Friday, September 26, 2014

A Summer Spent with Georgia-Pacific

Neda Zaman, MBA '15
I had the incredible opportunity of doing my summer internship with Georgia-Pacific, where I worked in the B2B or “Professional” division of the company. My project was a blend of what you would expect in a brand management position, as well as an innovation role. My task was to strategize the launch of a new product, and take into account both short-term and long-term possibilities. 

This was my first role with a company in the CPG industry, as my experience thus far has been in automotive finance, renewable energy, and education industries. What attracted me to Georgia-Pacific specifically was their unique culture based on Market-Based Management®, and it was this culture that enabled me to thrive and to learn as much as I could about the paper industry and the company’s operations.

I spent the first few weeks of my 3 months' time getting acquainted with the company’s product line, which is expansive to say the least. Their business model is fascinating, and the culture there allowed me to schedule one-on-ones with almost anyone in the company in order to better acquaint myself with the various roles and functions. Once I began work on my project, I decided that I wanted to run a trial to gain directional learnings that would help me provide better recommendations. My supervisor loved the idea and gave me a lot of room to run the test, which gave us great results about both the product as well as the methodology. I took those results and fine tuned some of the estimates we had made for our target segments, tweaked our strategy for reaching them, and focused on researching the platform for the launch.

At this stage, I was invited to attend conferences with visitors from multi-billion dollar companies that frequently engage in business relations with Georgia-Pacific. Attending the presentations was an invaluable opportunity, as I gained critical information about the company we would be partnering with for the launch of the product, which allowed me to make better decisions about the pricing strategy. Every day of my internship was spent in a similar manner; from lunch-and-learns with the CEO and CMO, to deep dives into market research, to attending presentations by huge firms. Not only did I gain incredible experience and a glimpse into what my chosen career path was like, I also had the opportunity to do work of real value and significance to the company. I count this summer experience among one of the biggest impacts on my personal and professional development.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

One MBA Student's Summer Vacation with CSX

Kevin Foster, MBA '15
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern in the Finance department of CSX, which is one of four major railroads in the United States. Truth be told, prior to starting the MBA program at Terry, I knew nothing about railroads other than from time to time I would get caught at a railroad crossing – always when I need to be somewhere. But my perception of the industry changed when CSX came to do an information session in late August. I walked away impressed by both the industry and CSX as a company. When you start to think of it, the railroad is the backbone of the U.S. economy – grain, lumber, chemicals, coal, vehicles, and millions of pounds of merchandise shipped via intermodal containers –  and few things make it from point A to point B without going by rail for part of the journey.

I joined the program with my target set on getting into the airline industry, so the railroad wasn’t a big jump. I decided to pursue the opportunity and by mid-November had received an internship offer. It was an intriguing opportunity in a subject I was only starting to get comfortable with (finance) in a city that I had never lived (Jacksonville), but I was up for a challenge.

The summer proved to be an incredible adventure. Before the internship, I tried to learn about the industry so that day one I could hit the ground running. It helped to have at least a grasp on some of the major issues facing the company and a basic understanding of the language of railroading. CSX also worked to ensure that we were quickly brought up to speed. There were 8 interns total, with a wide variety of skill levels and background, and it was really enjoyable getting a chance to know them over the 10 weeks.

The project that I had was very much an MBA-level internship. There wasn’t a simple answer to the question that was posed – in fact, they really didn’t know where the project would lead. However, if there is one thing that MBAs should be good at, it’s dealing with ambiguity. I relied heavily on my background in project management and the skills that I picked up during my first year in the program – especially statistics – and was able to develop a number of well-received deliverables. The internship wrapped up with a final presentation to the 3 VPs that oversee the Finance department – aka one step below the executive team. The presentation went well and about a week later, CSX called to offer me a full time position in their leadership development program. It was the opportunity I came looking for when I came to Terry - just a different mode of transportation.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the summer, and really my biggest takeaway of the program so far, is that you have to keep your eyes wide open, because you never know where the opportunities are going to come from.