The Footsteps of a Finance Career

By Jorge Valarezo

Jorge Valarezo is a third-year student seeking a degree in Finance with minors in Innovation and Real Estate. Over the summer, he sought out and landed a corporate finance internship with The Home Depot, working under their US Stores & Operations Finance Division. Outside of the internship, he has been working part-time at the Home Depot store in Gainesville, FL selling appliances ever since he was a junior in high school. His work experience in the stores has given him the opportunity to expand his knowledge of the retail giant, enabling him to grow his passion for Corporate Finance.

Hi! My name is Jorge Valarezo, and I am an incoming third year Finance major with minors in Innovation and Real Estate. This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with The Home Depot as a Finance Intern in their Store Operations Finance team. Over the course of this internship, I’ve learned a lot of material and have had hands-on experience with analyzing financial data – all while working from home. While the internship isn’t over just yet, there’s still a lot I want to share with my Innovation Academy peers about how this summer has been for me, and how I have been able to work from home during the pandemic.

The Road to The Home Depot

My corporate finance internship with The Home Depot didn’t come out of the blue – it is a dream I have had ever since I was in high school working as a Lot Associate pushing shopping carts. I remember my parents always encouraging me to do the best at my job, and with that mentality, I was promoted to a cashier. Through high sales and credit card applications, I was then promoted to an Appliance Sales Specialist, selling appliances, credit cards, and protection plans to our customers.

One day, the HR Partner at my store posted a sign near the break room about the internship program. After looking for it online, I realized the internship was meant for college juniors and

seniors. I applied for the internship during my second year and got a response a week later for an interview.

The Interviews

At first glance, many college students expect to have one, maybe two, interviews in preparation for whatever job or internship they are seeking. I thought the same. Little did I know that it would end up being a total of four long interviews (three separate phone interviews and one on-site at their corporate offices). I was extremely thankful throughout the interview process and, as if the stars had aligned, I landed a finance internship with their Store Operations department at their corporate headquarters.

The Home Depot Internship Experience

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed a lot of people’s lives. Many have lost their jobs, and even had their internships canceled because of the ongoing crisis. I’ve been fortunate enough to still have my internship and be able to work from home – an opportunity that I don’t take for granted.

So far, my internship with THD has been great. I’ve had the chance to interact with numerous financial leaders – including our company’s CFO – on WebEx calls with other interns in my department. The best part so far would have to be the summer project I am working on, which focuses on forecasting the company’s wage model. This not only impacts over $800 million in wage expenses but affects the work hours of over 400,000 hourly associates in our stores across the country. It is a very complex project, but through the help of my managers and other interns on my team, I’ve been able to make great progress on the project so far.

Interning from my home in South Florida has been a unique experience so far and I do not regret having applied for this experience. I find myself coming up with new things to do or adjust to in this work-from-home environment every day. Finding a work-life balance is essential during these times, which is why I typically go on bike rides with my Dad in the afternoons and swim a few laps around our pool whenever it doesn’t rain.

Words of Advice

My journey with The Home Depot is far from over, and hopefully, this story of a high school teen pushing shopping carts to one day working to forecast the company’s wage can be of use to the rising talented students within our IA program. If I had one piece of advice to say for those who are entering the job market or are pursuing an internship, it would be to start acting on your dreams now. It is never too late to fill out an application to start working at a company, whether you are in your first year in college or in your last. No matter what major, a job will always be ready for you if you plan to act on it in a timely manner. This job or internship can serve as a great opportunity for you, not only as a resume booster but also as a guide to help you better define what you truly want to do once you graduate.

It’s important to search for a job or internship with a company that you can see yourself working for in a long-term future as well. I started working with The Home Depot when I was just 16 years old, and since then I knew I could have a long-term future with the company. Having that mindset in place has allowed me to acquire this internship, which could lead to other great positions in the future.

Lastly, do not let barriers limit your dreams and potential. Students within the Innovation Academy program take classes during their Spring and Summer semesters, leaving their Fall semester for time to intern with big companies. Despite me landing a summer internship, I was able to discuss my plans with IA Advisors who allowed me to work in this internship over the summer as long as I make up the classes I would’ve missed in any upcoming semesters. Any barrier or obstacle that you may think of can be worked around so that you may succeed on whatever plans you may have.

That’s my story, and how I came to the place I am at now. My story is not finished, but I’m thrilled and humbled to see what lies ahead.