Another life chapter closed

August 20, 2008 by

I finished my summer at P&G UK on Friday. It was a bittersweet departure, as I haven’t decided whether I’ll return to the UK next year. It’s heartening to reflect upon what I accomplished this summer. My project came together quite nicely toward the end. I finished several reports and the supporting documentation, gave my final presentation, and said farewell to my team and fellow interns. I couldn’t have asked for a better internship, through both a challenging project and an enjoyable place to work.

I learned several important lessons from this internship. The first is the importance of networks, both formal and informal. There were a few times where I had trouble getting time in people’s calendars until my boss sent a few emails for me, but other times the informal networks carried me. I would have coffees with people about my project, and once they saw the worth of my project they would gladly help out. Some of my other networking time helped me to learn more about people doing different jobs and functions from my own. I now have a more complete view of the company because I made time for informal networking.

Another important lesson was the value of flexibility in business. Several of my contacts weren’t able to deliver the information or support I needed, and these obstacles ended up significantly changing my project. I was initially quite inflexible and spent too much time focusing on the problems instead of working around them. However, I now feel more comfortable reacting and working around change. Be ready for it, because it will happen.

My trivia question last week was how many legal entities P&G has. The answer is over 200. My final trivia question is how many Billion Dollar Brands (>$1B in revenue per year) does P&G have? The answer is: 24.

I’ll definitely appreciate being a student more after working full time for the summer. Time for one last year at Babson.

MJ

August 19, 2008 by

The past month has flown by. I have gotten into the groove of working at Marquis Jet and everything seems to come a lot easier than it did just a few weeks ago. My internship consists mostly of sales and I have talked to quite a few people who love the product and are very interested, though none have ultimately bought the 25 hour jet card. The product that Marquis sells is a large capital commitment by a normal person’s standard. However, the market that it is aimed at is well within the reaches of using Marquis frequently even within the tough economic environment. I have come to realize that buying a jet card is something that takes time and can really take months to close just one deal. It’s not that these people don’t want to fly with Marquis it is that they are usually just very very busy or do not want to take the chance on something new with all of the commitments they currently have. It is for this reason that we must find some underlying need that these people have to sway them away from their current provider. Most of the people that are in our target market are flying charter jet. The difference between charter and Marquis is enormous, and I think it would really take a test flight to see that. If the product were not so costly to test then it would be a great idea to give a trail flight to every charter customer with an income greater than 5 million. After seeing what a difference Marquis Jet has to offer I’m convinced that they would be inclined to switch.

Coming to a Close

August 4, 2008 by

As my internship comes to an end, I find myself wondering how these 10 weeks went so fast. Feeling like I just landed in San Francisco airport, I find myself at the airport once again waiting for a delayed Southwest flight back to the East Coast. Looking back on this summer – the BART rides to and from places all over San Francisco, late nights in the office, and later nights with friends – it is amazing that it has come and gone(although, I’ve never known a summer when that wasn’t the case). My time at Rapleaf was well spent – an impossible experience to duplicate or repeat. A non-typical internship from the start, I know that all the knowledge I have gained and talents I’ve honed will serve me well in both the near future, personally and professionally. The myriad books, articles, webinars, events, conferences and brain dumps I’ve been to are sure to give me enough to process for the next few months. And perhaps the most important take away from my time here in San Francisco – my first stab at entrepreneurship. This next phase of my ‘education’, in the very Mark Twain sense, is sure to draw on everything I’ve ever learned, both at Babson and here at Rapleaf. I’m looking forward to the next challenges I’m presented with, and can’t help but think I’ll be back to San Francisco many times in my life. More later, but for now, safe travels to all.

In my end is my beginning – T.S. Elliot

Cheers,

Max

Work Culture

July 31, 2008 by

It been a while since I have been in the office consistently, I have missed a day due to being sick and then the office was closed another Friday due to an all staff meeting, then I forgot to write last week, so I have not had much to write about in the ‘blog-o-sphere’, which is what I am told ‘this’ is. A couple reoccurring themes have emerged in the recent weeks since I have been back to work that are worth noting. All of them pertain more to an organization’s work environment then and the actual work I am doing.

The actual work I am doing is continuing to do research for our ‘product library’ and I have also been put in charge of doing research on distributed generation, or renewable energy generation in residential applications as well as energy efficiency measures. This is where most of my interest lies and the subject that I have been doing a lot of personal research(yes I am a geek) on lately. Through my research I have found two things. 1)  I would like to go back to school (eventually) and get a joint MBA+MS in power engineering, which is a type of engineering that is concerned with energy generation and transmission and 2) I have found an organization that is as innovative and groundbreaking much like GRT, but they focus on many types of energy usage specifically transportation. Its called the Rocky Mountain Institutes (rmi.org).

