Direct Supply is forging a talent pipeline with Rose-Hulman Ventures

Green pastures: Rose-Hulman career fairs allow Direct Supply to spot future Rose-Hulman Ventures interns from among the institute’s youngest students.

When the baby boom first started to rumble soon after World War II, it was likely a very good time to be a leading maker of baby food.

Now, more than six decades later, it’s an equally good time to be on the leading edge in the Senior Living industry – which is exactly where Direct Supply finds itself.

Based in Milwaukee, the Direct Supply family of companies has been dedicated to helping build, equip, and run Senior Living communities across the country for more than 30 years. Founded in 1985 by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology alumnus Bob Hillis, this innovative company develops transformational living environments, offers more than 1 million product solutions, and provides intuitive web-based and mobile platforms that increase efficiency and help automate compliance.

Despite the rapidly ballooning demand for what it offers, Direct Supply knows it needs talented and creative employees to remain competitive. To that end, the company is working directly with Rose-Hulman Ventures to cultivate potential future employees through a growing internship program.

For the past year, Direct Supply has been tapping Ventures interns for assistance in developing the software needed to better manage costs and revenue. It’s a monumental task; Direct Supply buys millions of products from suppliers and manages billions of transactions each year. Indeed, the full project could take several years to complete.

“This is not a go-get-me-coffee internship,” says Jeff Cutler, software engineering manager for Direct Supply. “This is meaningful work.”

Direct Supply has a unique relationship with Ventures. During annual Rose-Hulman career fairs, the company pinpoints the student interns it wants and instructs Ventures to hire those students – often freshmen or sophomores – for Direct Supply projects for that academic year. Those students later are offered summer internships in Milwaukee and then returned to company projects at Ventures the following year. Through this process, and by adding new interns annually, the internship program grows a little each year as it creates a solid talent pipeline for Direct Supply.

“We’re in this for the long term,” Cutler says. “We want to be partners and see these students grow up and share our journey with us.”

For several years, Direct Supply, an employee-owned company, has harvested engineering talent from the nearby Milwaukee School of Engineering. However, as the company has grown, it has had to look farther afield for the top-tier employees it needs, Cutler says. Rose-Hulman was a natural choice, thanks to Hillis’ connection and the fact that Rose-Hulman students tend to be interested in making a positive change in the world, something Direct Supply embraces as its mission.

“Rose-Hulman is a good fit,” Cutler says. “We’re only interested in the best people.”