It was an early Friday morning in May and the sun had just begun to peer through the pine trees. I was full of anticipation as I prepared to begin my journey from Auburn University to Hardeeville, South Carolina. I was about to embark on a great adventure, traveling to a new, unknown place with only my dog, Beauregard, to keep me company. Most horticulture students interning outside of Auburn over the summer had found apartments, condos, or homes to rent for the next couple of months; some had friends or family that lived in the area where they were working and were staying with them. As for me, I decided to think slightly outside the box. I decided to spend the summer living in my camper at a premier site on beautiful Lake Jasper. Once I arrived at the campground and set up my summer home, I spent the remainder of the weekend relaxing in the tranquility of the area, awaiting the start of my internship with a top green industry company; Austin Outdoor.
As I pulled into the parking lot of the Austin Outdoor Savannah Branch for the first time, I was filled with several emotions; excitement, enthusiasm, nervousness, and a little bit of doubt. I had never had an internship before this summer, nor had I ever worked for a large company like Austin Outdoor. I grew up in a somewhat small town, spending most of my free time helping my father with a residential lawn maintenance business. Although I had an abundance of experience, I was entering unfamiliar territory. When I walked through the front door, I was instantly greeted with a kind smile from the Office Manager, Janelle. She knew exactly who I was, and immediately helped me become acquainted with the office. Whatever doubt I had in the back of my mind quickly disappeared.
My learning experience began the very first day. I met the Business Development Manager and the two of us went out to three different properties to take measurements for maintenance proposals. We returned to the office that afternoon, and he introduced me to the maintenance proposal model used by Austin Outdoor. Using a model like this was completely new to me but he explained it in a way that was very easy to comprehend and walked me through the entire process. I spent the next day with Jeremy, the Estimator and Construction Manager. He taught me how to use the construction-estimating model. Just as the BDM had done the day before, Jeremy walked me through the entire process from the beginning, starting with mapping out a design plan to pricing and ordering plant material to entering it into the model and making the proper adjustments. In just two short days, I had already been exposed to two major components of the business, and I could not wait to see what I would learn next.
Before this summer, most of my experience in the green industry was in residential maintenance. I had completed some small construction and enhancement jobs in the past, but nothing on a large commercial scale and I did not have much field knowledge regarding irrigation systems. Within a few weeks, all of this changed. I spent valuable time with different managers and crews, soaking up every bit of information that I could. I went from hardly knowing a thing about irrigation systems, to installing and programming new clocks, installing and repairing pop-ups and rotors, running new pipe and drip irrigation, and adjusting systems to properly accommodate plant material. I worked with enhancement crews on several projects assisting with everything from tear-out of old material, grading and prepping areas, and installing new plant materials. Although I had a lot of previous maintenance know-how, working with the maintenance crew proved to be a great learning experience. I have worked on some very detail-oriented projects, which have trained my eye to notice small, key details that could determine whether we keep or lose an account.
My experience with Austin Outdoor has been nothing short of extraordinary. I did not necessarily know what to expect when I accepted the internship and moved to South Carolina, but any expectations that I had were completely blown out of the water. My field knowledge has expanded significantly, including maintenance, enhancements, and irrigation systems, and I am confident that I have made tremendous improvements in my managerial skills. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I am certain that the skills I have learned during my time with Austin Outdoor will surely enhance my career.