Back to the subject…work environment…there have been a couple themes emerging. The first is that even a large city such as Boston I have found that networks of professionals in industries is quiet small. This is something that you always hear in class, on TV and the like, but until you witness it, it doesn’t really sink in. Two opportunities have arisen, both of which have been very helpful. The first is in relation to a business that I am starting, I won’t go into the details, as I was alerted there is a link to this blog in NY Times online, but we can just say it is related to transportation. Anyway, so I’m putting a team together, both external and internal, to build credibility, experience, etc. So, I had a conversation with Barbra, the women who runs the GRT, and she was very helpful both in her advice, as she is very entrepreneurial and is going to put me in touch with people who might be interested. The lesson I learned is that it’s always good to talk about your concept with everyone and get as much feedback as possible and you never know who you are going to be talking to or who they know.

The second opportunity came from asking people what they did before they worked at GRT, I found that a couple of people had worked at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative; I believe I mentioned this before, in one of my last blogs. However, I have talked with more people and found that there funding has increased since a new bill has passed the state government and that the agency is expanding and looking to hire. So I found some contacts within the organization and contacted them to talk with them about MTC to see if it is a place where I would be interested in interning, etc.

The other item I noticed was the importance of employees doing what they enjoy and the increase in productivity an organization will notice from having its employee belief in the cause. People and employees specifically, like to contribute to something larger than themselves. With the GRT, all of the employees are responsible for savings a lot of energy and reducing pollution with their everyday work, they are leading the green building movement. I can see the benefits in the higher quality of life of employees, the good work environment, and collaborative culture. It is very clear that the culture is centered on collaboration as everyone is working to a goal they really believe in and not just for a paycheck.

I think this is a really important characteristic to keep in mind when working at or starting any organization. Again, it is one of those things that you always hear but don’t understand until you see it. Well, this is the first time that I have noticed it, and it makes total sense. After all, humans have many more physiological needs then simply having food and shelter, and being a part of a group or movement that is something larger than themselves is one of the ‘higher level’ needs of people. This is something that is very valuable to tap into with people and something that all ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ companies, or more traditional companies could use and have the potential to but may not be.

Take insurance for example, it is something that seems very boring, conservative, etc. However, I’m sure that insurance companies could find stories of their insurance programs savings peoples’ lives, ie, if the people didn’t have insurance they would have died. This information could surely be conveyed to the workforce; so that employees feel there work contributes to something larger than themselves. Perhaps some already do this internally, if not, they could surely benefit from it. I think one difficulty would be quantifying the results. Then again, if the organization needs to quantify the results of increasing the happiness, quality of life , and thus productivity of their workforce, it might not be such a good place to work anyway.

Sealing the Deal

July 31, 2008 by

Hello all,

Much has progressed since my last post which I am greatly excited to share! One of my favorite aspects of business happens to also be one of the most gratifying aspects. This, as the title of this blog entry is named, is sealing the deal. What is better than seeing your hard work come to fruition? Not a whole lot. Over the past couple of months, I have worked hard for Liturgica.com, doing market research, gathering and collecting potential leads, and finally reaching out to these prospective customers and trying to sell them on our new advertising program.

Many people have their own way of accomplishing this process, generally based on what they find most comfortable and successful. My personal method of contacting a lead involves two main steps. My method involves first an email, providing the necessary data, pictures, and introduction of the concept. The key with this email is to also make the title of it unique and personalized, so that it doesn’t end up in their junk mail! Since many people are really reliant upon email, and screen calls anyway, I really find that email is a great first step in this process. If the lead responds, I act accordingly; if the lead doesn’t respond, I move on to the follow up call. If I am able to reach the contact on the first try, I already have a good intro to the conversation by bringing up the recent email I sent their way. This will lead me into my spiel, which is hopefully persuasive enough to peak interest. At this point, avoid sounding like a businessman at all costs. Be serious, but don’t be selly. If you talk to them on their level, person to person, and I’ve found I’ve gotten a lot farther. If you cannot reach this person on the first call, leave a message, wait and week, and rinse/repeat.

This method has seemed to do just fine for me, as I’ve already locked in 5 deals! If you happen to check out the website, you can see the ads up already, cycling each time the page is refreshed. And I’ll tell you what, that is one of the most gratifying experiences thus far in this entire experience; going to the site and seeing my hard work displayed on the side banner. My goal by the end of the summer is to seal 5 more deals, which will give us a total of 10 advertisers. Stay tuned for the next post to see how that goes!

Peace and Progress,

Jamie

The daily grind

July 28, 2008 by

I’ve settled into my project and made fairly good progress. At P&G, strategy sits with the finance division, so I’ve had the pleasure of working on a competitive intelligence project. I first had to familiarize myself with some of our powerful databases and then use that information to create more detailed reports. It is quite accounting intensive, and I have been given nearly complete freedom in how I structure my time and finish my project. P&G is great about giving us the necessary tools but also requiring each of the interns to make his or her personal touch on their respective projects. I’m excited to see how my work will end up assisting the company.

