From Classroom to Coop


Beginning the job or internship search can feel overwhelming. Last Friday, Daniel Alvey, a 2015 CALS graduate shared his story about landing a job as a Sales Representative with Elanco Animal Health in August of his senior year.


Daniel graduated with degrees in Agricultural Education and Agricultural Science. After interning with the National FFA Organization, Bayer CropScience, and Elanco, he finally found his fit in the agriculture industry.


Q: What is your job function as a Sales Representative for Elanco Animal Health?

A: I manage all of the Tyson Foods accounts in the Eastern US, so east of the Mississippi from Pennsylvania, to Mississippi and even parts of Missouri.


Q: What does an average work week look like for you?

A: So far, every week is completely different. There has not been a day or a week that has been the same, and I love it. Some weeks I am going with one of our veterinary teams going to complexes or to a farm, or other times I might be going to Fayetteville, Arkansas to the Tyson Foods global headquarters. Sunday, I’m flying to Honduras for the week to work with Heifer International. Another team is visiting Heifer projects in China in the near future.


Q: How much of a lifestyle change has traveling full -time been from being a full- time student?

A: It has been a huge change. I started working ten days after graduation and my responsibilites have kept me busy. Not having a background in the poultry industry, it's been a big learning curve, so I've devoted the majority of my time to learning about the industry, meeting customers, and working with coaches in Elanco to improve my knowledge of the animal health.


Q: So you’ve been reading chicken textbooks in airports, or something like that?

A: Yes and no, I read some but the best way to learn is spending time with our veterinarians, and our nutritionists and talk with them, go to farms, and learn that way. There is some reading, but it’s a lot of learning by going out and doing things.


Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: The people. Not only in Elanco, but Tyson as well, they are really great people that are moving this industry forward and are tasked with the challenge of producing enough protein to meet the demand, and I am getting to really see and live things that I’ve heard about in college about meeting the global demand for food.


Q: Is there any one thing that you think contributed to your successful landing of the job so early?

A: FFA. FFA without a doubt, the combination of what that organization taught me, the training it provided, as well as the internships that it helped me experience throughout college. So I think FFA just really opened the doors for me to intern throughout college, and gain skills needed to get those positions, and those experiences just broadened my skill set and my network.


Q: If you had to pick a favorite internship that you had, which would it be and why?

A: They were all so different, and I think that is really what helped me figure out what I wanted to do. So with National FFA, I was doing office work, I had a cube office and traveled a little bit, but I was working on Collegiate FFA programs. 


In Bayer, I was cross breeding soybeans. I was out in the field, or in RTP learning how to cross breed soybeans. And that is incredibly difficult. The flower on a soybean is so small, you have to devote many hours to learning how to properly cross it. In Elanco, I remember you ranked what species you would like to work with if you got hired as an intern. I think I put poultry fourth out of fifth because I didn’t know anything about it. And then I got my notification saying, you’re going to Arkansas to work in poultry, and I’m thinking ‘oh my gosh’. But it is just amazing, I think that the challenge that I got from Elanco was the one that pushed me the most.


That’s why, anyone in college now, I would tell them, don’t say you’re going in this field and you’re going to stick with that. Do things that make you feel uncomfortable, go into fields you have never experienced, challenge yourself. Don’t just do what makes you feel comfortable or you won’t grow at all.


Q: How did you transition your internship into a full-time role with Elanco?

A: I was very fortunate, after interning with Elanco they informed me the first week of classes my senior year that I had an offer. I told myself when I left after the summer, if they call me and offer me a position, I’m accepting it. They called, I didn’t know my salary, I didn’t know anything. They called and said, “We would like to offer you a position at Elanco” and I said yes. Without really knowing, I didn’t care, I loved it, I loved interning there, and interning there I found where I belong.