Wanatimi Owei ’22 liked his spring internship with Force Management so much, he decided to stay on over the summer. The computer science major, who will graduate later this year, is “one of the best intern writers” her company has ever had, says Rachel Clapp Miller ’99.
As Force Management’s vice president of marketing and digital engagement, Miller leads marketing efforts for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based sales consulting firm.
Her job also includes managing the firm’s online presence — from blogs, podcasts, and videos to social media for its new product, Ascender by Force Management. Ascender is an online subscription platform for individual salespeople and small teams.
“We do a lot of inbound marketing, so a lot of content to drive people to our website,” said Miller, who has been with Force Management for 10 years. “It’s a ton of writing.”
Usually a team of one, Miller is grateful to have the help of Owei and two other Lynchburg interns, Emily Jackson ’23 and Emily Brubaker ’24. All three found out about the opportunity in an email from the University’s Career and Professionalism Center.
“They can write blogs, they can work on podcasts, they can work on writing the podcast show notes,” Miller said. “I’ve had them interview some of our subject matter experts to write articles on and help us with social.
“Interns have a really great opportunity [here] to dive in and, really, the world is their oyster. Whatever they’re interested in, I will plug them in.”
The interns work remotely, and they’re paid. Brubaker, a member of Lynchburg’s varsity golf team from Arapahoe, North Carolina, is able to fit in 20 hours around her busy golf schedule.
The marketing major with a minor in digital media marketing says the internship has taught her “how to communicate in a business setting, along with learning the ropes of managing the marketing side of a new product.
“I have also learned how to use specific jargon based on the target market that I am marketing toward while developing the skills for email nurturing programs.”
Force Management has had interns before, but they were never remote until the pandemic — and they mostly helped with data entry.
The idea to hire Lynchburg students came out of a casual meeting Miller had last fall in Charlotte with President Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar and major gifts officer Kerry Kinnison.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, I could totally use some Lynchburg interns right now,’” Miller recalled. “And because we can use remote interns, I’ve been able to use this relationship I have with Lynchburg to get some bandwidth on the marketing team, which is awesome.”
Working from her bedroom in Leesville, Virginia, Jackson is helping Miller launch a TikTok account. Jackson came up with a business plan for the account and presented it to Force Management’s leadership team in July.
“She did a great job,” Miller said. “It’s a really great situation [for the interns] because we’re a small company and we’re doing big things.”
Doing big things and seeing their impact has been especially gratifying for Jackson, a marketing major and Bonner Leader with positions in the Student Government Association, the national women’s fraternity Alpha Chi Omega, and the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi — of which Brubaker is also a member.
“I think working for a company and watching it grow the way Force Management has grown has been such a wonderful experience because you get to see something from start to finish,” she said.
“A lot of people who work for bigger corporations maybe don’t see that, so it’s very neat — it’s like watching a plant grow. You’ve seen it sprout and then you’re seeing it blossom into what it’s supposed to be, so I think that’s been a really neat opportunity.”
It’s important to Miller that her interns get just as much value out of the experience as her company. She wants them to learn real skills and add tangible outcomes to their résumés.
Each intern is completing one blog post during the internship. While other tasks have tighter deadlines, this one “takes them all summer,” Miller said, and the interns get lots of feedback on their writing.
“My company is very passionate about not just having interns to have interns,” Miller said. “We’re pretty strategic about when we bring them on. I want them to have a project — I want them to own something. Busy work is not what they’re here to do.
“I really want them to get a great experience, to get some business acumen and learn.”
Owei, at home in Burtonsville, Maryland, this summer, has done just that.
“Although this is primarily a marketing internship, due to my majoring in computer science I’ve been allowed to work on some more technical tasks, which is experience that should prove very valuable for me going forward,” he said.
The Wilmer Writing Center tutor added he’s loved “the independence and space I’m given to complete my various tasks — and they vary quite a bit, which is also something I’ve enjoyed.
“I’ve learned that when you work for a team, you have to contribute to a bunch of different areas, not just one thing you’re comfortable with.”
A former communication studies major with a focus on broadcast journalism, Miller knows just how crucial internships are. Back in the ’90s, she interned with WSET in Lynchburg and participated in the Washington Center for Internships in Washington, D.C.
“I interned at the White House, and I also interned at Tricom Associates, which was a public relations firm in Arlington,” Miller said. “I think it was important to get a lot of different experiences.
“When you’re in school, and when you’re first starting out, it’s good to be focused on what you want. But at the same time, you can’t underestimate having knowledge in a lot of different areas. And I was fortunate to be able to do that pretty early on in my career, which also allows you to discover things you might have not known you were interested in.”
Those internships — in addition to her experience writing for Lynchburg’s student paper The Critograph and anchoring the student TV news show INLC — helped launch her career.
“Lynchburg provided such a great foundation for me, and I am thankful for it every day,” Miller said. “I continue to see the value of it, even as I progress in my career. I’m just happy to be able to use my own career and my own place of employment to foster stronger relationships with the school.”
Miller moved to Washington, D.C., right after graduation to start her career as a TV journalist. The work she does today is very similar, even if it’s B2B marketing.
“I’m doing all the things I did when I worked in television news,” Miller said. “I’m writing all day, every day, I’m blogging, I’m doing social posts, I’m producing podcasts and videos, but the information is a little bit different. The skills are the same every day.”
Miller is confident that what her interns have learned at Force Management will serve them well as they look for jobs after graduation. They’ve honed their writing skills, applied their classroom knowledge, and gotten used to working in a professional environment.
“Those are the things, especially when you’re in the sea of candidates as a new grad, those are the things that are going to help you stand out,” she said.
Her interns echo that assessment.
“My experience in this internship has given me more knowledge than I could ever gain in the classroom,” Jackson said. “To work around a team that is so passionate about their projects and what they do for a living is absolutely inspiring. I’m learning daily — from meetings, feedback, and others on my team.
“I’m so thankful that Lynchburg was able to connect me with such a passionate alum. Seeing Rachel succeed within her role shows me just how far my Lynchburg degree can take me.”
Owei agrees. Working in this environment for the first time has been “eye-opening,” he said.
“Just being able to get a feel for working in a corporate environment is experience that has the potential to help me in any field I find myself working in. … It’s been a really good experience for me.”
It’s certainly been a win-win for Force Management, too. Thanks to the efforts of Owei, Jackson, and Brubaker, the soon-to-be released Ascender product has a backlog of content ready to publish.
“With the help of the interns, we are almost three months ahead on content,” Miller said.