How SGE Prepared Me for an Internship in the High-Tech Industry

by Stephanie Kwok, MBA ’13

Stephanie Kwok, MBA '13

The SGE Immersion project gave Stephanie the rare opportunity to work on a real business venture with a client. She leveraged this experience in her summer internship.

The 2012 Summer Olympics was the most electronically connected games in history. The information network controlled 30 percent more digital data than the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Transmitting real-time competition results to media outlets, such as websites and broadcast companies, was a huge undertaking, but it was in good hands. Those hands belonged to Cisco, who provided the main network infrastructure for the London Olympic Games. As a sports enthusiast, I appreciate the important role Cisco regularly plays in the sports and entertainment industry. Cisco streamed live broadcasts from “Cisco House” – the company’s Olympic headquarters in London – throughout Cisco offices around the world. These televised events illustrate one of the many ways Cisco leverages its technological solutions to rally its employees behind a fun, universal event with mass appeal, while building a diverse culture across this large, global company.

Cisco – headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, CA) – designs, manufactures, and sells network infrastructure equipment and solutions. The firm has continually remained relevant in the global networking marketplace and built out its portfolio beyond its core routers and switches business. Now Cisco’s expertise also includes voice, video and collaboration solutions among others. This past summer, I had the pleasure of interning in Cisco’s Technical Services where I served as Product Manager for the New Products & Business Group. My responsibilities entailed researching a new services product, performing a strategic market assessment, and creating a go-to-market strategy for Cisco’s services product portfolio. The appealing part of my project was that the market assessment was focused on the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, specifically China, Japan, and Korea. I was excited to conduct due diligence on the APAC market and dive deeper into these three large emerging countries for the region, given my interest and passion for working closely with developing markets.

Determining whether or not Cisco should do business in these markets and defining the company’s go-to-market strategy for the APAC market was a daunting high-level responsibility for an intern. Cisco’s top management was interested in seeing results from this project because of the potential opportunity for untapped growth in APAC. The SGE Immersion prepared me well for this internship and equipped me with the right mindset to take on this challenging problem statement.

In my first year at Johnson, the SGE Immersion project gave me the rare opportunity to work on a real business venture with a client where I assessed the technical feasibility, determined the market opportunity, and provided strategic business recommendations for bringing their product to market. During the Immersion, I learned to break down the problem statement and frame each segment by defining exactly what needed to be solved. I used this same tactical approach in my internship at Cisco to evaluate the company’s value proposition in the Asian market and devise a strategy for pursuing the path with minimal barrier to entry.

To do this, I conducted a series of stakeholder interviews with business leaders in the three largest APAC countries to collect customer insights on their purchasing patterns, relationships with Cisco and its competitors, and the ease of doing business with Cisco. In addition, my analysis included locale-specific observations on cultural differences, understanding of each country’s government regulations, and key insights on future industry trends in the IT services market. During the SGE Immersion, my team also analyzed public sector business cases which helped me understand the importance of and use clearly defined customer segmentation better during my internship, especially since many customers in these Asia-Pacific regions are government-connected entities. The final challenge of presenting my recommendations to Cisco was to synthesize what I had heard on the ground, extract the key takeaways from market reports, and sift through disparate data to develop a comprehensive and targeted strategy. One of the best lessons I took away from my SGE experience was to think broadly when making business decisions and not focus solely on financial factors. This thought process helped shape my assessment and recommendations for my group at Cisco.

Overall, I enjoyed a stimulating summer internship experience. My management team at Cisco was very supportive throughout my project and ensured I had the resources to carry out my project successfully. I enjoyed having sole ownership of the project, managing my project schedule, and jumping on the phone with important leaders within each of these countries to understand the market dynamics first-hand. There is not a doubt in my mind that Johnson and SGE helped me develop the multiple lenses I looked through while analyzing the problem statement during my internship. I learned a lot about synthesizing data and forming recommendations using my knowledge of sustainable global enterprises, while really getting to know the daily functions of a product manager at a top high-tech firm.

In addition, I had the opportunity to leverage and build upon my previous tech consulting experiences with global clients and make strategic recommendations that will impact Cisco at a higher level. Cisco is making some exciting discoveries in new business development areas and my internship has positively influenced my perspective on how business giants like Cisco continue to stay relevant in such a competitive marketplace. I am excited to return to Johnson for my final year with a richer experience and outlook to share with classmates. I am proud to represent SGE all the way across the country, in the heart of Silicon Valley where high-tech enterprises are actively exploring emerging markets.