Cindy Kim, Wharton MBA 2013, Interned with Memebox in Seoul, South Korea.
How did you find the position?
I found the position at Memebox through a VC friend of mine in Seoul.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I wanted to work at an early-stage startup over the summer in order to gain insightful exposure to the daily operations and growing pains of a startup. I felt that the lessons I would learn at Memebox would be invaluable for when I started my own company.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Figure out what kind of experience you are looking for in terms of industry, stage, and role, and then look to join a startup that offers a product or service that truly interests and intrigues you. That way, you will seize every opportunity throughout the summer to learn and enjoy yourself.
How was your experience?
I wanted to head back to Seoul for the summer to be a part of the burgeoning startup scene. Korea has a very conservative and risk-averse society, so the fact that so many young entrepreneurs are forgoing well-regarded jobs at traditional companies to pursue entrepreneurship is an exciting trend to be witnessing, and one that I wanted to experience for myself.
MemeBox, which launched in February 2012, had been able to gather more than 30,000 subscribers and catapult itself to the top of the competition by the time I got there. Needless to say, the office was always abuzz and alive with excitement. My role and responsibilities at the company changed almost every day over the course of the summer. And throughout the twists and turns, and ups and downs, I found myself drawing upon a lot of my past work experiences as well as lessons I had learned in my Wharton classes to help with my role.
What did you learn from your internship?
One of the most important lessons I learned at Memebox was to step up or be relegated to the sidelines. I had specified to the CEO before I joined that I wanted to work on logistics and operations projects. When I got to the company, I politely waited around for several days thinking that the CEO would delegate some responsibilities and projects to me. What a waste of time! The firm was far too busy and too disorganized to care for or even take any notice of me. I was expected to create my own objectives and projects, and manage those processes from beginning to end on my own. This was somewhat daunting, but I also saw it as an incredible opportunity to take ownership, act as a decision-maker, and help the company find and implement new ideas.
Another big takeaway from my summer was that fantastic leaders come in all shapes and sizes. As MBA students, we are primed to believe that great leaders come from Ivy League schools and pedigreed backgrounds. But this is certainly not the case. The CEO of Memebox is someone who has taken an interesting and non-traditional path in his career, guided simply by his passion for fashion and business. Wherever these interests took him, he went, even with all the potential risks and downfalls that could follow such decisions. I greatly admire this about him. As a leader in the workplace, he put his experience to work in a calm and passionate way. He is someone who proudly recognizes his own shortcomings, is confident in his strengths, and strives to learn more and be better every day. It sounds like an excerpt from a piece on leadership, but to see an entrepreneur that truly embodies these qualities makes me believe that great business leaders come from all walks of life.
How did this experience influence your future career plans?
There is so much to gain from working at a startup – especially if you are the type of person that thrives on making something from nothing, finding creative ways to implement ideas, taking ownership of your work, and learning and being open to very new and sometimes unexpected experiences and people! I can honestly say that the experience I had at Memebox and the networks I created during my summer there are helping me immensely as I begin to launch my own business.
Cindy Kim is currently an MBA candidate at the Wharton School and Co-Founder of Peach and Lily, a beauty e-commerce site changing the way consumers discover, access, and shop for Asian beauty products (www.peachandlily.com). She began her career in finance as an investment banking analyst and p rivate equity associate in New York, before deciding that startups was where she wanted to be. Cindy has since worked for several e-commerce startups, including a social commerce startup and beauty subscription startup in Korea. Cindy has worked extensively on building the synchronized skating program in Asia, and runs one of the first synchronized skating teams in South Korea. She graduated from Wellesley College with a B.A. in Economics.