In this story, we feature some members of the class of 2024 who interned in various retail/consumer packaged goods (CPG) firms in different functions in 2023. The students interviewed are Cory Elam (Starbucks), Felipe Sánchez (Walmart), Shriti Singh (CVS) and Brennan Miller (Nike).
What was your pre-MBA professional and educational background?
Cory: Back in 2018, I graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering. I had some internships in traditional engineering fields, but found through elective courses that I wanted to become a management consultant. I spent four years at a boutique consulting firm that specialized in supply chain strategy, where my projects focused on designing distribution networks and evaluating automation investment decisions. It was a wild ride during the pandemic, and my work responsibilities expanded quickly as global supply chains went into disarray. I knew that a Foster MBA would help me find an exciting role with a more balanced lifestyle, while helping me set roots in Seattle.
Felipe: I am an Industrial and Systems Engineer from Peru. I have worked in the largest sectors in Peru: CPG and energy. I have expertise in working closely with complex supply chain operations. Also, I spent three years on an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation project.
Shriti: Prior to embarking on my MBA journey at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington, I cultivated a diverse pre-MBA background. My undergraduate journey led to the attainment of a Bachelor of Commerce degree with Honors, while my professional path encompassed over five years as a Senior Consultant at EY, spanning roles within Business Consulting and Risk Advisory. My qualifications as a Chartered Accountant, which align with the U.S. CPA equivalent, complemented and enriched my consulting expertise. Throughout my tenure, I contributed to a multitude of projects that traversed the realms of strategy, finance, and operations, further enhancing my holistic skill set.
Brennan: I graduated from the University of Oregon in 2014 with a BS in Political Science. From there I was commissioned into the United States Army where I served for eight years as both a Maneuver Officer and Intelligence Officer.
Which industries did you target? And how was the internship search process?
Cory: One thing that consulting taught me was that industries are not the primary determinant of whether you work on cool projects. I had just as much fun working in tech hardware as I had in luxury fashion. With that in mind, I was focused on strategy and operations roles, but casting a very wide net on an industry basis. I applied to over 50 companies across ten industry groups, with the common thread being a multidisciplinary strategic focus to the role. I interviewed at ten companies, and ultimately received two offers.
Felipe: I targeted three main industries: Retail, Consulting and Tech. I would say that the internship search process was complex but rewarding. You want to interview and showcase your skills as well as possible. I love how helpful my classmates were! Everyone was ready to give me a hand with my business cases prep and storytelling.
Shriti: I actively sought opportunities within the management consulting sector while also exploring roles in strategy. My approach to the internship search process involved engaging in numerous coffee chats with industry professionals, connecting with Foster alumni, and attending various networking events, including ROMBA. Cultivating a strong cultural fit with potential employers was a paramount consideration when deciding where to direct my applications. I found value in participating in case study discussions with senior members of the Consulting Club at Foster, as well as I did case interviews with professionals from target companies. This experience not only honed my structured thinking and problem-solving skills but also proved invaluable during strategy-focused interviews.
Brennan: Due to my background, when I started the recruiting process I wanted to keep an open mind in terms of industry. I treated the recruiting process as an opportunity to expand my knowledge on various industries and learn as much as I could when networking along the way. Operations was always something that I thought I could most easily translate my background to, but I didn’t want to limit myself to just operational roles when recruiting. I sent out over 50 applications to more than 20 companies throughout the fall and winter of ‘22. By January I had racked up over twenty rejections and two interview invites. Luckily my first interview was with my target company and in the end I accepted the role in Global Operations at Nike.
Which MBA Career Management events, programs, or services did you find most helpful?
Cory: I found great value in the short career advising appointments with Gregory. He is a super willing and engaging thought partner with tons of expertise and a collaborative approach to helping you grow. I also loved the opportunities to make company treks through MBA Career Management (MBA CM). I visited Google and PwC in Seattle, and it helped me narrow in on what opportunities I was seeking out for my internship. Also, I frequented the FosterJobs database to make sure I had the latest idea of which companies were intentionally recruiting at Foster.
Felipe: I highly recommend the following MBA CM events, programs, and services as they were particularly beneficial during my experience:
- Mentor Program: The mentor program was invaluable in providing me with personalized guidance and insights into my career path. My mentor offered valuable advice, shared their industry knowledge, and helped me navigate the complexities of the American business world.
- Industry Panels: These events provided a platform to connect with industry experts, ask questions, and broaden my understanding of different career options.
