What’s It Like to be an #HBSintern?

For ECs returning back to campus after a long summer away from the HBS bubble, the first days have been filled with catching up on friends’ stories of travels, treks and internships. As usual, we have been awed and inspired by the range of our classmates’ professional interests and experiences over the past few months. This summer, several members of HBS ‘19 took over CPD’s social media feeds to share in real time their summer work stories as #HBSinterns. The snippets printed here show just a fraction of the diverse range of opportunities pursued by the new EC class.

Paula Vich Serra – Zalando

Zalando is the leading online fashion platform in Europe. Growing at a yearly rate of +20%, it currently has more than 15,000 employees and is present in 15 different markets. I spent my summer as an intern in the company’s Strategy Department. It reports directly to the Management Board and works on projects that will steer the future of the company.

One of the real benefits of studying such a range of materials in the first year is how easily I was able to apply my learnings while interning. First, working in Berlin with a truly multicultural team for the first time in my career highlighted to me the importance of understanding cultural diversity, and personal preferences, which was the main learning point of our FGI (Field Global Immersion) course. Furthermore, it was interesting to note how culturally sensitive Zalando has to be as a company due to operating so closely to the customer in so many different countries. It often feels like Europe can be treated as one country, but for a digital disruptor to be successful, each and every country needs a localized approach.

Secondly, I found the concepts that we learned about in LEAD (Leadership and Organizational Behavior) very applicable to the workplace. As a company grows rapidly, it is important to understand the needs of the different departments and align them towards the same direction as quickly as possible.

Thirdly, TEM (The Entrepreneurial Manager) was quite clearly relevant, even for a company that is now the largest online fashion retailer in Europe. The culture of intrapreneurship is still very much alive, where different business ideas are harvested from the whole workforce. Then if successful, these young businesses can be split out into their own entities to make sure that efficiencies between the different business units are still achieved.

Pascal Kriesche – entrepreneur

This summer, while most of my classmates pursued internships, I decided to work full-time on my start-up ‘smoodi’, which I recently incorporated. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m grateful for the support I received as a Harvard Rock Summer Fellow.

Coming to HBS, one of my main goals was to launch a venture. During my first MBA year, I explored various ideas from solving last mile delivery to cryptocurrencies, but finally decided to make employees happier and healthier by creating the first fully-automated, free-standing smoothie machine for offices. It combines my passion with my skillset. Given my background in mechanical engineering, I was eager to build a smoothie machine as soon as possible. However, an HBS professor advised me to begin my project by asking companies to pay smoodi to come to their offices and prepare customized smoothies for the employees. In retrospect, this was the cheapest and easiest minimum viable product (MVP) one could imagine, and I’m very grateful for the advice.

In addition to the great data and insights gained, this summer has been an amazing learning experience: I recruited an extraordinary and diverse team despite only being able offer them an idea and vision, I’ve learned how to be a better manager (including having difficult conversations), I’ve gotten my hands dirty putting into practice the Lean Start-Up methodology, I went through the incorporation process, wrote my first invoices, and so much more. I’m certainly working much more than I expected, but with the sole difference that I do not perceive it as work. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your own idea coming to fruition and your team growing along the way while staying in complete control of your time and direction.

This summer confirmed what I’ve thought my entire life: I want to be an entrepreneur!

Madeline Keulen – Victress Capital

I’ve spent my summer as an MBA Associate at Victress Capital, an early-stage venture capital (VC) firm focused on achieving outsized returns through investing in diverse teams. I originally met our firm’s two General Partners (GPs), Lori Cashman and Suzanne Norris (HBS ‘03), through HBS’ Women in Investing group. I was drawn in by the opportunity to deepen my experience in early-stage investing by learning directly from Lori and Suzanne. I began interning with them in the spring and was thrilled to have the opportunity to come on full-time in the summer.

I can honestly say that no two days are the same at Victress Capital. In a typical week, I meet with entrepreneurs, Limited Partners (LPs), other investors, and my team to learn about new companies, discuss emerging trends, and to find ways that we can add value to our portfolio companies and the broader startup ecosystem. Some highlights from this summer include, co-hosting Rosé on the Roof, an event for Boston women in VC and female founders, alongside Flybridge Capital Partners, OpenView, and Greenspring Associates.

I’m grateful for the support of HBS through its programs, such as Rock Summer Fellows, which has allowed me to take risks in exploring career paths, and for the incredible community of people here in the northeast who make working in venture capital in Boston both impactful and fun.

Johannes Theissen – Marriott

Before I came to HBS, I worked in consulting. I knew that I wanted a different experience for my summer and looked at multiple leadership development programs. One stood out: Marriott’s Management Acceleration Program. With Marriott, I spent my summer between Barcelona and London.

In the five weeks that I spent in Barcelona, I rotated multiple times between the various departments of the two hotels. It’s hard to point to a single highlight because I enjoyed so many experiences. Among them was working in a professional kitchen. That was definitely a first for me! On that day, I thought a lot about the TOM class (Technology and Operations Management), which we had during the first year at HBS. Questions such as “where is the bottleneck” and “how can we improve the capacity of our production in the kitchen” came to mind. Likewise, my experience with the housekeeping and room cleaning staff reminded me of discussions from the first year about company culture and the importance of recognizing and appreciating hard work.

During my time in Barcelona, I was able to see the operations of the hotels, understand the financial model of the hospitality industry, get to know their marketing strategies and see how crucial HR is to attracting and retaining the right talent. Finally, I experienced the excellent culture of the W Hotel and the Hotel Arts. [For the second half of my internship in London] I’ll be working at Marriott’s European Headquarter and apply this newly learned knowledge while working with the corporate team.

Ninad Kulkarni – PayPal

I spent my summer with PayPal at its San Jose HQ. I worked with the Consumer Onboarding team, which focuses on new user acquisition. My main project for the summer has been redesigning the sign-up experience for iOS/Android. PayPal operates with agile teams – which means you work with cross-functional teams of designers, engineers, product and analytics in rapid two week sprints. It has been a completely new style of working. Main takeaway? You’re only as good as your team.

The highlight of my internship was talking to PayPal COO Bill Ready (HBS ‘06) about how his time at HBS convinced him of the P2P payments opportunity and the acquisition of Venmo. 

We have a pretty large cohort of interns (MBA, grad school and undergrads) and the university team does a fantastic job of organizing social events for us to get to know each other and have fun. All in all it has been a wonderful summer. I have learnt a lot, enjoyed my time on the West Coast and made great friends.

The Harbus thanks HBS CPD for providing permission to run these student perspectives, which originally appeared on the HBS Recruiting Blog. Check out more CPD student takeovers on Instagram @hbscpd or online (https://www.hbs.edu/recruiting/blog) – or even better, talk to your classmates about what they did this summer!