I took a few days away from my normal project this week to fly to Newcastle. P&G spent a day showing the finance interns about the multitude of various finance roles within the company: finance working in a customer team, forecasting, product supply and plant finance, audit, treasury, banking, financial solutions, account managers, and payment services. We spent the second day touring one of our plants producing premium fragrances and hair coloring. We also had the chance to experience some of Newcastle’s famous nightlife. I now have a better grasp of some of the opportunities I would have should I continue working for P&G after I graduate.

However, life isn’t all work. Most of the interns have joined the corporate gym so we typically work out together every days after work. We then carpool home (only sales interns have cars) and spend the remainder of the night cooking and hanging out in the common room or going to one of the many surrounding restaurants or pubs. Weekends are spent exploring London or traveling; we’ve visited Oxford and many touristy London sights.

Last post’s trivia question was which 2 in 1 shampoo hit market leadership in the UK after only four weeks. The answer is Head and Shoulders. This week’s question: How many legal separate entities does P&G have?

Learning to Use Your Time

July 16, 2008 by

Greetings! I had no idea how much time had elapsed since my last post – 14 hour days followed by trips to the gym and cooking dinner have made the past 3 weeks fly by at breakneck pace. I’m writing this on an airplane back from New Jersey having gone to my friend’s wedding this past weekend. Even 3000 miles away, the work continues. My next ongoing project – patent writing and research – is going to require the use of all of my formal training at Babson. Diligence, exhaustive research and asking questions to people who know more about the topic than I do are sure to be challenges that my Babson experience has taught me.

At Babson, the focus of the education encourages students to approach from different angles and to look for new and different ways to solve traditional problems. For patent research this is particularly true, and in exploring patents it is easy to get caught up in ‘how far down the rabbit hole goes’. Todd, a patent lawyer I met on the plane from Dallas to Newark (who worked on chassis and landing equipment for the F35 before heading back to law school) gave me some great advice – start with the most general you can and don’t worry about the specifics until later. For people not terribly familiar with patents, they have several different elements – independent and dependent claims. Each independent claim is very general and is supported by several specific (or dependent) claims. His advice, while specifically about patent research, is also the way to approach all areas of business and life in general. Too often we get caught up in specificities without taking a step back and asking ourselves if we truly believe in the general premise. Learning perpetual vigilance in everything that you do is critical to being both successful and sensible in all aspects of your life.

For instance, just this past week at my weekly meeting with my boss, I questioned how appropriate our approach to recruiting was. Posting to one college at a time was free, he had told me, but to post to the entire network at once was expensive. I never asked just how expensive it was. It turns out that to post at over 3800 schools cost only $415, while it takes about 5 minutes to post an individual ad. In brining my grievance to Vivek, he responded by saying, “I was wondering when you were going to ask me about that”. I was enraged! How could he let me spend 1-2 hours every day posting to these job boards without telling me about how easy and cheap it actually was? I left the meeting feeling upset and a bit mislead. After my discussion with Todd, however, I realized that just as in patent research, taking a step back and evaluating the big picture is always in your best interest and can lead only to better use of your time.

While I was sad to have spent all that time posting ads, it was not time wasted. Why? Because in going forward, I will never again accept menial tasks at face value, looking at them from a broader perspective and asking myself, “Is this the best way I can do this? What can I do to save time? And is it worth it?”. Time is our only true and non-renewable resource – you can sleep to get your energy back or eat to refuel your stomach – but time, once spent, is gone. And saving it to do the most important things in life (whatever those may be) is essential to both your productivity and more importantly your happiness.

My education at Babson has been excellent, but the knowledge received from my experience thus far at Rapleaf is invaluable.

Things do not change, we change
-Henry David

Cheers,
Max

More from the road

July 9, 2008 by

Another hectic couple weeks here at Two Feet, taking us out to the west coast in search of the best material for the upcoming Fall issue of Boosh Magazine. As much as I love traveling, and am thrilled to have found an internship that allows this, so many consecutive weeks on the road can take their toll on your morale and your wallet. It’s easy to miss your comfy bed or your mom’s home cooked meals, but what the standard summer internship allows for is a break from work, the separation that occurs once that five o’ clock bell rings.

There’s no such bell at an internship like mine, and we’re constantly concerned with the next stop on the list, how long it’s going to take to get there, and where we’ll stay once we arrive. Fortunately friends and family have helped us out along the way, offering their couches or whatever accommodations they can afford. Other times we’ve been stuck to sleep in the car or pitch a tent, obviously less appealing options after a long day on the road. One website that I’ve found useful in the past is www.couchsurfing.com, somewhat of a social networking site that connects travelers and friends of travelers that have open couches for weary interns like me. We’ve yet to use it this summer, but it’s sounding like a more and more plausible option as our bank accounts diminish.

