My summer internship at Stryker Medical was an amazing experience with a diverse breadth of projects in product marketing, business development and service innovation. Also, being an international student, it was my first time working in the US and so was a very exciting time for me (I believe in the value of new experiences and continuous development/learning and so constantly evaluate myself by asking “When was the last time you did something for the first time”).
Getting the internship at Stryker was quite a rigorous process in that I had 9 interviews with various levels of management. After accepting my offer, it was exam time at school. Once that was done, I left to China on the MBA Study Abroad Program (continuation of “When was the last time…”) and had a great time there with a good hectic mix of learning by visiting business leaders of top companies as well as fun with fellow students. Within less than a week after returning to East Lansing, I moved to Portage, MI and started my internship (thanks a ton to my roommate in Spartan Village who helped me move from and back to East Lansing – his car was stuffed – only a picture would do justice to the madness ?).
My manager was an extremely down-to-earth person and very helpful – always open to and encouraging my gazillion questions about the business, projects and ideas – even on weekends. The thread of teamwork was something that strongly knit Stryker together across all levels and seemed to help them achieve their 20% profit growth target consistently for a record 30 years (with 2 years in between being the only exception).
Within the first week of the internship, certain events occurred which reinforced my belief in being open to new experiences as well as the importance of being a team player. There was a huge order on the last day of the month and it was essential to ramp up production to be able to meet the demand. This gave rise to the opportunity to spend a week (including the weekend) on the production line and help build beds for the order. I was very excited about the prospect of working on a production line as it would help me get a deeper understanding of operations and supply chain in general (that it was yet another first time experience had me all the more excited and as a marketing person I never knew when I would ever get a chance to do something like this ever again). I was able to connect what I saw and did to the concepts taught in supply chain class such as kanbans, the implications of a stock-out, takt time, etc (plane game in the real world). Also, we plan many features for products in marketing – working on the assembly line helped me get a deeper understanding of the importance of taking into account production challenges while designing features, making sales commitments, etc. I also learned why certain features were kept at the level they were at due to considerations of safety, speed, etc. As someone who needs to be constantly learning, staying on the same substation and building the same part over and over again every day would have been extremely excruciating. My aim was to learn more about the whole assembly process while at the same time balance the need for efficiency. I met with the operations managers and explained my situation and requested to be put on a different substation each day. They understood what implications the job rotation (quite relevant to concepts taught in second semester’s “Managing the Workforce”) had on my productivity and need for learning and acceded to my request when they saw that I was able to hit the speeds required on any substation in a very fast time. By the end of the week, I had worked on almost every substation on the whole line.
One week later it was back to the cubicle – I gained a new appreciation for the ‘comforts’ that my regular lifestyle has always given me. My background in business, technology and healthcare were great strengths to leverage during my internship. My projects were for Stryker’s key strategic platform called “Connected HospitalSM” which is and, more importantly in the future, will be vital to deals with customers. So the significance of my work kept me strongly motivated in spite of the various challenges the project faced.
The first project was with business development, evaluating companies for acquisition to help expand the offering by the platform. The companies were located abroad and it was a great learning experience to see first-hand the dynamics of discussions on international acquisition with leadership of companies and the various aspects that go into the decision-making process. I created the valuation financials with market potential analysis, projected P&L statements and payment alternatives and had to validate that with the estimates given by the target company’s management. Due to conflicts with roadmap alignment and overall financial objectives, I also suggested alternative arrangements to outright acquisition.
The second project in product marketing ran in parallel with the third project of service innovation. As part of product marketing, I developed competitive positioning strategies and product sales tools that were instrumental in enabling completion of a $1.7M deal. It required much interaction with the sales force, technology specialists and marketing specialists to get the information required for the projects. The third project was to develop a new business model for generating sales (exceeding $5M) through new revenue streams as well as save costs (over 20% annually) through a technologically-enhanced mode of service innovation and differentiation. It required me to interact across divisions, functions, teams and countries to get the inputs needed. The sheer power of tapping knowledge from various sources can, and should, never be underestimated. Market research can give a lot of information but a key learning for me through this experience was that the people in the field and closest to the customer have the most relevant information to share with you. The fact that they were all so helpful made projects of such large scale and breadth feasible for completion within three months.
My final deliverable was the intern presentation. Contrary to popular belief, it seems like the presentation is only to confirm your value to the company and isn’t really the only decider in clinching the job. However, the key opportunity of the presentation is the visibility it gives to one’s talent and capabilities to executive management as well as other managers, employees and interns across the company. I was very impressed by the work and capabilities of my fellow interns. My past work experience as well as classes in the Broad program have given me the requisite skills to differentiate myself when presenting. Being creative and humorous, having a hook, following a consistent but engaging flow of useful information and finishing strongly do help for a successful presentation and were also the key reasons my presentation was well-received. It was described as the “most compelling case for connectivity” by the VP of business development and “the clearest explanation on the connectivity story I’ve heard to date” by the VP of Sales and Marketing. I was asked to give encore presentations to the President of the company and other COEs. The music I had chosen for a mini-video/slideshow segment in my presentation is now being considered for licensing as the official theme song of the Connected HospitalSM platform.
The importance of meetings/networking luncheons can never be stressed enough. It is the best opportunity to meet and get to know people across the organization as well as for them to get to know you. I had so many of them scheduled and it was a great chance to build relationships outside those that are made through the course of projects. On the fun side, there were many intern outings and fun events and I took advantage of the opportunities to unwind as well as network. Playing Cricket and Soccer on a few days made me realize how out-of-shape I was!…and so I was in the company’s fitness room quite often thereafter. Few more firsts in terms of activities outside work during my internship period – I got to play Kickball, Ultimate Frisbee and swam in an American water body (St. Joe beach). I also was a part of the Stryker volunteer team for monthly work with Habitat for Humanity and helped in building a house for a lady who had suffered a stroke.
A couple of days before leaving, I received a book on cost innovation called “Dragons at your door” from the VP of business development with a very encouraging note wishing me the very best. My manager was the last to say goodbye and dropped me off at home that evening. He also gave me a card and a gift and it was quite a sentimental situation. The greatest recognition of the impact of my work came in the form of a full-time offer to be Product Manager for Connected HospitalSM.
Leaving was a very strange feeling, but at the same time I did miss many of my colleagues at the Broad school. I never thought that I would ever miss East Lansing either but I actually did. In between on a weekend, I stole a visit to meet my Broad school buddies in St. Joe (interns at Whirlpool) to spend my birthday with them and it felt really good to be together again. While I do miss the fast-paced atmosphere of work, it is with a renewed interest to ‘study’ (party!!!) with friends in my final 9 months of b-school that I am back. I expect the last two semesters to be a blast as I learn a lot more, add to first time experiences as well as have a great time with my classmates who I hope will remain my friends for life. Cheers!