Category: Student Blogs

Lessons in Excellence: My Summer Internship at Google

Treadwell Singfield, MBA Class of 2018, is spending his summer interning on the product operations team at Google developing a beta testing program playbook. Here’s his take on his first month on the job.

I have always wanted to be impactful and excellent. In earliest stages of my internship, I did my best to focus on a flawless output. But perfect isn’t realistic or efficient, and in my experiences, developing that perfect level of work isn’t actually excellent.

If that’s the case, then what is excellence?

Merriam-Webster would define excellence as the “quality of being outstanding or extremely good,” but what does “outstanding” or “extremely good” entail? I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating that this summer. During the aforementioned early stages of my internship, I thought of excellence as an individual contribution, a measure of the quality one person’s output, but there are several dimensions to excellence. There is no perfect definition; there are both solo and team aspects to being excellent.

Based on my internship this summer, I’ve narrowed down five common components of excellent people:

  • They define what they want to achieve in great detail.
  • They leverage the brainpower of those around them.
  • They execute quickly.
  • They adapt quickly to change.
  • They can operate in ambiguity.

treadwellWhen I began my internship at Google, I put my head down and started working and meeting with people. I strayed away from the first component of excellence that I listed earlier: I didn’t define what I wanted to accomplish. Fortunately, Google makes you form those definitions. But as they say, the devil is in the details. The definitions are useful, but being able to define what success looks like in a measurable way is important for success during the summer. In any professional environment, showing the impact that you make is critical. The difficult thing about driving impact in a new environment is that you often have a rather steep learning curve.

The best way to understand more about a company and the problems its facing is to speak to people who are close to the work being done and to leverage their insight. Research is crucial to being able to navigate your way, but proceed with caution. There are two ways people share information: oversharing and undersharing. People rarely give you exactly what you need. In the case of undersharing, you need to make sure you ask the right questions and, if needed, find additional people to speak with. In my case, I experienced a lot of oversharing. Oversharing is typically a sign that people may be interested or passionate about how your work relates to theirs. Excellent people hone in on the information needed to provide structure to the problem.

Once the problem has been defined, you need to execute quickly. One reason for working fast is to get work done, but the other reason is to mitigate the risk of failure. If your solution doesn’t work, you will need time to adjust, iterate, and relaunch. This applies in any environment, primarily dynamic environments that are prone to change.

Excellent people navigate change well by planning and embracing change. It is important to understand the purpose of the change more so than the change itself. If an environment is changing, that means something isn’t working and you need to know what that is.

The final quality I’ve observed in excellent people is that they operate well in ambiguous and uncertain environments. They do this by providing structure to the issue at hand. There is no perfect science for operating in the unknown, but they make sure to know what needs to be done, why it needs to be done, who needs to do it, and how it will get done.

Striving for excellence is important, and Simon has prepared me for excellence by placing me in those scenarios. I look forward to returning to the startup environment in the future to pursue more of a marketing and analytics role. Regardless of how my journey or interests have changed, Simon has helped me to attain my goals and to continually pursue excellence.

I’ll leave you with a final question: How do you define excellence?

If you’re interested in learning more about the Simon MBA program, attend our MBA information session webinar at 12 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Aug. 9. 

MBA Summer Internship Reflections: Mars, Inc.

Tite Jean-Pierre, MBA Class of 2018, is spending her summer as an associate brand manager at Mars, Inc. She shared her perspective on her first month on the job.

What was your first day like?
The first day was phenomenal! Although I had visited the Mars Petcare office twice before, it was never as a full-time employee and an official 2017 summer intern. Mars is a learn-by-doing company with structured learning scheduled throughout the internship. On the latter half of day two, we went to our desks and I received a better ‘welcome to your desk’ reception than anyone else. The office is an open setting and is dog friendly. As I arrived at my desk to greet my marketing team, the cutest dog ran up to greet me. He was at my feet jumping and wagging his tail and would not leave until I gave him some love! I found out a few seconds later that his name is Allister, the mini schnauzer of one of our marketing directors. I’m not sure if the marketing director put him up to it, but it was a welcome for the books!

What were your first few weeks like in general?
The first weeks consisted of many meetings, kicked off by a meeting with my line manager and a briefing on the scope of my project and expectations for the summer. The saying ‘drinking out of a fire hose’ is sorely overused, but information certainly was coming quickly and steadily as we strived to get an understanding of our brands, a deeper understanding of the company culture, and attend the continual training on our calendars. It was refreshing to attend the events to unwind, get to know our fellow associate brand managers, and familiarize ourselves with the cities of Franklin and Nashville.

What are you working on?
I am working on a product within the company’s GreeniesTM brand – pet treats and dental care for pets. I am working on the Pill PocketsTM product “a nutritious treat for dogs and cats that contain a built-in pocket, for hiding a tablet or capsule.” My project is well within the realm of a typical marketing role, as I strategize with my team to raise awareness of Pill PocketsTM.

What is the culture like?
The Mars culture centers around building strong relationships. The results and bottom line are not the only things that matter to the company – how you achieve those results are also crucial. The company is privately owned by a family that fully believes in the Mars Five Principles. Mars is one of the pioneers of the open office setting, as associates in all levels have the same style and size desk as a VP would. Our executives are either connected to a multi-desk with us or are just a few steps away and always open to dialogue. Although there are moments of brief silence, the office is usually buzzing with conversations between the marketers and teams. As a person who deeply values relationships, Mars is a great place to be!

What is one concrete way Simon’s curriculum has prepared you for your internship?
What I learned throughout the progression of the Communicating Business Decisions sequence comes to mind. In particular, something that Professor Carol Shuherk would say in the persuasion course (that I was originally skeptical of) was “consensus is key.” Getting your team to buy in — not to just agree with your statement but to fully believe in it with unanimity — were the strong overtones of that class and are concepts that also ring true at Mars. The company truly believes in building relationships and collaboration. What I learned in that class over the entirety of my first year as an MBA student was crucial to understanding and seeing the fit for myself in a company driven by those same beliefs.

