Alisha Johnson WG’11 interned at Kopali Organics in Miami, FL

2010-2011 Startup Internship Award Winner, supported by the Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board

How did you find the position?
The job was posted on the alumni job board for Harvard College.

What was your motivation at working for a startup?
Initially I pursued a marketing internship at much larger companies that recruit on campus.  Once that process ended without me securing an internship, I pursued opportunities at smaller organizations that were still recruiting.  As a career switcher, it was very important for me to secure a marketing internship at a consumer products company.  So I was focused more on the industry of the company and the role of the internship than the size of the company itself.

What advice would you give to students interested in working at a startup over the summer?
I think it’s important to think in advance what exactly you’re looking for in a summer internship since you’ll have a better opportunity to dictate your responsibilities at a smaller company that doesn’t have a structured internship program.

About the Summer Experience
Prior to Wharton I worked in affordable housing development as a Project Manager.  My job involved overseeing my direct staff in sales and leasing, but also coordinating between cross-functional partners in other departments such as construction and finance, as well as team members external to the company, such as people in City Hall.  Initially my goal when coming to Wharton was to pursue a career in finance where I would work on projects funding affordable housing and other community development areas.  However, I quickly discovered that finance wasn’t my passion and then discovered my interest in marketing and specifically focused my internship search on brand management roles at consumer product companies.

It took a lot of work for me to find my summer internship.  I was a member of the Marketing Club and participated in all the company visits and coffee chats that the organization offered.  I dropped a resume and cover letter for all the brand management roles posted for on campus recruiting, interviewed for a few, but did not receive an offer.  By the end of February it became apparent that I was not likely going to work at a large company since most had secured all their interns.  So I started searching for smaller companies that were still recruiting.

I continued to search on Wharton’s job board, but other resources that I used included the alumni job board for Harvard (where I went for my undergraduate studies), and online job search databases like Monster.com and Indeed.com.  I also tried reaching out by phone or email to consumer products companies that I was interested in.  For example, I find Everyman Jack a very interesting brand of men’s personal care products.  So I reached out to them.  I would also look for information on marketing conferences held by Wharton and other schools to look at the list of speakers that have attended and what companies they were from.  Then I would do research on the company and reach out to see if they had marketing internships available.

This process was difficult because it wasn’t as simple or structured as the on campus recruiting process.  I had to be very organized and do frequent follow up in order to get a response.  Eventually I found the posting for Kopali Organics on Harvard’s alumni job board and submitted a resume and cover letter.  Soon after I was interviewed and then later offered a job.  The offer came about a week before second semester finals.  The job involved three main areas: working with retailers to gain new distribution or secure better placement in store, raising consumer awareness of the product by giving away free product in store and interacting with consumers, and designing and executing a focus group comparing one of our chocolate products to competitors.  The internship reinforced that marketing is where I want to be, and will hopefully help me secure a full-time brand management position after graduation.