A Day in the Life as a FONA Intern: Three Stories

October 14, 2019
Former interns Madde Klinkey, Marina Presta, and Maria Diaz share with us their  experiences as interns at FONA. From describing their everyday responsibilities to being involved in the FONA picnic and other fun events, the interns share their favorite memories and what they've learned.

Madde Klinkey - Corporate Communications

This summer I was an Intern for FONA’s Corporate Communications department. I was a little bit intimidated at first because I felt like everyone else involved in the program had some interest or background in the food industry. I soon learned that I was not “out of my league” like I had thought.

At FONA, each intern is carefully selected based on the skills and experiences that they bring with them, and each contributes something valuable to the group. FONA and its internship program is special.

As an intern, you may assume that you will be running errands or completing frivolous tasks so that your managers have more free time or can complete their projects more easily. However, at FONA that is not the case.

The internship program is designed to help participants develop their professional skills which will further their career in their desired area of focus. This is emphasized by the monitoring of project progress weekly with managers, involvement in cross-departmental projects, sit-ins on managerial meetings and more. Additional experiences included a safety fair with fire extinguisher training and certification, Mental Health First Aid training, the famous FONA family picnic, Take Your Child to Work Day, lunch-and-learn presentations and more! The lunch-and-learn opportunities provided were comprehensive and all applicable to every individual the room. Taking an hour to learn about taking initiative, building a resume and professional skills, transforming our professional career or changing career paths, or simply soaking in advice from the CEO was a priceless once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I was also directly involved in marketing content creation, helping to produce documents including Trend Reports, Flavor Insights, Category Reports, “10 things you should know…”, Shoppers Panels and more! I assisted in the creation of automated email marketing programs in various categories and the making of a comprehensive awards vault and photo book.

I learned quickly to ask questions when I need help. I also learned that you always have something to add to a group. Even if you don’t feel like the smartest one in the room, you can still provide a different perspective or be able to take notes so that those heavily involved can review the information later.

I would like to thank everyone at FONA for helping me to grow as a professional, and for giving me many experiences that I will carry with me into the future. I would like to thank the Corporate Communications Department in particular for the opportunity to learn and be successful, for helping me pursue excellence instead of perfection, and for being the most perfect fit I could ever ask for! I would also like to thank the Slawek family for continuing to grow this program and giving myself and all the interns an opportunity to be a part of such an amazing company culture.

As I return to school, I feel surer of my decided career path than ever and look forward to bringing my new skills to the table as a student and a professional.

Marina Presta - Product Safety & Quality

My name is Marina Presta and I am a senior studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This summer I completed an internship at FONA International as a Product Safety and Quality Intern.

In this role, I developed many necessary skills that I will carry with me and utilize for the rest of my career. Not only was I surrounded by the best, most helpful team, but I was able to complete work every day that had an impact on our products and customers. I was able to problem solve, use my technical knowledge acquired in school and understand the importance that safety and quality has in a manufacturing facility.  I was able to use machines and laboratory equipment that I use often in school to test and analyze flavors at FONA. The projects and tasks I completed helped me learn so much about the flavor industry and how a successful organization is run.

Not only was my summer full of technical experiences, but I got to be a part of an amazing team and department. Within my department, everyone worked together to accomplish many tasks daily. The analysists, managers, and supervisors were all extremely helpful and attentive. I always felt that I could ask questions and receive feedback. Working in this type of environment helped me build effective communication and teamwork skills that are applicable in any professional environment.

Looking back on this experience, I am in awe of how amazing of an organization FONA really is. Every individual that is a part of the organization wants to help you succeed and the people you work with feel like family. This is what sets FONA apart from so many other companies. This culture gave me the opportunity to network and communicate with many different individuals within the company outside of just PS&Q. Overall, I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to intern at FONA and was sad to end my summer!

Maria Diaz - Scheduling

This summer I was an intern in the scheduling department at FONA International. Going into the first day, I was nervous as anyone would normally be on their first day at an internship. However, walking out of my first day at FONA, I knew immediately my time at FONA would be memorable. From the first day, I felt extremely welcomed. The people at FONA not only ensured that we had the information and tools to make the most out of our time at FONA, but also ensured that our questions were answered. A repeated theme throughout the many meetings and events interns were a part of was a request for feedback. FONA is constantly seeking feedback to improve not only the internship program but other aspects of FONA as well. Being a part of a company that seeks to improve and grow creates an innate desire to improve yourself and grow alongside the company.

As a scheduling intern, my responsibilities ranged from making copies to scheduling orders. The process of scheduling orders was very algorithmic and detailed. While it felt overwhelming at first, I was part of a department, a team of people, who were there to support me and guide me through the learning process. Because of this support, I learned quickly and took on more and more responsibilities, from creating the production schedule to actually leading a meeting concerning the shipping logs. Regarding projects, I took on a project titled “Packaging Item Codes.” I took a comprehensive look at the standardized packaging methods and materials we used in the past two years and looked at the number of times we deviated from standards in hopes that, from this report, we can better adhere to standardized practices in the future or change the standards of packaging to better fit our needs and our customers needs. Besides this project, I was also allowed to take initiative on another project, one in which I updated the “Manufacturing Standard Operating Procedure.” This update meant taking a look at the daily tasks I took on at work and writing up a step-by-step procedure that better reflects the daily operations of the department. It was an invaluable experience to work on these projects and see a glimpse on the impact my work would have for the department and the company itself.

Besides daily tasks, working at FONA meant participating in a whole lot of exciting and interesting events. There was the safety fair where different vendors and partners of FONA came to remind employees of the different safety and health services available to them. We then had our volunteer event where we gave our service to a local charity. This year we went to the Northern Illinois Food Bank and packaged frozen pizzas for those in need. This was a particularly great experience as you get to build a sense of camaraderie and teamwork with your fellow interns! Finally, there was the FONA picnic which interns helped prepare and run. By far, this was one of the more fun experiences as you were able to run and coordinate a fun-filled day for the employees at FONA while also having fun yourself (plus added bonuses such as being a part of an intern raffle!). There were no shortages of fun and insightful events that occurred at FONA that made the time memorable.

From both my daily work tasks and the events I participated in as an intern, I gained valuable insight into what it means to work in a company setting. I came to understand the necessity to not only put forth my best work, but also the necessity to be a team player. Just some insight of myself, I am a very quiet and reserved person. I will often take the independent route, if the option is given, when working on projects. However, working at FONA I saw how the key to working effectively in a company is interdepartmental communication and teamwork. In order to do your job effectively, you need to work with others because the operations completed in other departments have a great impact on the work you do in your own department. From meetings to group emails to even just walking from one department to another, I came to learn how vital it is to have an established sense of camaraderie in order to create the best results.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at FONA and took away from the experience more than I ever hoped for. I got a glimpse into what a career might look like for myself in the future and gain insight into the kind of work environment I seek to work in. FONA not only is a wonderful company, but it is a wonderful family as well. I made genuine and meaningful connections with many of my coworkers there that made the experience worthwhile. It would be an understatement to say that my time at FONA was one of the highlights of my life.


For more details about FONA’s internship program, reach out to Rachael Ellis at REllis@fona.com or call 630-578-8600