As week two of my internship with Laureate Global Products and Services comes to a close, I remain shocked at how much freedom I have to explore solutions, and at how I continually refer back to my first year at Carey to guide my way.
I began my internship on June 1st, knowing nothing more than that I would work under the Executive Director of Product Management. After a first day filled with paperwork and other orientation “business,” Tuesday brought my first project—an efficiency analysis of three comparable, minimally profitable programs. I took all of two seconds to start digging through Blackboard to find class notes from Professors Gunia and Meen’s Solving Organizational Problems course. My manager gave me very little in the way of advice or direction, as he wanted to see what solutions “a fresh set of eyes” could bring. I could not be more thankful for that freedom, as it allowed me to reacquaint myself with the McKinsey-esque framework Professors Gunia and Meen provided. Their iterative approach to problem solving fits perfectly for these kinds of strategic assessments, and when I find myself stuck as to what to do next, I simply refer back to the framework. Moreover, transferring their framework into PowerPoint and working exclusively with highly visual software allowed me to “see” the nature of the problem in a strategic way I might have missed had I worked solely with text.
After mapping out a way to assess my first project, my manager dropped another “little” project in my lap. A member of his team wanted an appraisal of the value of a program currently up for review. For this project, I also received the perfect data set, one which would allow me to incorporate other class tools. I again set up my project using the SOP framework, and then reached back to Professor Chakravarti’s Managerial Decision Behavior class to create a set of decision trees. Knowing that I would also need net present values, expected values, and other quant-heavy data to support my decision trees, I began building an Excel model to handle those calculations. In just my first week, I found myself combining three separate B-School tactics to complete a strategic analysis of projects and programs that have real impact on Laureate’s customers. Moreover, my manager asked if I could transform my Excel model into a generic template that he could use for any project or program. “This could be your legacy,” he said enthusiastically.
Such feedback and freedom are positively refreshing after my former career in the public school system. I began teaching with similar freedom to operate, but as No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and other government mandates seized public schools like an anaconda, teachers lost their autonomy. We could only teach “approved” material, using assignments and exercises from 5-ton curriculum guides designed by “experts,” many of whom had little to no connection to the actual students in classrooms like mine. At Laureate, I am treated like a professional colleague, with just as much value as any other product manager.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can provide an employer comes when the clock disappears. As my second week at Laureate draws to a close, I am shocked that I have already been at work for seven hours. Twice this week I have almost forgotten to eat lunch, because I have been too busy expanding my template or finding new information for my scoping analyses. If the remaining 8 weeks follow like the first two, this internship will have paid off in spades.