By Anne Warner
As many Sloanies can probably relate to, it feels like summer internship recruiting starts the minute we arrive on campus as first-years. I remember having dinner with my core team during the second week of school and everyone was talking about the companies on their lists and the networking they’d started doing over the summer. I felt like I had no direction and that I was already behind.
However, there were a couple of things of which I was certain. First, I knew that I wanted to find an internship where I could take what I was learning across my core classes and apply it to a project with business impact. I was looking for a work environment that would show me how the concepts we were learning in class worked in the ‘real world.’ Second, I knew that I wasn’t ready to be funneled into a specific function. Given that my work experience prior to business school had been at small startups, I was eager to understand how different functions operated at established companies.
With these seemingly non-traditional and ambiguous goals in mind, I decided to focus my internship search on rotational programs (known at some companies as general management development programs or leadership development programs/LDP). The idea of most general management development programs is to prepare MBAs for senior GM or functional leadership roles by rotating them through different roles and functions throughout the organization. I ultimately decided to spend the summer at Danaher in their general management internship program, which feeds into their post-MBA general management development program (GMDP).
Danaher is a global conglomerate with 20 operating companies that manufacture products for life sciences, diagnostics, water quality and product identification. The general management development program at Danaher consists of 18-month rotations, and associates are typically in the program for 6 years before taking on a senior position. I was drawn to the Danaher rotational program for a few reasons. First, I liked the idea of having a rotation for 18 months (as opposed to just 6 months, which is the case at some other companies) because it meant that I could do a deep-dive into the job, rather than act as an internal consultant. Second, the GMDP provides the opportunity to move between operating companies and to Danaher’s international offices. It’s exciting to think about trying out different industries (all while still working for the same company), and also to have the option to move abroad. Finally, Danaher is known for being a very well-managed company and for investing in the careers of general managers, so I felt that it would be a great place to learn and build on my MBA. Ultimately, I hoped that the summer internship would provide an introduction to the company culture and give me a sense of the types of projects I’d be working on if I were to join full-time.
I knew that I would learn a lot at Danaher and benefit from its rigorous approach to management (check out the Danaher Business System here), but I was blown away by how much my internship felt like an extension of what I’d learned in my first year at Sloan. My project was focused on assessing the opportunity for a new commercial offering targeted at a new market segment. Within the first two weeks, I had to apply what I’d learned in Competitive Strategy and figure out how to do market sizing and competitive analysis for this new offering. Once I determined that there was a significant revenue opportunity with the new offering, I applied what I learned in my Accounting courses to make the new offering feasible and compelling from an accounting perspective for Danaher and its clients. Next, I worked with colleagues in Operations to develop the logistics for rolling out this new business model. Finally, I applied what I’d learned in Branding to make a case for how the proposed offering would fit within Danaher’s brand architecture, and I worked with Marketing on a go-to-market plan.
The general management perspective that was instilled in me during my first year at Sloan was critical to the success of my internship project. I couldn’t just view the project through the lens of a single function – everything had to come together in a way that worked cross-functionally for the broader business. To achieve this, I had to leverage what I’d learned across all of my courses and lean on my Danaher mentors and colleagues to ensure that the application of these principles worked in practice.
I had a very rewarding summer at Danaher – my project was incredibly interesting, I learned a lot, and appreciated the structure that Danaher provided. Having the opportunity to apply what I’d learned in the first year made me even more prepared for my second year at Sloan. I started my second year with more clarity around how to spend my time and what I wanted to get out of my remaining year at Sloan.
I’m looking forward to starting in Danaher’s general management development program when I graduate this summer. I am confident that the rotational experience will allow me to continue to build out a diverse skill-set across a variety of functions and put into practice what I’ve learned through my MBA coursework at Sloan.