June 16, 2017
The steeple chase is one of the most demanding events in track and field and also may require the most concentration.
It’s not enough that the race is run at 2,000 and 3,000 meters, making it a test of endurance. The race also gets complicated by four intermediate hurdles and a water jump — that’s 28 hurdles and seven water jumps in the 3,000, 18 hurdles and five water jumps in the 2,000. Throw in that the placement of the starting line is affected by the placement of the water jump, depending on whether it’s on the inside of a turn or on the outside.
Clearly, running steeple chase requires an ability to solve problems and adapt to change.
As clearly, that criteria makes it perfect for Alex Grady. The senior from Covington, Ga., recorded Georgia Tech’s top times in 2017 in the 2,000 and 3,000 steeple chase, running 5:59.95 in the 2,000 at the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Invitational on March 17 then 8:57.83 in the 3,000 at the Florida Relays two weeks later.
The same commitment to consistency and fluidity that makes things work for Grady in running steeple are serving him in his 12-week summer internship at Home Depot.
“Currently I’m working with the MET (Merchandising Execution Team),” Grady explained. “Essentially I’m working with their sample ordering process so for carpet samples, countertop samples, flooring, as well as Glidden Paint chips and gift cards are also thrown in there. There’s a different way to order everything and there’s a lack of transparency between the ordering process for those higher up within our store support center and our associates who are working with the customers every day.
“My biggest thing is to make sure that process is as convenient as possible for those associates, that they know what to do, how to do it and finding the easiest way of going about doing that so that not only our customers are happy but our associates as well,” he added. “I’m currently in the data-gathering phase, going from store to store, kind of hearing their testimonies, seeing what’s working, seeing what’s not and just trying to give some solid recommendations for the future. Right now it’s just collecting data. Hopefully I’ll be able to come to a good consensus on what will be best for the organization.”
Grady is right in his element as he finishes his fifth week of the internship — only his third on the job. But missing the first two weeks were understandable and forgiveable, as he missed the first week because he attended a conference with Atlantic Coast Conference athletic directors and football and basketball coaches during which he spoke on behalf of all of the ACC’s student-athletes, then, the second week he was competing in the NCAA East Regional Prelims.
“They were very, very receptive,” he said of his bosses at Home Depot. “They were very supportive as well, they cheered me on, were very understanding and willing to work with me, thank goodness.”
Like any internship, this one is an opportunity for Grady to improve his career resume.
Like anything Grady does, it wouldn’t be a complete experience if he didn’t turn the opportunity outward to help others.
It’s the reason why in 2015 he was Georgia Tech’s first-ever recipient of the Ultimate Haier Achievement Award, which is presented to deserving student-athletes for their accomplishments beyond sports.
In Home Depot he found a company that shares his commitment to helping others.
“Home Depot has a values wheel and it carries around eight values, things that should matter to everybody — from doing the right thing to just having a sense of entrepreneurship, a sense of creativity, all the way to giving back,” he said. “These are some of the things I lived by prior to my internship at Home Depot but it’s just so refreshing to see those values ingrained in every associate that works there. They truly do care. They truly want to make a difference no matter how big, how small and you can really see that in these personal relationships they are building with their customers.”
The Homer Fund was one initiative that he admits “absolutely blew my mind.”
“Essentially, this is money that is given by those who work at Home Depot, it could be a percentage, it could be anything, from their check, it’s a fund that goes towards, if a natural disaster were to happen, this would be able to accommodate for families who are in need,” he said. “When Katrina happened they built kind of a temporary Home Depot in order to help the rebuilding phase. It also goes to associates who are struggling as well. It just goes to show that giving back is a huge part of Home Depot. I know it’s a huge part of me so I can really align with that. I really appreciate not only the business that they do up front, but the business that they can take care of in the backhand that you wouldn’t even know unless you were working or employed at Home Depot.”
The internship requires he put in 40 hours a week, but with a flexible start time, Grady is still able to train — he’s logging about 55-60 miles per week, which he’ll eventually build up to 70.
“There’s not like a hard, set time that I need to start, as long as I’m making the meetings,” he said. “I try to focus on making sure I’m getting the mileage in right now as well as doing all the little things. So being able to break up my run, doing a little bit of my run in the morning, then, after work I’ll be able to knock out the rest of my mileage, do some strength work, focus on some flexibility, hip mobility, you name it. Just making sure I’m doing all the little things. Then getting something to eat and going to bed early to make sure I’m ready for the next day. It definitely takes a little bit of discipline but it’s something I really want to excel at and it’s something I really care about so I’m going to make sure I invest in it and make the most of this last year.”
Making the most of his final year, starts with reaching the goals, which he admits are written all over the walls of his room. Of course, the most prevalent are the team goals.
“I really hope that we have a chance to qualify for Nationals during the cross country season. This is something that’s never been done before in men’s cross country history so we would essentially be writing history,” he said. “I want to do everything I can to make sure that we are given the best chance so that when November comes we’ll be ready to fight and give it everything we’ve got.
“Individually, I want to, one, qualify for Nationals in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, two, I want to get the school record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, three, I want to become an All-American,” he said. “Those are some of my biggest goals. I just think being able to be in the running for GT Hall of Fame 10, 15, 20 years down the line, just knowing I gave it everything I had. So just to give me the best shot at leaving my legacy, leaving my mark in history and kind of being a role model and being somebody that someone looks up to or someone that they aspire to be.”
As important is how he can help others.
“I definitely want to be a resource and an asset to my team at all times,” he said. “If there’s any confusion, fear, hesitation, whatever, I definitely want to be that person that they’ll be able to go to. That’s always.”
Grady is looking forward to putting into practice some of what he’s seen at Home Depot.
“The first thing would have to be networking opportunities,” he said. “Day after day I’m faced with having to not only meet somebody new and kind of hear their story but be able to help them help me and how I can be an asset to the team as well.
“It’s also teaching me a lot of cross-organizational skills,” he added. “With my task I’m faced with talking to the associates. Those people who are on the floor day after day and kind of hearing their side, hearing their pain points. They’re so knowledgeable, they’re really good at what they do and it’s my job to make that just that much easier. It’s really allowing me to work across the organization, something I find to be a crucial skill nowadays, being able to adapt to the environment and doing everything you can not only in your space but in other spaces as well.”