Category: Student Blogs

Four Lessons from My Summer Internship at Johnson & Johnson

The following blog post was written by Krystalyn Jones, MBA Class of 2019, who spent the summer as a summer associate in Johnson & Johnson’s Experienced Commercial Leadership Development Program.

One of my proudest accomplishments was securing an internship at my dream company: Janssen Pharmaceutical, a Johnson & Johnson company. After months of résumé editing and mock interviews, I was able to relax and celebrate this great milestone. But soon it was time to begin strategizing about how I could be successful over the summer. Receiving an internship offer is the beginning of a new and exciting opportunity to explore and expand your skill sets and to align your core competencies to your future employer. Most internships are between 10 and 12 weeks long, so it is important to hit the ground running.

After completing my internship, I reflected on a few best practices I could offer for future interns. Although I was in the healthcare space, these strategies may be applied to any industry. Below are four lessons I learned during my time at Janssen that will help you excel at your MBA internship.

Janssen_krystalynUnderstand your internship program and project expectations.
A true understanding of your summer project expectations, both written and unwritten, is critical to receive a positive rating. Keep the lines of communication open with key stakeholders, including your direct manager, internship program administrator, and anyone else who makes employment decisions, so you can measure your performance and make any adjustments in real time. Develop a list of questions that will help you get clear answers on your project deliverables and identify the appropriate frameworks to communicate your findings in a clear, structured fashion.

Develop your summer strategy.
After you have identified your project’s objectives, share your strategy with your manager and keep him or her updated on how your project is progressing. If you are not sure which direction you should take, ask for your manager’s suggestions on how to fill gaps in your project plan. To develop the best strategy, it is important to understand your company culture. For instance, is the environment collaborative? Or is the expectation for you to utilize independent or school resources to answer difficult questions? Lastly, develop relationships with contacts across the organization to understand how your project fits into the larger organizational goals.

There is no substitute for great performance.
Once you have developed your strategy and reviewed it with your manager to ensure you are on the right track, it is time to execute it efficiently. This is sometimes easier said than done during a roughly three-month internship because you must also balance networking events and other internship program obligations. Some strategies to help make execution easier include utilizing firm-provided templates and frameworks and viewing sample internship presentations from previous summers. Pressure test your project in each round of revision by asking yourself questions you think your manager or final presentation audience might pose to make sure you’re as prepared as possible. Finally, once you have a solid draft, be sure to communicate your progress with your manager weekly, if possible, and perhaps even more frequently when you get closer to your final presentation date. Remember: there is no substitute for good performance.

Confidence is critical.
Last but certainly not least, be confident! If there is something you don’t know, confidently state that you do not have the information yet but you are planning to uncover it, and if appropriate, ask your manager where a good place to start might be. In addition to providing a great work product, your manager wants to know that he or she can rely on you in high-pressure, high-stakes situations. When you are feeling less than confident, which is completely normal and human, be sure to leverage Simon classmates, faculty, and staff who can help you through any difficult scenarios you may be facing.

Every internship is different, so be sure to apply these strategies in a way that works best for your environment. Best of luck in your future internship!  Please feel free to contact me to let me know if any strategies were helpful.

Simon in Seattle: 5 Product Management Lessons From My Summer at Amazon

The following blog post was written by Mike Alcazaren, MBA Class of 2019

This summer I interned as a senior product manager on the Amazon Devices team. My summer project was to launch a new product feature for Amazon Dash Buttons. I had the opportunity to fully own the product launch, which included the financial modeling, marketing research, operations, and customer experience.

Love the office pups!

Love the office pups!

This experience was a ton of fun. I learned a lot and got a taste of what it’s like to be a product manager. After taking some time to reflect on my summer, I came up with five pieces of advice for those planning to intern at Amazon and/or interested in a career in product management.

Amazon’s culture is defined through the 14 Leadership Principles, so I’ve mapped each piece of advice to a leadership principle.

1. Find Comfort in Ambiguity. (Take Ownership)
No one has solved your specific project before. You’ll be given a lot of responsibility and you’ll need to learn fast. You own the success of your project and will need to ask the right questions to get the information you need. I spoke with 84 different people at Amazon to be sure I thoroughly understood the problem I was given.

2. Be Scrappy. (Bias for Action/Frugality)
Always ask yourself:

  • “What’s the value of the information I need to gather?” (Thanks, Professor Lovett!)
  • “Can I make a decision with less?”
  • “What data do I actually need?”
Cookies were a huge hit during user research.

Cookies were a huge hit during user research.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and design a prototype. A design-focused mindset is crucial for any product manager. I performed a 54-person user research test with prototypes that used old devices and paper to simulate an unboxing experience for the customer. I didn’t have budget to go externally, but was able to negotiate for budget for gift cards and cookies to entice employees to participate.

3. Write Early, Write Often. (Deliver Results)
Amazon uses a narrative-based approach to presentation, where your idea is fully captured within a six-page document and–surprise!–it shouldn’t be an unfinished document at your midpoint review. A product manager’s document is typically called a “Press Release and Frequently Asked Questions,” or PRFAQ. The approach to writing this document is called “working backwards,” meaning you start with the customer and work backwards to solve the customer challenge. (Check out this Medium article for more information on working backwards and PRFAQs.) You should aim to have your PRFAQ as close to final as possible at the halfway point.

