You're Hired

Josh Herrmann '18 won the Rock River Valley's Intern Challenge this summer. (Photo Provided)

Matt Hawkins
August 30, 2016

Eighteen high school and college students battled for boardroom supremacy this summer. For eight weeks, students struggled through late nights, nerve-wracking presentations and tense elimination meetings for a chance to win the Rock River Valley YMCA’s Intern Challenge.

At the end, Josh Herrmann ’18, a Bradley finance and management and leadership double major, claimed victory. The Intern Challenge, modeled after the TV show The Apprentice, challenged Rockford, Illinois,-area students to complete a series of business-focused tasks in a fun, yet competitive business environment.

“I was shocked to win the challenge,” said Poplar Grove, Illinois, native Herrmann. “Though I was there primarily to learn from professionals in different organizations and to show my abilities, I live for competition. With the quality of students I worked with and competed against, I couldn’t be more grateful to win.”

He received a $1,500 scholarship and a paid internship at an organization of his choice as the reward for surviving two months of group and individual challenges.

Interns worked in teams each week to complete tasks for different Rockford-area businesses. They developed marketing plans, brand awareness campaigns, sales strategies and other projects. Monday assignments gave way to frenzied weeks of creative collaboration and Friday presentations to corporate executives. Competitors were eliminated after each Friday’s boardroom presentations.

And, there were occasional surprises like a 3 a.m. dash to win a photo challenge.

The gamified internship challenged Herrmann to balance leadership and teamwork situations while he fought to be the last intern standing. Additionally, it stretched his Bradley-acquired business knowledge. His accounting, finance, marketing and management courses gave him an invaluable foundation of skills to apply.

“It was a tricky situation because I had to fight for myself while knowing I had to be the best teammate possible,” he said. “Fortunately, my Bradley education was an asset as I moved through the competition. I relied on everything I’ve learned to make it to the finals.”

Herrmann noted the value of navigating tough on-the-job conversations. As a future manager, he appreciated working through conflicts, job evaluations and conversations with employment on the line.

The competition also reassured him that prospective employers valued the competition’s trial-by-fire environment.

“Business leaders told me several times that they like to see how people perform in these settings because it’s exactly how it is in the business world,” he said. “You have to produce on your own but also collaborate with teams. Plus, I know what it’s like to be on both sides of difficult employer-employee conversations, and that will help me navigate those moments as a future leader.”

By surviving to the end, Herrmann developed a new appreciation for his home city and built a lengthy list of contacts in the Rockford business community. Those connections opened the door to several future internship possibilities.

“I’ve gained personal relationships with business leaders who showed me that Rockford truly is a great city to work and live in,” he said. “These are people I’m glad I can contact anytime for help and for job opportunities after graduation. I’m grateful that so many organizations took their role in the Intern Challenge seriously and gave us competitors once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”