Sami Nickerson: From nursery knowledge to plant sales


Spring 2022 alumnus Sami Nickerson traveled nearly 1,000 miles from Thiensville, Wisconsin to NC State and discovered a new path and enthusiasm for plants. Nursery opportunities quickly presented themselves after Nickerson changed his degree to horticultural production systems and entrepreneurship, with a minor in plant biology. As part of the undergraduate program experience, Nickerson, like other undergraduates, was encouraged to participate in mock interviews and internships. A mock interview resulted in full-time employment while attending the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

What inspired you to study horticulture?

Before coming to NC State, I thought I wanted to be a teacher, so I signed up for this program for my first semester. It wasn’t an area I was passionate about, so I started my search for another program. I realized I loved plants and was pretty good at keeping them alive back home in Wisconsin, so I decided to give horticulture a try. The first course I took was “The World of Horticulture” with Professor Brian Jackson, and whenever I think of the beginning of my journey in this industry, I attribute it to him. Her course inspired me to continue taking classes and because of that I found that I excelled in all things plant related and it was something I was really interested in and passionate about.

How did you learn about your internship?

I found my internship through one of Helen Kraus’ courses, who has also played a major role in my success so far. I set up mock interviews with Biltmore and Pender Nursery to gain experience with the interview process. We were encouraged to ask questions about the internships in the mock interviews. In conversation with local Pender Nursery General Manager Ariel Montañez offered a 10-week internship opportunity in May 2020.

What roles or responsibilities have you been given?

I spent 10 weeks at the nursery learning how it worked, and every few weeks I changed parts of the nursery. I started as a field technician, then moved into potting, then production, propagation, inventory and pest control, sales and shipping, then finished my internship project. For my project, I chose to help with the label room, where all the image labels are kept for the branded material we sell. I cleaned, painted and rearranged the room to make it more functional and efficient for the field technicians.

What is the most valuable thing you have learned or experienced?

The most valuable thing I learned from this experience is how all aspects of a nursery contribute to the operation and operation of the establishment. Without one part, the whole business can be impacted. I also really enjoyed working with each group and it helped me get a good idea of ​​the importance of each person’s work. I also made some friends along the way.

How did your internship prepare you for your future career?

After completing the internship at Pender Nursery, I was asked to stay on as a field technician and happily accepted. Since then, I have moved from technical field to sales. I now work in the South Carolina, Western North Carolina and Tennessee territories, and I love it. Selling is something I never thought I would do, but I’m glad Pender Nursery gave me this opportunity because I really enjoy it and enjoy working with my clients.

Do you want more information about our horticulture programs?

If you are a student interested in crop production systems and horticultural entrepreneurship, be sure to check out the undergraduate programs for two- and four-year students.

Explore the Department of Horticultural Science‘s student career experiences database and find your internship opportunities in landscaping, gardening, laboratory research, and more. If you’re looking to host a student horticulture internship, check out the Employer Career Experience Database.

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