One of the goals I set for myself when I arrived at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management (Kellogg Full-Time MBA Profile) was to become a brand manager at a beauty company. I wanted to develop products that would help improve the world. So when I was offered a summer internship as part of the corporate beauty brand management team at Amway, I couldn't help but feel excited, as it was a sign I was getting closer to my goal.
My project for the summer was to create a business case seeking approval of a new beauty line in several countries. It required strategic and tactical measures, and I had to use creative thinking, analytical skills, and leadership, mixed with marketing, finance, accounting, design, and operations knowledge. Essentially, I was putting into action everything I had learned in the past year at Kellogg.
Preparing the case meant leading a cross-functional team to find the strategic and financial prospects for the company, should the beauty line be launched in the market. In addition, I was the brand's gatekeeper, which meant I had to make sure we stayed on message. Also, as part of the process, I had to communicate the potential opportunities across different managerial and operational networks to gain commitment, support, and alignment.
Enjoying the Fun Part
Once the project reached the approval stage, the brand manager prepared a detailed launch plan that featured future activities. This was the fun part, when marketing works with creative to prepare commercials, teasers, samples, and gifts. This phase also required brand managers to start anticipating the next big thing. As part of those efforts, I got to try a lot of make-up, skin care, and hair care products. I also had the chance to participate in an immersion and ideation session where we conducted ethnographies, which are like safaris in which we observe consumers in their natural habitat (read: stores, beauty salons, doctors offices, or their houses and bathrooms to study their beauty routines).
Bringing more than 100 years of combined experience at L'Oréal, Estée Lauder, and P&G to the table, my network for the project was incredible. My manager, director, and mentor were all MBAs. And my main client—the market sales vice-president—and the brand manager vice-president were both Kellogg MBAs. I felt right at home.
Completing the project was an opportunity to share the knowledge I have acquired. The best part was that I received several congratulatory notes from the different departments and many calls post-presentation asking for follow-up meetings with top management, other business lines, and those interested in synergies with different markets. Learning and garnering accomplishments were important to me, but so were having fun and getting to know the company's culture. Amway's human resources department made an excellent effort to bring together my fellow intern class. We were involved in such activities as the Intern Olympics, baseball games, "lunch and learns," a reverse career fair, and executive breakfasts and career advice sessions.
Apart from taking part in the division's meetings, I sat in with my department on the monthly meetings, the annual marketing gathering, the brand management hands-on meeting, employee appreciation day, and brand training sessions. I also attended training sessions and meetings with the rest of the employees.
Interacting With the C-Level
At Amway, interns have special avenues to approach top management, such as the professional series, where the undergrad and masters degree interns obtain career advice from different managers. Among them were Amway's President Doug DeVos and Sales and Innovation Vice-President Glenn Armstrong. They spoke about Amway's efforts to fulfill consumers' needs in Ghana and fulfill its vision for 2020.
MBA interns also got the chance to interact more intimately with C-level executives, such as Jim Payne (Amway's executive vice-president) to learn more about the company's direction. As part of his presentation we were asked to send him suggestions on how to improve the business. My suggestions appeared to be successful: He sent me an e-mail saying he really liked my ideas and he wanted to share them with other executives. Isn't that amazing? That is one thing I could have never done without Kellogg. Finally, the grueling one-page case write-ups started to pay off.
From beginning to end, I'm thankful for my internship. It confirmed that beauty is my true calling. Marketing is an area that I enjoy, because it's a path that can lead me to general management, and it integrates my knowledge of strategy, innovation, and operations with my newly acquired finance and marketing skills.
Skills to Improve
I also discovered what skills I want to improve in my second year at Kellogg. I want to be more efficient when I set goals and visions to establish strategies, metrics, and incentives for my teams. I want to be confident when I incorporate others' ideas.
On a personal note, the best part of my internship was celebrating my very first Fourth of July in the U.S. It is so different from our independence celebration in Mexico. I cannot express how much I loved the fireworks in New York City, my great introduction to the "American Way."
Now I'm looking to the future. The vice-president of supply chain and research and development, George Calvert, gave us some takeaways that summarize what I want to do with my career. He recommended for us to love our careers and know what we want to do. He motivated us to make a difference every day, find a mentor, and work smart but hard.
That's exactly what I plan to do.