Immersion Learning

My Summer Internship Project: Creating a World-Class Pet Food Experience

by by Josh Robbins, MBA '13 (10/31/12)
by Josh Robbins, MBA '13

I spent my summer in Seattle (not the tropical getaway we all imagine Seattle to be) as a business manager intern at a leading, multi-national e-commerce company. The business manager role is a general management role and was an excellent fit with my prior work experience, recent studies from the Strategic Marketing Immersion, and future career goals.

My project consisted of analyzing the current customer experience for pet food and then providing recommendations to create a world-class experience to scale the pet food segment. I know, I know, not that sexy of a project topic. Despite the seemingly dry nature of pet food to some, I found the industry and project both challenging and fascinating.

One major task I focused on was ensuring we had the necessary core brands to authenticate the company as a pet-food destination. Easier said than done. I needed to determine a method to quantify and rank existing brands so I could perform an analysis to determine which top brands we might be lacking. The major complication for me was that I couldn’t find market segment share or annual revenue information on most of the target brands.

I scoured the Internet, industry reports, and had numerous conversations with those from the industry, but I continuously came up with nothing. I, then, reviewed some notes from one of my assignments in marketing, which inspired me to reach out to Professor Manoj Thomas. After a few brief email conversations, I was able to develop my own model using inputs from competing sites, brand type, customer reviews, and revenue from the company gateway.

The remaining tasks of my project largely depended on industry data and information mined from the company’s data warehouse. Due to the complexities of the data and relative small amounts of internal pet-food information, I ran into a few snags. But these snags – and the abilities to work around them and develop solutions – were familiar to me.

During my SMI semester-long project, I hit several snags, including trying to understand an extremely complex technical product, changing of the point of contact at the client organization, and lacking the ability to effectively interact with the target market. That’s when it hit me. That was actually an extremely beneficial experience. My immersion team figured out how to manage the project successfully, and that’s when I realized that the SMI project and client experience closely mirrored my internship experience. Having worked through similar issues during the immersion, I felt fully equipped to overcome unforeseen hurdles and provide solutions to the business issues I faced during my internship.

All in all, I am grateful for my experiences during the immersion. I found many of the processes learned during the immersion extremely applicable to my task of creating a world-class pet food experience. And, as mentioned before, that seemingly unsexy project is now something I value greatly, and I look forward to building on that experience upon graduation.