- Interview Preparation with Coaches: The coaching sessions were tailored to my specific needs and helped me craft compelling narratives for interviews, enhance my resume, and develop effective interview strategies.
Shriti: Among the myriad MBA CM events, programs, and services, I found certain elements particularly beneficial to my career preparation. Following extensive research on my target companies and engaging in informative discussions with professionals from those organizations, I embarked on the crucial task of crafting compelling stories to showcase my qualifications. This process was significantly enhanced through numerous mock interview sessions, a vital resource provided by the career management team. My dedicated career coaches, Julie and Gregory, played pivotal roles in my preparation journey. Julie’s guidance was instrumental in helping me maintain conciseness and effectively navigate challenging interview questions. Meanwhile, Gregory’s extensive commitment and personalized attention allowed me to intricately weave my narratives and accentuate key elements in a way that resonated with interviewers. Through this collaborative effort, I observed a noticeable transformation in the impact and quality of my stories, affirming the value of these coaching sessions.
Brennan: One of the best ways I was able to both expand my knowledge base and network with industry experts was through industry panels and guest speakers. Many of our clubs put a lot of work into both establishing connections and bringing in high level experts to speak with MBA students. Take advantage of the lunchtime talks that the clubs put together! Additionally, the company visits set up by MBA CM were an awesome opportunity to both meet new network connections and bond with my newly formed fall quarter team.
How was your overall internship structured, and what were the major deliverables?
Cory: The internship was listed as Retail Product Manager Intern at Starbucks. It’s a somewhat misleading title, but I learned through my 2nd year MBA friends that the roles I was seeking were being offered through this listing. I was assigned to a project based on the interview process and my background, and I got an awesome position on the Product Strategy team. The internship was 11 weeks long, and the sole deliverable was a 25-minute presentation to be given on stage to a cross-functional executive audience. At Starbucks, the concept of 1-on-1 employee ‘coffee chats’ is deeply embedded – not just in the internship but for full time as well. So, to support my project and to get acquainted with the company, I had more than 55 coffee chats!
Felipe: During my internship as a Corporate Import Logistics MBA intern at Walmart and Sam’s Club, the program was thoughtfully structured to facilitate the practical application of classroom knowledge. I engaged in networking sessions with senior directors and VPs, enabling me to understand the company’s objectives and challenges. Additionally, I benefited from mentorship, receiving valuable insights from experienced professionals in the field. The core of my internship involved project assignments that directly addressed real-world import logistics issues, requiring me to analyze data and propose solutions. One of the most significant aspects of my internship was the final deliverable, wherein I had to develop a comprehensive project that solved a pressing business problem. This project was subsequently presented to senior vice presidents, providing a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the practical impact of my work and its alignment with the company’s strategic goals.
Shriti: My internship at CVS Health was characterized by a well-structured framework. In my role within Retail Merchandising Strategy, I had the opportunity to tackle a real and impactful project centered on the health of products listed on CVS’s website. The significance of the project was immediately evident as it had a substantial influence on content health performance. During the internship, I was tasked with several key responsibilities and delivered the following impactful outcomes:
I developed a sophisticated Python-based statistical model designed to enhance website sales for a vast portfolio of 43,000 SKUs. This model incorporated an analysis of over 50 qualitative and quantitative digital content attributes. The results were remarkable, leading to a substantial improvement in the conversion rate by 150 basis points (bps).
Recognizing the critical importance of a seamless customer experience and heightened purchasing confidence, I led an extensive overhaul of the website’s content. This initiative involved the introduction of key performance indicators (KPIs) to drive continuous improvement in content quality. The collaborative effort among vendors and internal teams resulted in an impressive 15% increase in the product health score.
Brennan: I was placed in a marketplace supply chain role within global operations. The internship was ten weeks long and was jam-packed with amazing learning opportunities, fun events and an all-around great time on the Nike campus. I was placed on a team of ten people and had the opportunity to learn about the business function for the entirety of the internship. I also had a project that was mine alone to work on along with the guidance of my manager and director. My deliverable was a twenty-minute presentation in week ten of the internship. My leadership team was outstanding as they not only taught about Express Lane Fulfill, they also went out of their way to introduce me to dozens of leaders across Nike. All of my days were filled with networking, fun intern events, project work and shadowing the team I was on.
Please tell us about some of the challenges you faced and skills you acquired.
