Cate Hefele attributes her high-profile student internships (adidas, NBC Universal) to luck. And there may be something to that. There was the day she took her chocolate lab for a walk while home in Portland, Ore., for winter break. While the dog romped with a yellow lab, Hefele struck up a conversation with the owner, who turned out to be pretty high up in human resources at adidas. Hefele didn’t skip a beat. Did they have any internship opportunities?
Truth is, Hefele may have looked especially good to adidas on the strength of an earlier internship. That opportunity is tougher to chalk up to luck. During her freshman year, Hefele joined Notre Dame’s Student International Business Council (SIBC) where she worked on projects for NBC Sports. She later used those contacts to land a media production internship with NBC Universal. Hefele calls SIBC one of her two best decisions at Notre Dame. (The other was to join the women’s boxing team.) “I got to see the inside of a lot of boardrooms and had to be confident speaking to executives as a 19- and 20-year-old,” she says. “That made me a much better interviewer, and I could tie a lot of my experiences together.”
It was enough to make the NFL sit up and take notice when Hefele applied for its competitive two-year Junior Rotational Program for her first professional experience after graduation. This NFL mentoring program gives new graduates the chance to experience the corporate side of sports through placement in alternating departments for project-based assignments. So far, she’s done one rotation with the marketing department and has just started the next one with the consumer products department. “Everything from jerseys all the way down to sandwich baggies with the Baltimore Ravens on them fall under our department,” she says. As for glamour? “I certainly have rubbed elbows with players,” she says. But her assignments are more likely to involve accompanying players to events at local schools than hobnobbing at swanky affairs. “Usually I’m wearing head-to-toe Under Armour gear,” she says with a laugh. “I was at an event with Kurt Warner where we were throwing footballs and tackling kids. It’s cool to be able to interact with the players on that kind of level.”