The Marketing Club is one of over 50 student-run clubs and organizations here at Darden. The club is dedicated to helping its members:
- Understand the varied and exciting professional opportunities in marketing;
- Develop the necessary skills and experience to be successful in their career search;
- Build lasting personal relationships with peers, faculty and alumni; and
- Build strong professional relationships with companies and organizations.
This summer a few of its members are sharing their summer internship experiences with us. Our first story comes from Kareen Okaka, who interned at Dell in Austin, TX.
Kareen Okaka ’18: Dell
After spending the last three years in Los Angeles before business school in Virginia, I was open to a new location and Austin was easily the best fit for me in the South. While the heat required adjusting to, especially being a Canadian, used to mild summers, Austin was still a lovely change. Austin has beautiful bodies of waters; Lake Travis and Lake Colorado to name a few and I indulged in the water activities to cool down during the sizzling summer. Austin is a fantastic city with many startups, and corporations calling it home. The southern love is undeniable, coupled with a liberal laid-back vibe, made for a great summer in Austin.
My summer as a Product Marketing Manager at Dell was a mix of marketing and technology. I have always been curious about working in a technology company and Dell took care of us as interns this summer. As interns, we get access to top executives, fun events, and networking with other interns. We also get to play with virtual reality toys, video games and watch movie premiers such as Spiderman – Dell collaboration. To start us off this summer, we had a scavenger hunt of 70 cool spots in Austin. In true fashion, the Darden interns put our heads together and plotted how to win the scavenger hunt. We bonded over exploring new areas, and ultimately supported each other through our Dell summer experience.
Initially starting at Dell, you are given an ambiguous problem statement to test your thinking and ability to navigate the unknown. My problem statement was a mix of strategic, marketing and analytical thinking. I was required to leverage my MBA to answer the question; develop a go to market one-year strategy to support Dell’s consumer electronics expansion efforts. With a vague understanding of my project, I embraced the ambiguity rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Here are some tactics and culture information I used to impress my employers and succeed in my internship:
Develop a plan: As an intern, no one expects you to know the answer right away, but people pay attention to the questions you ask, how you carry yourself around the organization. The Darden case method prepares you for that. YOU are responsible for your success and you must take the initiative. Before I got to Dell, I consulted the previous interns at Dell, talked to marketing professor Kim Whitler about how to approach the internship. I had one big task, prove to my manager that I had an aptitude for seeking creative solutions to multi-faceted problems, and I did this through developing a plan. By sharing my approach to the problem within my first two weeks, I got buy in from my manager, displayed my ability to influence and built credibility. However, you cannot succeed on a plan alone, you need to execute and understand the culture.
Understand the culture: At Dell, I quickly learned you need to communicate the “Dell way”. This means stating your recommendations first, especially when communicating with high-level executives. Without this, you will lose the attention of executives.
Organizational Structure: Dell’s hierarchy like most technology companies is flat and working conditions are flexible. There is a strong culture of networking at Dell. I was pleasantly surprised by how willing people were to help, and answer questions from an intern. You can book a meeting with senior executives to learn about their jobs which was refreshing coming from a more traditional corporate culture. Dell also promotes a strong work life balance, so a flexible workspace and remote working were all perks the interns enjoyed.
At Dell, executives are looking for fresh ideas, and people willing to challenge the status quo. This means leveraging the skills I learned at Darden. I applied design thinking into my recommendations by asking what if we could push the boundaries, what would that look like? I loved the autonomy and flexibility to drive outcomes that my project provided. MBAs are extremely valuable at Dell and marketers manage the growth and revenue generation at Dell. My summer at Dell was invaluable and I want to continue to play in the growing technology space.