By Makena Finger W’17, Sutton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow
How did you find the position?
I sent an email to the contact email address listed on Dagne Dover’s website, expressing how much I related to the company and what I thought I could bring as an intern. I interviewed with Melissa Mash (WG’12), the CEO, and then Deepa Gandhi (WG’13), the COO, who ended up being my boss, and that was that!
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
My ultimate dream is to be an entrepreneur, and I am highly considering retail operations management as a career, so I thought that working in operations at a retail startup would be ideal as a way to experience a bit of each.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Be passionate! Startup culture is fueled by the passion that the employees, interns or not, have for the company’s mission. Find a startup that you think is great, and express that interest to them. Also, be ready for the ups and downs of startup life. Every day is a new twist or turn, so embrace it! Roll with the changes and use them as learning opportunities.
I came into Dagne Dover at a very exciting time in the company’s development. Only a few months before, the company had decided to switch to using a fantastic new factory in Asia after having seen a huge response to the first two production runs that they released for sale. The summer was going to be used for all of the final touches on the logistics, design, and brand development in preparation for the first production run at the new factory and the simultaneous Fall Re-Launch. The whole team was gearing up to perfect the company’s signature “effortlessly chic” handbags that aim to marry fashion sense with functionality.
Though according to my title I was an Operations Intern, I wore countless hats throughout my nine weeks at Dagne Dover. Within the Operations team, we worked tirelessly to coordinate the new factory with the new distribution center, optimize our customer service platforms, synchronize all of our systems, and so on. I worked hands-on with all facets of Operations and truly had a hand in the huge developments that happened daily. As a team, we prepared the entire supply chain and analytics frameworks for the biggest production run Dagne Dover had done yet. It was absolutely a “learn by fire” type of experience: I learned so much from teaching myself how to use the data or knowledge that I was given to create the result I needed.
Be passionate! Startup culture is fueled by the passion that the employees, interns or not, have for the company’s mission.
Each day as I walked into all-white, intern-filled office in the Garment District, I had no idea what to expect. My days of conference calls with the distribution center and Excel work were often interspersed with runs to leather suppliers or running around the city to prepare for the company’s first official photo-shoot. Life at Dagne Dover, as at any other startup, is all about flexibility. The other interns and I quickly learned to embrace the constant change of pace, and to look forward to the ups and downs that come with working at a growing company. When I talk about what I learned at Dagne Dover, I can reference both the extensive Operations work I had a hand in and the flexibility, cross-team communication, and other soft skills that I developed.
Thirdly, I gained fantastic mentors while working at Dagne Dover. The three co-founders have not only incredible experience in everything from corporate retail to product development to finance, but they truly want each of their interns to succeed. I also was fortunate enough to work alongside a woman who had several years of experience at a major accounting firm; her career transition into the retail industry provided me the unique opportunity to pick her brain on analytics and building reports as well as to gain yet another mentor.
[tweetthis alt=”‘If you’re interested in working at a startup, do it.’ Advice from Makena Finger #W17, via @WhartonEntrep” hashtag=”” url=”http://whr.tn/1Em49CY” ]If you’re interested in working at a startup, do it.[/tweetthis]You will have access to so many facets of building a business, therefore developing skills in both your area of interest and in just about every other area as well. Explore startups in the field you are interested in and jump into the experience 110%. You will see returns on your work both in the company’s development as well as in your own career path. Plus, you will have one great adventure along the way!
Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowships are available to Penn/Wharton Undergraduates and First Year MBAs. They are awarded to students who plan to spend the summer in an entrepreneurial setting and who demonstrate both a commitment to entrepreneurship at Penn and to pursuing an entrepreneurial career. To learn more or to apply, click here.