Marketing major Leighanna Martin wasn’t looking for just any resume filler when she sought internship opportunities. She desired a hands-on internship that would provide valuable experience and help her stand out in the job market.
Then an email blast from the Gary W. Rollins College of Business brought a revelation: the chance at a real-world internship with a Chattanooga startup.
“I didn’t want to go somewhere and just take notes and watch everything happen,” said Martin, who received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in May. “I didn’t want to be bored.
“I was making notes of every internship opportunity I saw and was sending my resume out, but I remember talking to my dad and saying, “I really want this one.’”
The opportunity that piqued her interest was to create digital marketing strategies for TextLocate—a company specializing in freight tracking by connecting logistics professionals with truck drivers via a text messaging app.
TextLocate’s founder and CEO, Ryan Rogers, knows logistics, having spent his professional career with U.S. Xpress, Amazon and Covenant Logistics. But when the entrepreneurial bug bit and he decided to go out on his own, one of the first things the two-time UTC graduate (bachelor’s degree in business management, 1998; MBA, 1999) did was look to his alma mater for marketing assistance.
Rogers was working out of a downtown Chattanooga coffee shop—because he didn’t have an office yet—and reached out to Jaclyn York, the UTC College of Business’ career services internship coordinator.
“I was looking for somebody that helps us from a marketing perspective and builds the business very conscientiously,” Rogers said. “Somebody we would treat just like a regular employee, but with just a few less hours of commitment each week since that person has school, as well.
“From the time I was at U.S. Xpress, I have been a big proponent of UTC students. I created their first intern program and started recruiting heavily from UTC; probably 50% of the hires in my team were coming from there. Then we did the same thing at Covenant on the logistics side and with other roles like IT and finance.”
York forwarded the internship opportunity to business students, and Martin landed the internship. She started at TextLocate in August 2021.
“When I talked with Ryan the first time, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for,” Martin recalled. “He told me right away, ‘You’re going to be doing things and you’re going to be learning a lot.’”
“I immediately felt the connection with Leighanna’s background and what she was looking to accomplish,” Rogers said. “With a startup, we don’t have processes; we don’t have things defined. We are building that and growing, but what I think makes it more interesting for her is to design and put her thumbprint on how things are built.”
Martin’s initial fear of an internship with nothing to show for it was put to rest by her TextLocate role.
Along with setting up interview opportunities for her boss to extol the virtues about his new company, “Leighanna runs our CRM (customer relationship management) and she is working with a SaaS-based product (software as a service), which is probably the hottest thing in the market right now,” Rogers said. “Nobody knows she’s an intern; her title is digital marketer, and all that should matter is the quality of her work product.”
It also didn’t hurt that Martin brought the youth perspective to her role.
“She’s obviously a lot younger than me,” Rogers said with a laugh,” and we joke about that, but from a creativity standpoint, there are times I’ll ask, ‘Does this sound old? Does this sound stupid? Is this current? Is this not?’
“Working with somebody young like Leighanna, you get a fresh perspective and new ideas.”
Rogers said his protégé will come out of this internship way more prepared than most.
“Young people, they want to be active. They want to see their work,” Rogers said. “Leighanna can say, ‘Hey, I did that. I came up with that creative content;’ or ‘That last email blast, I built that out.’
“Everybody needs marketing; it doesn’t matter what the industry is. With everything Leighanna has learned at UTC and done here, she is preparing herself for future full-time jobs.”
This is an updated version of a story that first appeared in the spring 2022 issue of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Magazine.