Cory: 11 weeks is a very short time to start from zero and end up with something meaningful! I spent the first 4-5 weeks just figuring out what was going on, and then I went on to building my presentation. I faced challenges offering up quick recommendations, because I learned that in big companies, there’s probably more than one team working on any one subject area. I had to search around the company to find out who had the best information on the subjects I wanted to learn about, and then come back to those people when I was ready to suggest an improvement. The whole process was very iterative, and I learned how to find common ground across teams with varying objectives. I also learned that after a few tries, you can make most presentations into a compelling story that keeps the audience engaged.
Felipe: This summer, I met several challenges and learned new skills. One significant challenge was managing and analyzing complex data, which improved my data analysis skills. Also, I had to make regular presentations to different teams and senior leaders, which improved my communication skills. Lastly, handling many tasks helped me learn how to manage time better and prioritize.
Shriti: During my internship at CVS Health, I encountered several challenges while working on the projects mentioned. Firstly, developing the Python-based statistical model was a complex task. Analyzing 50+ qualitative and quantitative digital content attributes for 43,000 SKUs required meticulous attention to detail and a deep understanding of data analysis. Overcoming this challenge allowed me to further strengthen my analytical skills and proficiency in Python, enhancing my ability to extract valuable insights from large datasets.
Secondly, leading the website content overhaul posed the challenge of aligning diverse stakeholders, including vendors and internal teams, to meet the goal of enhancing customer experience and boosting purchasing confidence. This required effective communication, project management, and leadership skills. Introducing KPI-driven performance monitoring demanded the creation of a structured framework and consistent follow-up. This experience honed my skills in project management, stakeholder engagement, and the ability to drive cross-functional collaboration.
My internship at CVS Health not only allowed me to apply and expand my technical skills but also sharpened my ability to navigate complex organizational challenges, fostering a holistic skill set that I can leverage in future roles.
Brennan: The biggest challenge of the summer was the fact that ten weeks flew by. By the time I felt like I really had my feet underneath me it was time to start wrapping up my presentation. Time management is something I have always found myself to be good at, but with such a short timeline and all of the intern events it was still one of the biggest challenges. Also, my project was based heavily on data. I don’t have a data background so this proved to be a challenge as well. However, it was a great learning opportunity and I was able to sharpen my data skills through experience, networking and shadowing my team.
How would you describe the culture of the organization? Did you have good mentors? Did you meet colleagues or other MBA students from peer schools you plan to stay in touch with post internship?
Cory: If I could only say 1 thing about my Starbucks experience, it would be that the culture is so joyful, and the people are incredibly talented. Work-life balance is excellent, and there are dozens of fun, free events for employees (called Partners at Starbucks) every week at the headquarters office. I also loved the free coffee and tea! I was given two formal mentors which I will carry forward as mentors after the internship, and I found three informal mentors just by making connections during the summer. One of them is in the C-suite! I also became close friends in a group of six MBA interns from other MBA programs, and we will definitely be keeping in touch after the internship ends.
Felipe: I found the organization’s culture to be collaborative, inclusive, and committed to continuous improvement. I had two excellent mentors—one from my business unit and another from a LatinX background—who played vital roles in my professional development.
I had the pleasure of meeting colleagues and MBA students from schools like Darden, Cornell, UCLA, McCombs, Kellogg, and more. I plan to stay in touch with these connections post-internship as we developed strong relationships both personally and professionally. Walmart’s focus on teamwork and community extends beyond the workplace, and I’m eager to maintain these connections as I progress in my career. We have already planned a trip to Austin!
Shriti: The culture at CVS Health was dynamic and inclusive. The organization placed a strong emphasis on collaboration and innovation, creating an environment where employees were encouraged to share ideas and work together to achieve common goals. There was a palpable sense of purpose in the work, with a shared commitment to improving the health and well-being of customers. This culture of purpose-driven teamwork fostered a positive and motivating atmosphere.
I was fortunate to have excellent mentors at CVS Health who provided invaluable guidance and support throughout my internship. They were instrumental in helping me navigate the complexities of my projects and the organization, offering insights and feedback that significantly contributed to my professional growth.
During my internship, I had the opportunity to interact with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and experiences, including other MBA students from peer schools. These interactions were not only enriching but also laid the foundation for lasting professional connections. I intend to stay in touch with these colleagues and fellow MBA students post-internship, as we share a common bond through our experiences at CVS Health and our aspirations for the future.