Sleep and money aside, the work here is always keeping me on my toes. We’re somewhat of a street team, hitting the town to see what young people are doing, what they want in a magazine, and what kind of competition we’ve got out there. To keep things simple, our bosses have categorized the college experience into headers such as Booze, Sex, and Music, and it’s our job to find some fitting stories along the way. We’ve had the chance to interview some non-corporate types, including brewmasters and famous musicians, which was definitely a memorable experience. We’re constantly searching for interesting parties that can shed light on the post-college humdrum that so many young people fall into. Graduates of Babson are less likely to relate to this, being the self-motivating crowd, but readers across the country are thirsty for fun and interesting directions to take once they leave the confines of their campus. Part of this internship is to find out what’s out there for the average college student and to present the best of the best in the soon to be released magazine. Like I said before, it’s a nonstop job that’s taken me cross country, now we’ve only got to get back alive. Keep posted for more!

The Brits don’t celebrate the 4th of July

July 7, 2008 by

Hello! This week has been a blur at times, but I’ve written a book of a post to make up for that. I arrived last Sunday and settled into my P&G housing. I’m living with other interns from local offices—it should be enjoyable.

My internship began with three days of general training about P&G, its culture, and its policies. If one of their goals was to excite us about working for P&G, it certainly worked. I thought I learned a good amount about the company as I prepared for my interview, but our facilitators truly demonstrated the company’s culture. It’s not competitive; we work together for the good of the company. Employees are proud to work for P&G. P&G makes more products than I ever imagined, and many of them lead their segment in profitability and market share. We started immediately with a Gillette case study, which taught us how they work in multifunctional teams. They strongly value organization and feedback; every day had an agenda and a request for feedback. We interns wanted more interactive learning, so they built additional skits and Q&A sessions into the following days. We wanted them to use fewer water bottles, so they got us tap water. I was impressed by their professionalism and their desire to constantly improve.

It is challenging to truly see an organization from outside. Many companies say they value people. I started to detect a difference during my interview, but their value for people became perfectly clear during training. In three days of general training, they took us out for dinner and drinks twice. They brought in senior management to speak to us. They brought all of the interns to London for general training so that we could get to know each other. And they gave us loads of free products and access to the company store J.

Then I had two days of finance training. We took a closer view at P&G’s divisions and structure. We also spent a significant amount of time learning some of their acronyms—far too many to count. It’s like another language. They take an income statement and rename practically every term into P&G language. We also reviewed finance basics—Babson had prepared me well. Employees with different finance functions also spoke to us about the variety of finance positions within P&G. Finally, we went out for dinner and drinks with the finance managers, although there were more finance managers than interns.

The makeup of the interns this week feels a bit like Babson. P&G prioritizes diversity, and summer interns represent over fifteen countries outside the UK. However, now I am in the minority—I am one of only two Americans. We come from about twenty different schools and work in seven different departments, although every team is comprised of people from different departments. I’m looking forward to my project, although I only have general knowledge of it at this point. I’ll describe it more fully once I know more. However, this is a legitimate project. If I wasn’t doing it as an intern, another employee would be completing it.

I spent a dark 4th of July with some fellow interns at the King’s Head Pub. I’ve been dubbed the token American, so I explained to them some of our traditions. No fireworks, but I suppose I have a few other benefits from spending my summer in the UK. Until next blog, I’ll sign off with some trivia. Which haircare brand was the first ever to launch a 2 in 1 in the UK, becoming the market leader in four weeks?

9-5 Life

July 7, 2008 by

As I settle into the daily rhythm of working at 9-5 job I have started to think about what life is going to be like after I graduate. I look at the recent grads that are working next to me and wonder how they can come in day after day and continue to make sales calls and push their products. I think part of it is just getting over the initial change of pace from a school setting to a work environment. As the days have gone on I have found it increasingly easier to go to work and enjoy what I am doing. We recently moved offices from the 22nd floor of Two International place in downtown Boston to just across the hall, so it was a relatively easy thing logistically. The space that we were leasing before was huge. There are a total of 7 people that work out of the office during a given day. However the old office space was meant for about 14 or so. That means that there was a lot of empty space and it made it hard to get to know everyone as a new intern. Since we have moved it has been much easier to make friends and being the only intern in the office it is nice to have people to talk to throughout the day.

In regards to the databases that I have been working with, I have made a number of different queries to try and find the right people to contact. Some have been better than others and it gets much easier as you talk to the clients and gauge their interest level in Marquis Jet. I have had the chance to talk to many very influential people during the few short weeks I have been working and I hope the networking that I am doing here can benefit me in the future.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.