Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Life of a Summer Intern at: Unilever

Two years ago I got a call that I never expected. It was a Friday morning, and in addition to frustrations of pulling an all-nighter, I was anxious about the verdict from my last interview two days before. Halfway through brushing my teeth, my phone rang and flashed a number that I knew could only have been from one possible person: the Unilever HR rep. Nervous, and with a toothbrush still in my hand, I answered - and 50 short seconds later, I was pleasantly surprised by an internship offer.

So much has happened during my summers with Unilever since then, and I’ve had an amazing experience! Last year, I was working close to the Walmart headquarters in Arkansas – a pleasantly surprising state by the way – in Customer Development. I was asked to build a digitized tool to help us track “incremental retail,” essentially any sales above and beyond what we expected to make. The problem? I’d had ZERO programming experience before. So initially, I was worried, but Unilever enrolled me in a Microsoft Access class (way more beneficial than BMGT301) that really took my project forward, and that’s one of the best things about working for this company: they believe in making investments in their employees. In retrospect, it was just what I needed out of an internship – the opportunity to get completely out of my comfort zone and use both critical thinking and technical skills to create something meaningful. My only issue? I wish I’d been 21 and had a car – it’s hard to do anything in Rogers, Arkansas otherwise…

When I got an offer to come back, I hesitated; CD had been interesting, but I honestly just wanted to be in marketing. Nervous as I was about their reaction, I asked Unilever to transfer me – and they did. That was a huge learning experience: in my opinion, so long as you have a good reason for asking something of your company, absolutely do it, because you may regret it if you don’t. Now, I’m working in Brand Development (in marketing) for a really exciting product: Suave Kids! Essentially, I have to develop a long-term strategy to help us gain market share. Since my other internship and class experiences have always focused on short-term deliverables, this is still out of my comfort zone, but it’s exciting nonetheless. I’ve gotten a chance to work on everything from licensing to product innovation to sustainability, and along the road, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Ogilvy, conduct my own focus group, and plan an event for all of the interns. At a company as large as Unilever, you’ll obviously have to be patient with all of the intricate processes involved in decision-making, but if you create work for yourself even when it isn’t mandatory, people will notice it and appreciate it.

             As this is my last “internable” (word?) summer, I’m definitely hoping for a full-time offer with Unilever, ideally in marketing. Hope it works out! Feel free to email me at if you have any questions about it – I’d be happy to answer! 

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