Brennan: Nike’s culture is probably one of the biggest selling points of Nike for me. Nike believes everyone is an athlete and they live it daily. Making daily sport a habit is encouraged and when you are on campus you will see it everywhere you go. Most people buy into Nike’s mission and it makes for a very fun work environment. At the beginning of my internship I was given a mentor and a peer coach. The program worked well and I plan on staying in touch with both individuals after the internship. Also, people at Nike were very open to meeting with interns so I developed relationships outside of the formal program as well, Additionally, I became friends with other interns and plan to stay in touch with some of them down the line. I have already met with one of them for a race since the internship has ended.
Any particularly memorable experience from your internship?
Cory: Part of my team’s responsibilities were to set the calendar for the next two years of Starbucks product launches. To support that work, we got to be some of the first to taste the new food and beverage offerings that will be coming to Starbucks in 2024 and 2025. My most memorable experience was getting to be one of the first 50 people to taste a top secret new beverage lineup and three new Cake Pop concepts in product testing!
Felipe: One particularly memorable experience from my internship at Walmart was attending a Diversity in Business event. During this event, I had the opportunity to ask some insightful questions to the presenter, although I had no idea at the time that she was the Senior VP of Merch Operations at Walmart.
What struck me during the event was how the presenter emphasized Walmart’s ownership of its private fleet (Managers always want to be there to provide excellent customer service). It was an unexpected surprise when I received an email from her assistant the following day, asking if I wanted to join her on a trip to Ohio to visit stores and attend supplier meetings.
The next day, I found myself on a private jet, an experience that truly left a lasting impression. It made me feel immensely grateful for the company’s appreciation of the contributions and knowledge that interns and employees bring to the table. This experience underscored Walmart’s commitment to recognizing and rewarding talent and was a clear testament to the company’s dedication to fostering growth and development among its team members.
Shriti: What an exhilarating ride over the past twelve weeks at CVS! I am thrilled to share some of the incredible highlights from my summer internship:
- Knowledge Sharing Sessions: In a bustling organization like CVS, fostering cross-departmental awareness is paramount. This prompted me to initiate a series of KnowledgeSharingSessions, spotlighting seven captivating project presentations that drew an engaged audience of 100+ attendees. Witnessing the collaborative spirit firsthand and gaining a panoramic view of our collective endeavors has been eye-opening.
- Mentorship Program: Another initiative I took during my internship was coming up with the CVS mentorship program idea. Embracing the notion that knowledge flows both ways, we embarked on a journey of mentorship that surpassed all expectations. Over 25 sessions unfolded, with ten adept graduate interns stepping up as mentors for twenty enthusiastic undergraduate interns. The exchange of insights, experiences, and ideas has proven mutually enriching and empowering.
Brennan: One of the most memorable days was when I was able to tour the Department of Nike Archives (DNA). DNA is where they hold the history of Nike. They have almost all historically significant footwear and apparel since the beginning of Nike and with it they curate different rooms to help artists, athletes and designers find inspiration from the past to imagine the future of Nike and culture. The curators walked us through each of the rooms and explained the significance of the room and the items in it. It was an awesome experience and something I hope to do again.
Did you have vacation time to enjoy the summer? How did you enjoy your recreational time? (E.g., trips, hikes etc.)
Cory: Being in Seattle and having awesome work-life balance, I was able to explore the PNW every weekend. I got to explore the North Cascades with some beautiful hikes, as well as Whidbey Island. There were several big Foster MBA summer beach hangouts that also made for a great time. And of course, I had to learn to play Pickleball too!
Felipe: While my MBA internship at Walmart was intensive, I did manage to have some vacation time during the summer. I used this time to relax, recharge, and enjoy some recreational activities. I took a trip to Wisconsin to visit some friends. I was able to swim in the lake and enjoy a true connection with nature, which has become one of my favorite activities since I moved to Seattle.
Shriti: Oh, my remote internship at CVS Health? It was a blast! Since I was working from home, I decided to make the most of it and spent the last four months with my family in Washington, D.C. I mean, why not, right? It was a fantastic opportunity to catch up on all the family time I’d missed out on while I was in Seattle.
We had a blast exploring the nation’s capital together, and I even squeezed in some awesome trips to Miami and North Carolina. But my absolute favorite part had to be our hiking adventure in the stunning Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I roped in both friends and family, and we had an absolute blast! These little escapades added some serious fun and adventure to my summer, making it a memorable post-internship period.
