Before my summer internship at Procter & Gamble, my areas of expertise were limited to certain types of word puzzles, the mincing of garlic, and Rock Band drums. Three months of marketing madness later, I’m happy to add another item to the list: electric toothbrushes. Battery-powered? Rechargeable? I can tell you more than you’ll ever need to know about either.
My internship on Oral-B Power was an experience I’m only now—weeks later—beginning to digest. At the time it was simply too much to both live through it and think about it. My 12 weeks were dedicated to three projects that ultimately morphed into two (one very analytical, the other more consumer-focused), and I had both a midpoint and final presentation for each. This divided my summer into two six-week chunks that followed very similar patterns:
Weeks 1 and 2: Utter Hysteria
“I have no idea what I’m doing, nor will I ever know what I am doing. They will be coming soon to escort me out by my belt loops.”
Weeks 3 and 4: Insane Progress Down All Paths Simultaneously
“O.K., I kind of know what I’m supposed to be doing now, so I will careen in every possible direction in the hopes that my innate genius will help me uncover something meaningful.”
Weeks 5 and 6: Legitimately Valuable Work
“I have a crystal-clear point to make, three bulletproof justifications of said point, and elegantly presented data that supports these justifications.”
For my analytical project, the questions I was tasked with answering were: “What’s going on with Product X?” at midpoint and “What are we going to do about it and how?” at my final presentation. For my consumer project, it was: “Who’s a new consumer target for Oral-B Power?” and then “How can we reach this consumer and with what message?”
Answering these questions required dozens of meetings with my colleagues in consumer market knowledge, product supply, finance, and sales, as well as mounds of Nielsen data and consumer research.
I never missed a marketing lecture at school, so I can tell you with certainty that these were not topics covered in class. For example, I knew what distribution was, but I didn’t know how it played out in the field. I knew that there were several types of promotions a company could run on its products, but I didn’t know the complicated ways in which they’re funded. Because an MBA might be better described as a “what’s what” than a “how to,” a lot of on-the-job learning was required. And lest I harbor any lingering ego issues about being a masters student, the presence of several outrageously impressive undergrad interns was more than enough to set me straight. (About the only thing I could do that they couldn’t was rent a car.)
With the exception of statistics and a bit of accounting/finance, I wasn’t very often directly calling on things I’d learned in class as I went through my summer, but I was certainly a better, more disciplined employee as a result of my Wharton experience so far. I’m more efficient. I’m better at organizing my thoughts in a cogent, structured manner. But the main way in which my first year of business school helped prepare me for my internship was by subjecting me to a full year’s worth of going from imbecile to expert in six weeks. I now know to ignore the initial feelings of paralysis and paranoia, because—somehow—they always pass.
There were 45 of us marketing interns at P&G this summer, spread out among three classes with various start dates. The first and last classes overlapped for nine weeks, so we all got to know each other pretty well (including those who weren’t based in Cincinnati, as they flew in for a few events). My closest crew was the Oral Care folks, both interns and full-timers. You could typically tell how long someone had been working in Oral Care by the whiteness of his or her teeth. My own oral hygiene regimen, thorough to begin with, reached stratospheric levels of fastidiousness during the summer. My cubicle neighbor Matt and I went tooth-to-tooth in a heated Whitestrips battle to see how white our teeth could get without turning clear. (He won—I’m pretty sure you could spot him on a moonless night if he were smiling.) It was not uncommon to ask a coworker, “You strippin’?” if they began speaking with a slight lisp.
The people were, without a doubt, my favorite part of the job. Not only did I feel professionally supported throughout, I also made some fun new friends. It’s pretty amazing to be surrounded by seriously sharp people who can give you solid advice on data analysis one day and smoke you on the go-karting track the next.
As for whether I’ll be returning full-time—well, you’ll have to stand by for that, mostly because I myself am still standing by. At the time of writing (four weeks after my internship wrapped), I don’t actually know whether I have an offer to come back or not. In previous years, they’ve told interns on their final day, but they changed the procedure this year. To say that I’m handling the wait with grace and equanimity would be something of an overstatement.
Fortunately, I have all sorts of shiny objects to distract me: fantastic new classes, friends I missed over the summer, and bushy-tailed first-years. Their presence on campus is an undeniable sign that something big happened over the summer: I went straight from freshman to senior. With that realization comes the slow acceptance of another, which is that at the end of this year, I won’t have another internship. This time, it will be real.