Today’s guest post is authored by Second Year student Jordan Hart. She shares insights and learning moments from her summer internship at a large Boston-based corporation that gave her the opportunity to broaden her startup perspective. 

Company: CarGurus

Role: Product Manager

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

This summer, I worked as a product management intern on the Dealer Product team at CarGurus — an online automotive marketplace headquartered in Boston. I completed my undergraduate degree in the San Francisco Bay Area and then worked in New York before enrolling at Darden, so I wanted to use my summer to explore a new city and experience the strong tech scene in Boston. I’m so glad that I gave Boston a chance because I loved my time there! (But I’m still a Yankees fan; sorry!)

After working at a small tech startup for four years prior to Darden, interning for a significantly more mature company was a lot of fun and an excellent learning experience. To be clear, though, working at a startup was amazing and played a significant role in shaping who I am, how I work and why I came to business school. Each day at the startup presented a new challenge, and I loved being part of such a small and tight-knit team where you could really feel the impact of your work on the success (or failure!) of the company. But startups have drawbacks as well: Resources are constantly constrained, much of the educational experience is self-driven and professional growth trajectories can be difficult to define.

These startup realities certainly have their merits, but in coming to Darden, I knew that I wanted a product management internship at a tech company that was further along in the development process. I wanted to see what it was like working at a larger company — a company where I could be part of a big team whose members had significant, diverse leadership and professional experiences, and where product development moved at a faster pace. In the back of my mind, however, I wondered if moving away from a startup toward “big tech” would mean that I would sacrifice what I most loved about the entrepreneurial environment: strong culture and trust with my colleagues; being challenged on a regular basis; being encouraged to take risks, think creatively and be innovative; and truly feeling a passion for the company, its product and its customers.

My summer at CarGurus proved to me that these can be found at any company that has invested thoughtful care and consideration into building a culture of continued growth and learning. Luckily for me, CarGurus is one such company.

Within the first week of my internship, I walked with my fellow Gurus in the Boston Pride Parade, in which CarGurus had a large presence. I was proud to work for a company that engaged with this event and genuinely lived their values. Further, the fact that so many Gurus attended the parade showed me that despite having nearly 1,000 employees, CarGurus was a place where people considered themselves to be a valued part of a team.

In the remaining 10 weeks of my internship, I was impressed time and again at the level of transparency within the company. One week the company hosted “Growth Week,” which featured workshops on topics ranging from negotiations, to charting your career growth, to how to use the espresso machine. These workshops were open to any CarGurus employee, and I found them to be incredibly useful as both an employee and a business school student.

From a work perspective, my manager did a terrific job in allowing me to experience and engage with a wide range of projects within the company. Unlike at many MBA internships, where students will have just one focal project for the duration of their employment, I was able to be an active leader on four different initiatives. Particularly coming from a startup, I loved getting exposure to a variety of levels and teams within an organization; I love the challenge and excitement that comes from wearing multiple hats simultaneously.

My summer responsibilities were thoughtfully curated through ongoing conversations with my manager and allowed me to learn from many intelligent, inspiring people across the company. The CarGurus experience helped me understand a great deal about driving forward data-driven innovation. It showed me how a large company with thousands of customers is able to keep those customers top-of-mind in every decision, and why this is so crucial to success. And finally, it showed me the role of thoughtful leadership in growing a company while staying true to your values.

I am so grateful for my summer at CarGurus, and I know that my experiences there will continue to serve me both as a full-time product manager and in my final year at Darden.