Brennan: I am originally from Oregon so it was great to be back in the area for the summer. I split the summer between Seattle and Portland and had a very fun PNW summer filled with hiking and water! Getting back to the Mount Hood National Forest was a lot of fun as that’s where I grew up. While in the internship I was also able to fill my recreational time using the Nike facilities. From the Coach K gym for working out to the Nike running trails, it was a fun summer.
What are your plans for the second year of MBA? Anything you’re looking forward to?
Cory: I want to focus on giving back as President of MBA Strategy Club and as a Fritzky Leadership Fellow! Academically, 2nd year is heavily focused on electives, and I want to use mine to dive deep into finance, and to take the renowned Software Entrepreneurship course. I’m also excited to go on a Study Abroad tour and deepen my connections with my friends as we wrap up the MBA experience this year.
Felipe: In my second year of MBA, I’m really excited to dive into more leadership. I’m actually a co-president in two areas I’m super passionate about: the Global Business Association and the LatinX Affinity Group. It’s a chance for me to make a real impact on campus and bring people together who share similar interests and backgrounds.
Plus, I want to help out the new MBA class of 2025 as much as I can. I remember what it was like starting out, and I want to make their transition as smooth as possible. I think it’s important to give back and share what I’ve learned. And of course, I’m looking forward to hanging out and connecting with my fellow classmates. I am so looking forward to being back on campus!
Shriti: In the second year of my MBA program, the focus shifts towards elective courses, allowing for a more tailored academic experience. My intention is to select electives that align with both my personal interests and practical applicability in the business world. Active participation in case competitions remains a priority for me, as they offer valuable opportunities for problem-solving, collaboration, and practical application of classroom knowledge.
Additionally, I have a keen interest in greater engagement with the B-school community. This includes my potential involvement as a board member of the Data and Analytics Club and volunteering at various school events. I see such engagement as a means of contributing to and remaining connected with the academic community. The second year presents an opportunity to reunite with my cohort and interact with incoming first-year students. This fosters a sense of camaraderie and knowledge exchange, enriching my overall MBA experience. I’m anticipating the second year with enthusiasm, as it promises further personal and professional development.
Brennan: In year one I focused on school, recruiting and having fun with my classmates. This year I am jumping into more leadership roles as I am on the board for three clubs. Also, I want to help first-year students recruit with Nike. UW should be sending more students to Nike each summer! Also, I am looking forward to a Study Tour this year – the France/Italy trip!
What advice do you have for first year students regarding summer internships?
Cory: Apply to anything that sounds functionally interesting to you, even if it’s not in the industry you had envisioned or if it’s something you haven’t done before. Speak with alumni and recruiters to think through what you need to know for interviews, and don’t be discouraged along the way. If you are persistent and treat every interview with urgency, you can trust the process and you’ll find your way into an exciting internship opportunity!
Felipe: Start early in your internship search, define your goals, and utilize MBA CM for support. Network actively, both within your MBA program and at industry events. Research companies thoroughly and tailor your applications to align with your career aspirations. Practice interviewing, follow up with personalized thank-you notes, and be open to different industries or locations. Once you secure an internship, learn continuously, build internal relationships, and use the experience for self-reflection and potential career adjustments. Approach the internship with enthusiasm and a commitment to learning and growth.
Shriti: For our first-year colleagues embarking on the summer internship search, I offer some advice that I hope will be both reassuring and practical. Understand that this journey can be challenging, and there may be moments when you feel a bit lost. However, I encourage you to trust the process. It’s all part of the learning experience and personal growth that comes with pursuing an MBA.
One of the keys to success is active engagement within the Foster community. Take advantage of the resources, network, and support available to you. Attend events, connect with fellow students and alumni, and tap into the expertise of your professors and career advisors.
In your pursuit of the perfect internship, you may find yourself pulled in various directions, juggling priorities, and at times feeling overwhelmed. That’s perfectly normal. The important thing is to persevere and stay resilient. Hard work and dedication will be your companions on this journey, but remember to find joy and fulfillment in the process. Embrace the challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, and you’ll come out of your first-year internship search with valuable experiences and insights that will serve you well in your future career.
Brennan: Do not self-select out of an industry. Many people come to get their MBA to pivot; confidentially pursue what interests you. Also, don’t stress. Many people will recruit on many different timelines. Some will have an internship secured before school starts, others won’t secure theirs until May. Try not to gauge your success based on others. Keep grinding the recruiting process but do not forget to have fun. You need to have a balance between the two otherwise you will miss out on a lot of the MBA experiences.