Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone: An Internship with Hilti

By Arci Garcia, Guest Writer

The summer of 2019 was full of unforgettable experiences, which I owe to my time spent interning with Hilti North America. With corporate offices in both Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Plano, Texas, Hilti has quickly become a powerhouse in the construction tool industry. Hilti was founded in 1941 in Schaan, Liechtenstein, where the company’s global headquarters is currently located. Through the implementation of various innovation methods, it has become a recognizable brand to anyone who works with tools.

Arci Garcia, courtesy of the author.

Originally, I applied to Hilti much like I do with many other things: on a whim. I had never personally used any tools, other than a screwdriver for assembling IKEA furniture, and I was nervous about working with industry-leading technology. Before my interview, I asked family members who had previous experience in construction what their opinion on Hilti was. My boyfriend, Kevin, who was an ironworker, was the most enthusiastic: “Hilti? I am safety certified in their (gun) powder-actuated fasteners! You really want to take a chance and at least interview!” At that point I was ecstatic. I began to research the company, its culture, and its products in preparation for my interview.

While I had initially interviewed for a position at the Portland, Oregon, office, I was still shocked and thankful to be asked if I would like to work in the San Francisco Bay Area. While the position would be vastly different, I was still happy to escape the Phoenix heat and have a productive summer. 

Prior to landing in Oakland, California, for the summer, at intern orientation I ran into fellow Thunderbird student Sarah Booth. While we would spend the summer working in different cities, we forged a friendship that would follow us back home to Arizona.

My first day was a blur spent in one of the Hilti stores, pouring over catalogues and asking the store manager many questions while testing tools in the displays. My job was to be a field sales intern for the electrical trade, and I knew I had a lot to learn. Soon, weeks began to fly by. Meetings with my manager, van rides with experienced account managers, and solo visits to customers had made time almost irrelevant. By this point I had a fair understanding of what tool lines we had to be experts in, and when to call in an expert from another trade.

Courtesy of Arci Garcia

Along the way I had the opportunity to attend various events that Hilti has a history of being part of. The Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS, NorCal) hosted monthly meetings for women in the industry to support one another. I was lucky enough to attend the June meeting where the main activity was one-on-one peer mentoring. I met architects, project managers, and lawyers, who all gave me great advice and shared their journeys. This was the most empowering experience I have ever had, and I was impressed that Hilti was encouraging in inviting me.

All my experiences eventually led to a final presentation. While public speaking has never been my forte, with the support of my team manager and the former Thunderbirds I met at Hilti (Haley Jones and Jake Matheny), I was ready. Despite having to present last, the nerves building, it was finally over and I felt a twinge of sadness knowing that it was also my final task as an intern, and I would fly back to Phoenix within 48 hours. I had learned so much and was so invested in my work that by the time I booked my ticket to return home, I was not ready to end my time in California.

Would I do my internship again? Without hesitation. Would I recommend it to others interested? Without a doubt. What advice would I give to current students? Step outside your comfort zone, learn everything you can, get excited about something the company does, and most of all show off the Thunderbird mystique that you have within!

Arci is a second-year student in the MAGAM program.

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