As part of the Medill IMC full-time graduate program, students are required to work for a company over the summer in what is known as the Immersion Quarter. Students have the option to work in a group with others in the IMC program, or they can venture out on their own in an individual assignment. I decided to work as part of a larger group, as many jobs rely heavily on working with others. As a result, we were provided a list of about twenty companies who had designed IMC-related projects and we were asked to select our top ten, one of which we would ultimately be assigned to.
Having taken a number of classes related to communications, I selected projects that centered around that aspect of IMC. A project that was of particular interest to me was one surrounding internal communications at Mondelēz International, the company that owns Oreo’s and Ritz Crackers, among other brands. I was very excited to find out that I had been assigned to the Mondelez project, and was glad to find out that I liked the people who I was assigned to work with.
For me, working at Mondelēz was a completely new experience. While I had taken a year off between college and graduate school, I was unable to find a full-time job during that period and the internships I had found were for relatively smaller companies. Walking into Mondelēz, a global organization with more than 100,000 employees, was a bit daunting on my first day. Here was a real company, and I was supposed to help develop a solution that impacted the entire business. I knew that I had a unique set of skills, but being an outsider and never having actually worked as an employee on internal communications I felt like it might be difficult to actually affect change in the organization.
While the task we were faced with initially seemed like it might be difficult, we knew that we had the ability to succeed. Starting out, we utilized some of the information we had learned in Professor Michelle Weinberger’s Consumer Insights class and tried to discover significant pain points among employees (for our project, employees were the ones who would be using our “product,” and in this way were similar to customers). While we did not do full-scale ethnography, we conducted a number of interviews and distributed surveys to different stakeholders in the company, not just at the organization’s Chicago-area headquarters, but around the world. As a team of five, we also used these interviews to better understand the company and its culture so that we could create recommendations that would be impactful and accepted by the organization.
From the responses we obtained, we were able to gauge some of the pain points experienced by company employees, as well as suggestions for improvement going forward. This information proved to be essential in developing our ultimate recommendations for the company, directly influencing a number of our suggestions. In developing our ideas, we also incorporated concepts from Professor Dan Gruber’s Managing Integration course, such as engaging employees on a deeper, more personal level beyond their work. When we delivered our ideas, the employees that we presented to seemed very happy with the work that we had done, which was nice to hear and showed that our hard work paid off.
As a whole, the project was really enjoyable. The people that we worked with at Mondelēz were very helpful and open to sharing their thoughts with us. It was nice going in every day knowing that the company supported what we were doing. While the project itself helped our team grow, it was also very enjoyable going to and from work as a team. This gave me an opportunity to learn more about my team members, as I had not worked with some of them before.
Another benefit of working at a snack company like Mondelēz is that there was an employee store where one could buy products from all over the world at a discounted price. Personally, I know that I often would go to the store in the morning and buy some chocolate to give me a boost through the rest of the day. People should pay attention to things like this when looking for a job!
Chocolate and bonding aside, spending my Immersion Quarter at Mondelēz really helped me grow as someone about to enter the professional world for the first time. The experience allowed me to utilize what I learned in IMC within a real organization and to gain valuable experience with a large company. I will certainly use what I learned from at Mondelēz in my work going forward.