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Summer at 'Warp Speed'

After her fast-moving summer internship at Glade Aerosols, this MBA student will find the second year of B-school a relative snap

One of my co-interns put it best: "I need a vacation from summer vacation." Once the school year ends, soon-to-be second-year MBAs head to various parts of the world for the 12-week job interview known as the summer internship. Not only is there pressure to nail your projects, but you're constantly being evaluated by the people you come into contact with every day.

I spent my summer as the Glade Aerosols marketing intern for S.C. Johnson in Racine, Wis. I worked on projects that tested my analytical skills, creativity, and leadership ability. For the first two weeks, you take time to learn the business and how to use Nielsen data. After that, the summer moves at warp speed. It's critical to manage your time well and plan ahead. The summer is vacation season for everyone but interns, and many of your team members will be taking time off during your stay. You want to make sure you get any information you need from them before they leave for an extended time.

My projects called for a lot of interaction with the customer marketing, promotions, and finance departments. I worked mostly with full-time employees and had little professional interaction with the other interns. At first, I was worried that my team members would dismiss me as an "unimportant" intern, but they always made themselves available when I needed them. This part of the internship was very similar to the cross-functional teams at school. I had to rely on the expertise of my team and build relationships to get alignment on key decisions.

On-the-Job Learning

Other than utilizing cross-functional teams, my internship was very different from school. I did use some of the data analysis tools and marketing frameworks that we used in class, but the projects were unlike any I'd encountered in the classroom. In talking with full-time employees, it was clear that a lot of what associate brand managers do involves learning on the job.

When it comes to figuring out how things work, it's important to develop a good support network. You need to find experienced employees who can give you sound advice, but who don't judge the merits of your ideas or critique your stumbles.

Overall, my internship solidified my decision to pursue a brand management career. My projects were very analytical and I enjoyed working with Nielsen data. I look forward to my classes this semester that will focus on how to use that analysis to create a marketing strategy. I also realize if I could survive the intensity of the internship, the second year of B-school won't be so bad, either.

Coffey is a member of Wisconsin - Madison's MBA class of 2008.

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