Immersion Academy Connects Karen Rodriguez with an ideal first job in floral

Karen Rodriguez was pretty much the ideal candidate for a career in the floral industry. But it wasn’t on her radar. Until she attended Immersion Academy in 2017. Karen Rodriguez

Karen graduated in May 2018 with a degree in supply chain management from the University of Texas at Dallas. As a high school student, she’d started her own floral business to help pay her way; she created arrangements for weddings and events, working with museums, hotels and individuals in Dallas.

Immersion Academy connected the dots between Karen’s personal and professional interests. It linked her with Ben Pauley of Passion Growers, a grower and marketer of quality roses. And it helped launch her career in the floral industry.

Karen was one of two students from UTD selected to attend Immersion Academy; her academic advisor told her it was the perfect opportunity for her to learn and network. Scanning the list of attending companies before the event, she spotted Passion Growers and did her homework. She walked into dinner the first night of the event eager to meet the company’s representative.

Ben, likewise, had seen Karen’s resume and was impressed by her floral background, her supply chain education and her personal initiative. The two wound up meeting at the dinner reception, then again during the speed interviewing session on Day 3. They agreed to stay in touch as Karen finished her degree.

“I kept in pretty frequent contact with Ben and let him know when I did something out of the ordinary,” Karen says. “Basically, he was waiting for me to graduate. After I did, I got in touch again and reminded him where we met. They flew me to Miami right after graduation and I started a few weeks later. I worked from Dallas for a couple of months while I finished some floral arranging projects I had lined up, then moved to Miami in August.

“No doubt this wouldn’t have happened without Immersion Academy.”

As Karen begins her career, she’s shadowing colleagues in different parts of Passion Growers’ business, and both sides are exploring how her skills align with the company’s needs. She still gets hands-on with floral design, creating “recipes” for bouquets that are assembled on-farm in Colombia. She supports several teams and helps bring in a new perspective for potential businesses.

“If my advisor hadn’t let me know about Immersion Academy, and I hadn’t learned about the industry, I would have never known about this job,” she says. “It was meant to be.”