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Where could an internship take you?

Customising your MBA experience is something you will be encouraged to do from day one at Cambridge, and electing to do an internship can be a great way of doing it. We spoke to some Cambridge MBAs about their internship journeys.

Portrait of an attractive young businesswoman sitting in the boardroom during a meeting

Harshitha Balini (MBA 2016) secured an internship with Expedia on the Product Strategy Team of the Expedia Affiliate Network – Expedia Group’s B2B brand. Prior to her MBA, Harshitha worked for Google in India, and was looking for opportunities which would allow her to stay in both the technology and travel industry spaces – Expedia ticked all the boxes.

Harshitha was given the task of working on an overall strategy and vision for how to work with the sales, analytics and engineering teams to prioritise and build the right product roadmap. Her three-month stint also gave her experience on a variety of projects – customer satisfaction, market intelligence, competitive intelligence – and the opportunity to learn and interact with many internal and external stakeholders. Her MBA experience proved invaluable:

“I used a lot of what I learned from the MBA included understanding a company and its customers. The practical projects were especially useful in giving me experience of getting under the skin of a company quickly and learning how to approach a business problem in a structured manner. I also found that what I had learned in the Digital Business, and the Strategy modules were really useful during my time at Expedia.”

Securing a role

Of course, an internship is never a guarantee of a permanent role, but in her last week of the internship, Harshitha was offered a job. The advantage of the one-year MBA meant she could accept immediately and transition seamlessly from the internship to the substantive role. She was able to continue the work she had set in motion during her internship and implement the strategies she had drawn up – “it was very satisfying”. She has now moved roles and is in the Media Solutions Strategy team working on the Expedia advertising platform. What advice would she give an MBA candidate considering an internship?

“Internships are really valuable in getting to know a company fast – all the interns at Expedia were invited to ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions over three months with different business teams presenting – it was a great crash course into the different brands of Expedia Group. You become immersed very quickly and after the initial months, you have accrued knowledge and experience that create a strong foundation. You are at an advantage in getting a job following an internship because your training and ramp-up is completed.”

A supportive network

An internship at Google in Berlin also gave MBA 2017 Colin Murphy his start with the company. Colin applied for his internship via a link on the Google website and found himself working in a small office of 90 people in Berlin.

“The team was really supportive and took time to train me. Google is a great place to be an intern – they definitely see it as a trial run for a full-time role. I was encouraged to network to see where I might fit. I also connected with interns from the Cambridge MBA that were located in other offices on video conference every few weeks and it was good to share our experiences.”

At the end of the internship Colin knew he wanted to stay with Google. “It’s an exciting place and the internship was a great insight into all the cool things the company is doing.”

After interviewing, Colin moved from his internship in go-to-market strategy for EMEA sales teams to a full-time role in operations strategy at the Google EMEA headquarters in Dublin: “I feel that staying in strategy and being located in the EMEA headquarters allows me the opportunity continue to learn more about the company and chart a course for myself.”

Google has also given Colin opportunities to work with budding entrepreneurs – something close to his heart. “My dissertation at Cambridge was on post-crisis entrepreneurship ecosystems, which I’m very interested in, and at Google I have had the chance to serve as an advisor to local Dublin startups – something I’m really enjoying.”

Colin’s advice? “Being an MBA candidate provides the opportunity to introduce yourself to companies in a new way and start a dialogue that might not have been possible otherwise. Internships, and the applications and interview processes involved with them, give that chance.”

Internship options

For Margaret O’Neill, Head of MBA Admissions & Careers, internships are all about ways of personalising the MBA and there are a variety of routes available.

“The great thing about internships is that there several routes to them and you can find the one that works for you. There are the formal internships for eight to 10 weeks in large corporations; these are a candidate pipeline – an opportunity for companies seeking talent to ‘try before they buy’. These will be advertised on company websites and/or on the CJBS Careers portal. These opportunities will be open to all MBA programmes, so they are very competitive.

“You can also take a more tailored approach, developing an individual project over the summer with a business you are interested in.
Look at your skills and the challenges faced by the organisation, see where they match and identify the value you can add. Don’t wait passively for internships to be advertised, but present a well thought out project idea to a company and show how you can be a really easy ‘plug and play’ for them. Companies like to see that people have made an effort to get to know them and understand their values and challenges.

“Once you’ve landed an internship, make sure you do a great piece of work which solves a problem or adds value for them. Make yourself invaluable – that way you are likely to be too useful to be let go at the end of your internship. If you fit well with the company ethos and espouse their values, you are already behaving like you are ‘one of the team’.”

Networking is vital to obtaining an internship and to making the most of one, Margaret advises.

“Using informal networks is crucial. Find people who can champion you in the organisation – School alumni who work there or fellow MBA candidates who have worked for the organisation in the past. They will still have useful contacts and can advise you about the culture. Keep a spreadsheet of who you spoke to, or contacted, and when, and follow up with them.”

Her final piece of advice is to start early if you want to secure the internship – and possibly the job – of your dreams.

“Start building your plan early in your MBA – don’t wait until the end. The Careers Office is here to help you, so get in touch to start the discussion about which internship route may be right for you.”