showcase and I met with representatives from The Wonderful Company. I knew they were a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company and I knew they impacted their communities in a positive way, so after speaking with some of their presenters (and fellow Aggies), I decided to apply for their summer internship program.

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I worked with the Career Development team to hone my resume and cover letter and I sat down for a handful of mock interviews to prep for the real deal. That work paid off when I was selected to join the company as an intern on their Strategy Group—it was the perfect fit as the position really paired well with my strengths.

Although it took place in the middle of the pandemic, which limited multiple aspects of the experience, I was able to spend some time at Wonderful Nurseries in Wasco, California, where my project was based.

Initially, I spent a lot of my time getting to know the team, interviewing employees throughout the business unit to try and better understand the operational challenges the company faced.

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It was an eye-opening experience, and I learned how successful teams work together to solve problems. I was able to talk through many of the issues I was facing with the Strategy Group, which implemented a very collaborative approach. It was great to hear differing opinions and to work through each obstacle as it arose.

My project was based on a simple question with a complex answer, so I quickly learned the importance of embracing ambiguity and applying frameworks to create structure and find a solution.

I was also struck by the company’s local impact.

Before joining the UC Davis MBA program, I was part of a non-profit with a progressive mission statement, and that experience stuck with me. The social impact of a company is important to me, and it will certainly play a role in my career decisions.

As I move into the final year of my MBA, I know I will look back on these past 10 weeks as a vital learning experience. Not only was this an excellent opportunity, but I’m confident the skills and experience I gained here have prepared me for what lies ahead.