What are you liking most about your internship?
I am loving the day to day surprises that can come with being a marketer. Although I start my day with an agenda, I have learned that the ability to deal with the unexpected and adapt to ambiguity are important skills. Unexpectedly, I was tasked with a project for my brand that included tapping into my creative skillset to brainstorm a slogan. Marketers don’t typically go into brand management for the creative aspect of the career, but having a creative mind and being able to jump-start creative conversations and give direction that fosters an environment for creativity is certainly a component of the career, and I have loved seeing the level of engagement required to balance the art and science of marketing in my role.

What are you finding the most challenging about your internship?
My internship, like most summer internships, is only about 10 weeks long. As short as that sounds, it becomes even shorter when you are balancing your time for work and your project, making quality connections, and getting to know the city you might permanently move to in just a little over a year. My project is stimulating and challenging, but having worked full time for a few years before business school, I find the challenge of hard work and high expectations welcome and invigorating. I am finding that maximizing the 24 hours we are all given in a day –and not being able to add just one to two more! — is the most challenging part of my summer.

Navigating Business School with a Humanities Background

This blog post was written by Aileen Maria-Ritchie, 2017 MBA candidate. After graduation, Aileen will join Nationwide Insurance Company as a process management specialist doing internal consulting in the Business Transformation Office.

Business school can be intimidating for anyone, but even more so for those who come from a humanities background. I completed my undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley, with double major in English and art practice. I had avoided math like the plague and didn’t glance at it much until I was preparing for the GMAT.

As a result, it was no surprise I found myself struggling with the quantitative subjects in business school. In particular, halfway through the fall quarter, my finance midterm grade was a stark signpost that I could no longer ignore: I was failing. I realized that I had sat through the first three weeks of classes being so intimidated by the subject matter that I had learned nothing.

However, during the remainder of the quarter, I managed to turn it around. Here are some tips worth sharing from this experience.

head shot of Aileen Maria-Ritchie

Aileen shares her advice on how to excel in business school with a humanities background.

Don’t short sell yourself. Recognize your strengths.
Unlike many of my classmates, this was my first time seeing finance in the classroom. Most of my fellow classmates are pursuing an MBA with a finance focus. There are even multiple certified Level 1 and Level 2 CFA’s (Chartered Financial Analysts) in my class. With this in mind, I felt like I had to work twice as hard—and I started second-guessing my own abilities.

That was until I realized my strengths from my humanities background: the ability to learn, adapt, and understand people. Once I was more self-aware, I also became more confident. I made a plan to understand and conquer my weaknesses and to conquer finance.

Utilize your resources.
My next step was utilizing office hours with my finance professor and the finance teaching assistants. In my experience, office hours are extremely under-utilized in both undergraduate and graduate education. It was extremely rare to have any other classmate attend office hours at the same time—which meant I received free one-on-one tutoring multiple times a week.

My finance class offered three separate sets of office hours with teaching assistants, and I attended all of them for the remainder of the quarter. Sometimes we discussed concepts from lectures, and other times, we reviewed problem set after problem set.

By the third week of office hours, I felt confident and competent enough to complete the problem sets alone. By finals week, I was explaining the concepts of “Forwards and Futures” to my fellow classmates.

Reach out to your team and classmates.
Next, I asked my teammates for help. Once a week, during our lunch break, I reviewed practice problems with my friends. I reached out to a classmate who lives in my apartment complex, and we would work on finance problems together in the evenings. As finals approached, I studied in groups. Learning from classmates and repeating back concepts and problem solving methods helped me to solidify my understanding of finance.

Remember why you are in business school.
My struggle in finance class reminded me why I was here in the first place: to learn. But it was more than that. I was in business school for myself—to better myself so that I could make an impact in my future career. One of my main drivers for pursuing my MBA was that I felt I did not have enough academic knowledge in finance, accounting, and statistics. I knew this was holding me back in my previous job.

Remembering that learning this material would fuel my success in the future helped me to constantly challenge myself. It gave me the willpower to keep going when I was tired, upset, or frustrated with learning. Each time I struggled, I gained more understanding and yearned to learn more. I even began to like finance.

Hard work pays off.
When my grades were finally posted, I received a B+ in finance. My final exam scored an 88/100 and was above the class average. I was satisfied. I had managed to turn the entire situation around, and I now know so much more about financial ratios, the stock market, and arbitrage.

This success is a reflection of all the challenges and struggles that lie ahead. Learning new subject matter is tough. It was frustrating because I had to put myself out of my comfort zone every day. Yet, it was being out of my comfort zone that helped me to truly grow.

While academics are only one facet of pursuing an MBA, it is a challenging and rewarding experience. It was a reminder of how much I can achieve and that hard work does pay off.

From Nonprofit to the NBA: Katie Freiert, MBA Class of 2017

What did Katie Freiert, MBA Class of 2017, do when she learned she had been accepted to the NBA Internship Program?

“My first call was my dad, and he cried on the phone.”

Basketball had always been an important part of Katie’s life, and after spending five years in the nonprofit sector, she hoped that pursuing her MBA would help her realize her dream of working in professional sports. As athletes do, Katie set a goal and then worked to achieve it. She prepared for business school long before she submitted her application by taking a few classes to bolster her résumé and studying for the GRE. Her hard work—both before and during her MBA program—paid off when she received that call from the NBA.

Perhaps Katie’s dad summed it up best: “He just couldn’t believe this [program] had gotten me to where I really wanted to be, and that I was going to really live my dream.”


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