“Professional Pathways is a great way to get real world experience to complement an academic education”
Line Manager Name: Brian Hume
Job Title: Managing Director
How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?
We sell e-learning education to retailers, consumer goods companies and their suppliers all over the world. We have waited a long time to have the capacity to develop a detailed analysis of our pricing strategy and pricing levels verses key competition in our main markets – the US, Middle east and India. The intern project gave us the opportunity to get a significant piece of it done and we were fortunate to get Freya.
There were several key findings:
1. Competitors who offer thousands of classes including some retail ones, generally offer training products written by individuals rather than training companies. They have processes to follow their technical needs but do not have quality control processes for the content in the classes. We do. We need to bring this out appropriately in our marketing.
2. Prices were not very different from ours when the competitors were not on sale. However, some of them are on sale more than 50% of the time and the discounts are very deep. Hence our base prices are not an issue, but we do have to have a better promotional response.
3. We asked our Freya to review some sample competitor courses and her results caused us to do a few more. We now understand that we can charge a premium over competitors’ prices because of our quality, but our current premium may be too high when competitors are on sale.
4. We learned that our big competitors can offer individual classes, but they can’t offer an organised curriculum, for those who want to study a complete and structurally sound learning path over time, to help them in their career development. This is now a major focus area on our soon to be released new web site.
5. Freya examined the way our competitors do their pricing and made some very good suggestions for improving our approach, that we had not previously considered.
How was your experience of hosting a Pathways intern?
Our intern worked remotely, as we all do in Martec. We no longer have an office. This worked well on the project because:
– we invited Freya to a meet the team meeting online using Microsoft Teams a couple of weeks before the project started. We also gave her a short briefing so she knew what the detailed project would be and her role in it.
– we had regular meetings every day or two, again using teams to discuss issues and findings
– and we made it clear to Freya that she could ask us any questions at any time, either by email, phone or by suggesting a Teams meeting whenever necessary. The end result of this is that we had a high level of person-to-person communication.
– I think it is fair to say that we all had a good, relaxed working relationship.
Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, how would you recommend ensuring both you and your intern(s) gain as much as possible from the experience?
The first thing is to define a scope of work and plan, where it is realistic to have a valuable deliverable or two within the time available. Then you need to brief the intern and assure them that you have realistic expectations of what they can accomplish in the time they have. As part of the briefing, give them a draft work plan and the freedom to change it as they learn some things you don’t currently know. You can measure early progress against the original plan and then change it based on feedback as you progress.
We asked Freya to email us summaries of key steps which we could read and review as a group and then give more or updated direction. We reviewed the feedback as Freya produced it, so she could clarify anything or do a bit more on researching specific queries.
In making the plan, it is important not to give them tasks that require too much administrative work, such as producing nice slides, as this detracts from a big percentage of the 35 hours. We assigned a colleague to take on admin that our intern could avoid. As the company, you gain most by maximizing the use of the intern’s brainpower.
Why would you recommend Professional Pathways to other employers?
Yes I would. You need to pick a project that is important to you, so your staff take it seriously and are keen for the intern to succeed. You need to plan it in advance and make sure the scope is realistic. I prefer to have the work spread over two weeks as your intern can sleep on things and wake up with other thoughts that are important. Also, they don’t know your business like you do, so they ask questions your staff might not ask, so you do get fresh thinking, which is surprisingly helpful and happens when you were not expecting it. You do have to dedicate some senior person’s time on the project, to make sure that the intern is not delayed by colleagues who have other goals to achieve. Colleagues don’t do this on purpose, but they are not counting down the 35 hours, so it can happen unconsciously.
To be blunt, if you have the right project, can scope it appropriately and provide the right support, you would be dumb not to take advantage of it.
What advice would you give to a student considering applying for Professional Pathways?
This is a great way to get real world experience to complement an academic education. If you can get a project working with a senior executive, you can get exposure to the real-world decision-making challenges that you face later in your career. Then you can see how other executives respond to the challenges. Look for companies that will value your feedback and integrate you into their team for the time you are engaged with them. Go for those that provide administrative backup, so you spend more time on the “brainwork”. Keep asking meaningful questions. Even if they don’t know the answers, they will respect people that probe. If they don’t, you know not to apply to them for a job.