It can be difficult to get your document in front of people for review. Find a support team that can give you feedback, such as alumni, fellow interns, or friends. One of my goals this summer was to write as concisely as possible. My mantra became, “Clarity of Writing = Clarity of Thought.” Remember to review, review, review!

4. Be Coach-able. (Earn Trust)
When you get feedback, listen. Most people want you to be better and improve. But don’t wait to get this feedback—seek input from people earlier, rather than later.

Photo of Mike with his Amazon colleagues.

Smart Home Intern Team 2018!

5. Have Fun! (Learn & Be Curious)
Take time to enjoy Seattle and the Pacific Northwest! Make sure to meet your fellow interns and enjoy a few happy hours. Your team has a ton of experience that you can leverage to finish your project.

Without the analytical skillset I acquired during my first year at Simon, I wouldn’t have been able to solve this ambiguous project, which ultimately resulted in an offer to join Amazon full-time as a senior product manager.

Thank you to those who supported me this summer: the Simon Admissions Office, Simon’s Career Management Center, my Simon Class of 2019 classmates–particularly those who would meet on their own time to talk all things product management–and my family and friends. I wouldn’t have had a successful internship without your help!

Worn out pair of shoes

These poor guys barely made it to the finish line.

My Summer in Seattle by the Numbers
Loving data the way that I do, I can’t resist adding in some fun data points from this summer:
233: Restaurants and sites visited in the Pacific Northwest
84: Amazonians I spoke with to complete my summer project
54: Amazonians that completed my user research
1,198,321 & 511: Steps and miles walked (respectively) during my internship
1: Totally worn-through pair of shoes

NYC Career Day Reflections — Raazgi Haidri MBA Class of 2020

The following blog post was written by Raazgi Haidri, MBA Class of 2020

There is something about boarding a bus at Times Square with suits on hangers!

Recently, 104 of us from Simon’s MBA Class of 2020 traveled from Rochester to New York City for the MBA Career Day. For many of us, this was our first time in NYC, and for most us it would be the first of many, as New York City is known for its finance, real estate, technology, and health care industries.

raazgi.haidriDuring Career Day, the Career Management Center hosted panel discussions with alumni and allies of the school who shared their insights into various MBA roles in different industries. We learned about diverse career experiences in consulting, marketing, product management, pricing, finance, and entrepreneurship roles. Panels also shared valuable advice about recruiting and interviewing for different jobs.

One of the main themes that stood out for me during discussions and Q&A sessions was the concept of “career exploration.” Our class is a vibrant mix of candidates from a variety of backgrounds such as finance, travel, consulting, education, non-profits, media, the military, and more. I realized that exploring various career options before embarking on a pointed career search was great advice, and the career panels were a valuable tool in doing exactly that. I particularly enjoyed learning more about the advantages and challenges of collaborative roles like product management and consulting. During Career Day, our class was also able to make meaningful connections with panelists and alumni. We are honored that they shared their stories and insights with us.

Armed with deeper knowledge of roles and industries, a better network, and great memories of NYC, we begin fall term this week. There surely is something special about walking the streets of Manhattan in business suits—see you again, NYC!

How I Chose My MBA “Village”

The following blog post was written by Gavin Hall, a rising second-year MBA student interning at Cognizant as a summer associate for CDB Digital Strategy. He is an MLT Professional Development Fellow and is president of Simon Consulting Club and managing director of Simon Vision Consultants. This post originally appeared on the MLT Blog.

Gavin_diversity conference“It takes a village to raise a child.” That is a traditional proverb about how one’s community aids in their development and readiness for success. While the sentiment pertains to children, it has proved to hold true throughout my early career. I like to think that the community around me created a nurturing environment that guided me to the place I am now.

Thus, the main criteria I used to assess MBA programs during the application process was the culture of the community and my fit into it. It was important to me not only because you engage with your classmates six to seven days a week for up to 10–12 hours some days, but these individuals will be forever connected to you through the name of the institution on your résumé, for better or worse. I wanted to ensure that I surrounded myself with people I could forge meaningful, lasting, and diverse relationships with in an environment that allowed me to be the best version of myself.

Gavin_habitat for humanity_cropFor this reason, Simon Business School at the University of Rochester was my first choice, and it has been the most rewarding experience I could have imagined. The diversity at Simon is unmatched: the School is among the top 10 US MBAs for diversity and top 15 US MBAs for women. However, numbers are nothing without context. Business school teaches us to become leaders in the management ranks, which will become increasingly diverse, and Simon has cultivated an environment to experience that paradigm shift now.

The majority of the incoming members of the Simon Graduate Business Council are underrepresented minorities or international students (including the president, who originates from Ethiopia), and half are women. In addition, Simon’s Consortium fellows hold numerous leadership positions throughout the school. This is vital because we are in the conversations that matter and ignite change students want to see in faculty, staff, and alumni. Simon is not a place where you are Student No. 9,156; your voice is heard. And for an African American kid from Brooklyn, the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life in graduate school has been invaluable.

The minute I stepped on campus in Rochester, something about the program at Simon felt comfortable, like this is where I should be. This was the village that was going to raise me to the next level.

If you’re an MLT Fellow attending Summer Seminar this weekend, Andrew Brayda, senior associate director of admissions, would love to speak with you! He’ll be offering application tips during the “Demystifying the Application Process” panels tomorrow, and you can also find him at Simon’s table during the fair from 9-10 a.m. on Sunday.