Summer project: an opportunity to explore and experiment!

Today’s guest entry is by Anupama Kateja.

Having already done one management program from a prestigious school eight years ago, I was being discouraged from pursuing another similar program. However, I was clear – it wasn’t an MBA program I was opting for, it was IMD’s international customized program structure that encouraged me to pursue a second masters.

Up until two years ago, the IMD program offered a three-week summer break between the two extremely intense first and second semesters of the program. From 2015 onwards, the break was replaced with an opportunity to do a Company Engagement Project (CEP) for five weeks. The IMD MBA class consists of highly experienced business professionals, many of whom may be looking to change industries/ geographies/ functions. This summer project gives the candidates a glimpse into different companies, functions, roles, before they make up their minds on the post MBA career opportunities.

Prior to IMD, I had experienced working with large international conglomerates internationally and had also managed my family business. So, while I understand the work culture and challenges in large and small scale organisations, post IMD I want to specifically explore prospects in industrial goods/ automotive sectors. Additionally, digitization is disrupting the young and traditional industries globally, so I wanted to understand its impact on the industries of my interest. To find a combination of these two elements for just a five-week summer project was not an easy task.

I had been following developments on a British company for the past couple of years that is engaged in heavy manufacturing in the aerospace industry. They traditionally do not hire summer interns or MBA candidates for managerial roles. However, it had been my dream to work with them. That’s also one of the reasons I chose to come to IMD – their strong presence and recognition in industry. With the help of the MBA Career Services Office, I was able to secure a project with them.

Fortunately, as I desired, the project required me to work on developing a plan to help strengthen the digital organization and capability in order to offer improved service solutions to customers. In a traditional industry that is now required to constantly cope with the technological and analytics advancement, this project gave me a healthy exposure to strategy, corporate planning, human resources, as well as business unit teams. I developed a sound understanding of how internal strategies and decisions determine an organisation’s competitive positioning, and its long-term financial success. It was also very interesting to learn about how non-traditional competition is threatening the business model of organisations that have flourished for several decades.

It took me longer than most peers to finalise my summer project because I decided to pursue only one specific company that would help me achieve my learning objectives. Along the way, I had to regretfully decline a few project offers, but I did not get pressured when time was running out. The experience of identifying and securing a CEP can be considered a good training ground before the search for final placements commences. What it also taught me was to how to shortlist and prioritise opportunities that are aligned with long-term professional aspirations.

While initially I was not too happy to forego a summer break, I believe that the introduction of a CEP has only made the IMD program more interesting and worthwhile. In addition to landing a project with my dream company, I have also been able to step closer to the industries I want to pursue prospects in post IMD. Whether you’d like to experiment with something that you’d never be able to do in life OR use this as an occasion to network in your target company – it’s important to spend adequate time to understand what you want – to get the most out of this unique program.

Best wishes,
Anu Kateja