A middle-school career day results in internship at UPS for senior in supply chain

Published: October 04, 2019
Updated: October 05, 2019
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It was an unusually warm early spring afternoon at Auburn University. Finishing her shift as an administrative assistant at the Honors College, Gabby Burns faced a long, blazing walk to English class before racing to her dorm room to prepare for that evening’s career fair.

Burns, who was a junior in Supply Chain Management in the Harbert College of Business at the time, didn’t have an internship lined up for the summer and time was running out. The career fair was going to be make-or-break.

Standing along the steps at Cater Hall, Burns paused for a few seconds to check voicemail on her cell phone. Then it happened…

“I opened my phone and I found three voice mails,” she said. “I randomly looked at the transcripts because I was in a rush and they were from three different people. The transcripts said, ‘Hello, I’m so-and-so from UPS and we want to offer you the internship this summer. Please call us back immediately.”

In that fleeting moment on the Cater Lawn, Burns’ life changed.

“I was shaking,” recalled Burns, now a rising senior at Harbert College. “I was so nervous and excited that I called my mom. Was this a scam? I wasn’t expecting it.”

Burns returned the call, only to learn a hiring manager needed to call back later in the evening. “Can you be available in the next hour?” she was asked. “We would like to offer you by tonight.” Burns immediately thought, “No, I can’t. I have so much else to do.”

Instead, Burns explained the situation to an understanding English professor, went home, readied herself for the career fair—and waited on that phone call.

“UPS called, offered me the job and I think I was still in shock at the time,” Burns said. “I said to myself, ‘This isn’t happening.’ I’m from Atlanta. The UPS internship is in Atlanta.”

Burns absolutely accepted the offer and spent the past two summers as a Global Customer Solutions intern at UPS.

“That was great day,” Burns recalled. “From nothing at 4:45, English class and a career fair to go to that night, to an offer from UPS by 6 o’clock.”

But this offer—seemingly out of the blue—didn’t happen by chance. UPS entered Burns’ life long before she checked her voicemail on the steps of Cater Hall.

Kate Gutmann, chief sales and solutions officer at UPS, visited Saint Jude Catholic School in Atlanta, where Burns was a middle-schooler in 2012. There, dozens of schoolchildren learned about the shipping industry, and of course the Big Brown Truck. Burns, who grew up in nearby Dunwoody, Georgia, was one of them…and she was star-struck.

“Seeing her interact in the school that day made me realize that a woman can have a very successful career and be successful in everything she does,” Burns added.

Years later as a college junior, Burns explored binders of potential internships inside Harbert College’s Supply Chain Management Professional Development Program office. Multiple companies were listed, but she didn’t spot UPS.

“I remember thinking, ‘How am I going to connect with them?’ she asked.

Simple. She wrote Kate Gutmann directly.

Hello Mrs. Gutmann,

This is Gabby Burns from Saint Jude. I hope you and your family are well. I am reaching out to you because I am very interested in a possible internship/opportunity with UPS. I still remember when you came to speak to my class for career week many years ago; your presentation at Saint Jude still resonates with me and as I begin looking to secure a summer internship, UPS is at the top of my list.

I am currently studying Supply Chain Management in the Honors College at Auburn University. I would like to secure a position within the industry, which will allow for the utilization and further development of my skills in communication, leadership and problem solving, while providing high impact for the company I work for. I have attached a copy of my resume for your review. I am grateful for your time and consideration, and would appreciate any help or advice you may offer.

Thank you and War Eagle!
Gabby Burns

Burns received her phone call just a few days later.

“Owning the color brown stuck with me and the image of a woman presenting [at Saint Jude] really came back to mind,” Burns said this summer in a video conversation with Gutmann. “It excited me because logistics and supply chain is normally not a field with as many women. It’s growing, but knowing that you’re in that field and there is opportunity there for women made me want to be here and at UPS even more.”

Whereas Burns focused on small office/home office issues during her 2018 internship at the logistics giant, she turned toward customer-facing problems in 2019, where the company can use this to learn more about solutions that can be implemented as a resource to better enhance the customer experience.

In short, it’s a problem-solving mindset.

“Problem solving remains at the forefront, especially in this evolving market,” Gutmann said. “With so many dynamics changing, the tariff impact right now on global trade means that customers have to shift their trade lanes in their supply chain.

“A problem-solving mindset is important now and is also going to be so in the future. Someone that goes in thinking, ‘How can I enhance this situation, this process?’ not just accepting what’s existed, not complaining that something isn’t feeling right, but rather saying ‘I’m going to fortify and enhance the situation and bring us to the next level.’ That’s so critical. That’s who we want, a high-energy, self-accountable team player.”

That’s precisely what Burns wants to be.

“I’ve always wanted to make an impact,” she said. “I don’t think that it was clearly defined, or figured out, until now. Having a purpose and knowing that purpose ... it’s an amazing feeling.”

A top Supply Chain Management program

Auburn’s Supply Chain Management program is ranked number three in North America, according to the research and advisory firm Gartner. Brian Gibson, the Wilson Family Professor of Supply Chain Management in the Harbert College of Business and executive director of Auburn University’s Center of Supply Chain Innovation, believes the program’s required internship is a “key differentiator” from other programs.

“Dial the clock back eight years … we had employers come to us and say, ‘We will only hire students that have internship experience on their resume,’” Gibson said.

Since then, more than 1,000 Harbert College of Business Supply Chain Management students have gained valuable experience through internships and related professional experiences. Not just any internships—but ones at recognizable companies such as UPS that prepare students for what they will experience beyond Auburn.

Auburn University's Harbert College of Business provides its students with an innovative-yet-practical education focused on career readiness. The college's degree programs in accountancy, business analytics and supply chain management lead the nation. Its research centers in supply chain management and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology guide the Fortune 100. Harbert's pioneering online education programs offer value and flexibility. The college's nationally recognized faculty produce research that informs and responds to today's business trends. Learn more at the Harbert College of Business website.