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Inspired by Design (and Speakers)

Craft PartyWoo, is it HOT in Brooklyn, or what? (I feel like I start all my blog posts with a comment on the weather, so I didn’t want to rock the boat.) I'm now just over halfway done with my internship at Etsy, and there aren't enough superlatives out there to describe how awesome this experience has been. I've already completed one internal consulting project determining the future of "Eatsy," which is Etsy's office food program featuring local chefs and caterers, and locally-sourced and organic food. It was a great way to get to know different stakeholders throughout the company - I eventually got to present my findings and recommendations directly to our CFO, SVP of HR, and Chad, our CEO. It was also a great opportunity for me to use the quantitative analysis and strategic management skills I've gained from my time in the core curriculum. In fact, I was honestly caught quite off guard by how much of the core experience I utilized and even remembered over the course of the project. It was a strange and slightly ludicrous feeling working on my final presentation because of how closely the experience tracked with what I’d done all of Spring 2 for our ILP class. Just goes to show that school may be more like the real world than I expected!

I can't quite talk about my other projects, but I will mention that the culture of this office has helped to solidify my belief that there are workplaces that fit every personality out there. I was apprehensive that my old job, New York Cares, was the only place I'd ever see that weighed fun and the joy of discovery equally with a seriousness of mission and purpose. Etsy has proved me that there are other organizations out there where I can feel that same sense of exuberant passion. It's also wonderful to see Etsy deliver on its mission, vision, and values, and to do so in a way that adds value to society AND to its bottom line. From the handmade office furniture to dog friendliness to hack days and, yes, to Eatsy, this really feels like a place that is designed to foster creativity, productivity, and a commitment to crafting amazing products. I’m very, very happy with my internship so far.  

In other respects, summer has been vastly less jam-packed than the academic year. I’ve had time to walk the High Line, go to a film festival in Prospect Park, scarf down a wicked ice cream sandwich at the Etsy Craft Party, and soak up the sun and surf at the quickly-rebuilding-from-Sandy Rockaway Beach. All without leaving the City, and most without leaving Brooklyn! That said, I’m trying to keep up a steady pace of activities so I don’t get too soft before returning to school in 5 (!!!) weeks. Just last night I took a sketching class at the Design Gym, and two weeks ago we met with the head of the Design Management Institute for a discovery session on design thinking and business education. (“We” in this case refers to myself and my fellow leaders and members of the Design + Innovation Club at SOM, the largest club on campus.) I’ve also been directly applying these lessons learned toward building a curriculum for the club, (I’m Curriculum Lead this year), in applying design thinking principles to the job search, innovation in the workplace, and personal branding and storytelling. Why the strong focus on these areas? Well, this is almost ancient history at this point, but I had the ridiculously rare opportunity this spring to meet with two tremendous speakers who came to campus. The first was Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, the premiere design consultancy, and one of the top 15 most desired companies for MBAs. I was lucky enough to participate in a small group lunch with Tim after he spoke, and I got to sit directly across from him as we talked about the future of design and business, why it’s important for MBAs to learn this stuff, and about the way Yale has positioned itself to be on the forefront of that movement. (ProTip: It’s happening whether you want it to or not, so get on board!) I was really inspired by Tim and the amazing work he’s done over at IDEO, and I hope I get the chance to meet him again at Yale or elsewhere.

The other speaker we had was Austin Ligon ’80, Founder and Retired CEO of CarMax. He spent an entire day guest-teaching a CarMax case in our Employee class, and was filled with great insights on innovation, human capital, and competitive strategy. I was one of a lucky four students selected to have dinner with him that evening, (at Heirloom, one of New Haven’s finest). The conversation over dinner varied from our perceptions of the changes at SOM, (his view: good), tales of being in the car business, advice for the future, and stories of his days as an MBA student, (he met his wife in his class and jokes that SOM stands for “School of Marriage”). I was amazed at his generosity in spending not only a whole day with students, but to volunteer his evening as well. Even more impressively, he followed up with us after the dinner, and had extended e-mail conversations with further advice on entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and being a key person in your network.

LigonI’m glad to say, you’ll find stories similar to these amongst many of my classmates. We’ve been given a wealth of opportunity during our time at Yale. What really strikes me, though, is how those opportunities have translated directly into the real world this summer, and how they’ve shaped my vision of the future, my future. I now know that wherever I go in my career, I want to be able to employ the skills I’ve learned in Innovator, Customer, and Employee, and I’ll actively seek to do that at organizations like Etsy, where the very fabric of the company is built around valuing employee experiences and contributions. Looking forward to the rest of the summer, and even more to meeting our new classmates in the Class of 2015 in a few short weeks!