Looking back on his career at Washington College, Ryan Bankert ’13 can point to any number of personal bests and great memories, but perhaps none quite take the cake as a moment during his internship last summer in Chile. His boss, the owner of a digital software start-up, asked him to speak on behalf of the company at a conference in Santiago on social marketing.
“My presentation followed the president of Google Chile. So it was Google. And Ryan Bankert. Here I am presenting with someone who works for Google, one of the most recognizable companies in the world. And they liked my ideas, too. It was a really cool experience.”
Bankert, who’s majoring in business management and Spanish with a minor in economics, landed the internship thanks to help from Spanish Professor Shawn Stein and Jim Allison, the director of career development. Traveling abroad is one requirement of the Spanish major, and the two had been researching opportunities for students when they found an organization offering internships in Argentina. Bankert did a little of his own legwork and learned that the same firm offered internships in Chile. He literally flipped a coin, applied for Chile, and never looked back. “I’m a big fan of how they’re running their economy,” he says. “It has a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs which I think is really cool.”
Working directly beneath the owner in sales and marketing, Bankert targeted companies that were potential clients, researched them, and pitched his proposals. Because the company was small, the principals pushed him to experience every part of the process. It was intense not only for the hands-on, real-world business education but for the cultural experience that was part and parcel of everything he did. Daily, Bankert says, he pushed himself out of his comfort zone to communicate effectively in his second language in a business environment. Though he initially felt over his head, he quickly acclimated.
That kind of personal and intellectual risk-taking Bankert attributes largely to his experience at Washington College. Small classes and direct attention from professors demand engagement that requires some element of emotional risk. “You have this school that says, you need to speak in class, you need to challenge your professors’ ideas and other students’ ideas. After awhile you start getting calloused to that and next thing you know, it’s nothing to raise your hand and say, ‘I don’t know if that’s the right idea for this company,’ in a business class.”
Bankert is a Presidential Fellow and a Douglass Cater Society Junior Fellow. A member of the men’s rowing team, he’s also a peer mentor and a member of Phi Delta Theta. When he’s not busy with all of his extracurricular work, he’s working on his senior thesis, which, not surprisingly, combines his love of both Spanish and Latino culture with business. “Social media is very popular among Hispanics. My thesis is that marketing through social media is the best way to reach the Latino population. If you give your brand a bicultural personality, like Latinos, they’re more likely to interact with it.”
After graduation, Bankert will be starting a new job with Stanley Black & Decker—again, an opportunity that came about through Allison at career development, who urged Bankert to interview with company representatives when they came to campus last fall. In SB&D’s leadership program, he’ll rotate for two years through each sector of the business. “You’re really learning how to be a leader in that company.” And because of his immersion in all things Spanish, “they said we would love to have you do a rotation in Miami at our Latin American headquarters.”
Which, Bankert says, is cool. Very cool.