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(Non)Traditional Internship

In just a few weeks we will meet the SOM Class of 2014 and if their Chatter group is any indication, there are a lot of nontraditional backgrounds. In fact, based on 2013's palette of internship choices and 2012's range in full-time placements, nontraditional appears to be the norm at SOM. To be clear, consulting and financial services still boast the highest absolute number of interns, but the spread of industry and function interests is truly amazing. Take my friend group for example - Consulting, Economic development, Education, Financial Services, Government, Healthcare, Media, Private Equity, Tech, and 3 are starting their own ventures at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. In this context, my internship at the Guatemalan social start-up Ecofiltro is almost just another nontraditional choice. Almost. A dear SOM friend connected me with Ecofiltro's CEO during our International Experience while we were at a Vietnam hotel. After four Skype calls from three continents, we agreed on a strategy project and an operations project to keep me busy for 10 weeks. With one week left, I can honestly say it has been an incredible experience albeit in quite a nontraditional setting. During the first 5 weeks in Guatemala, I traveled to 7 rural communities of about 200 households to observe their routines, needs and interactions. The objective was determining a scalable and replicable strategy for delivering ecofiltros sustainably to these communities (the ecofiltro is a simple clay water filter that eliminates 99.9% of all water contaminants from any water source, which needs to be replaced annually). Referring to a number of readings from the Innovator perspective I decided to run an exercise we employed in Innovator with Ecofiltro's field staff.

The result was truly insightful and my Guatemalan peers gladly assisted me in fleshing out a comprehensive strategy by testing our assumptions. They rolled out the new system in the field and the initial results were so promising that I convinced the CEO to change Ecofiltro's business model to increase the return on rural engagement efforts. Over the past 4 weeks I have been getting my hands dirty at the Ecofiltro plant applying an array of methods we learned in the Operations Engine. The objective is to decrease process variability and, hopefully, failure rate by establishing standard operating procedures and implementing simple improvements such as centering the mean of the water flow rate (Prof. Swersey will be proud I remembered!), which is much harder to accomplish in real life. The jury is still out on that one, but I sure know much more about pottery than I ever thought I would. All in all, I applied many newly learned tools; I experimented; I succeeded and failed, but I learned; I helped guide an amazing organization (with awards from the World Bank, G20, the Schwab Foundation, the Unreasonable Institute, Sustainable Brands and many more) in a very exciting time; and I helped bring about change in the access to potable water for rural Guatemalans. I can't tell if that's a traditional MBA internship experience, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

A visit by another SOM'13 - Neela Pal and her internship colleagues.
Neela Pal - SOM'13 interning at Agora Partnerships
Maria Rodriguez – Byoearth
Sara Lila Cordero – Agora Partnerships
Philip Wilson - CEO of Ecofiltro
Yordanka Martin - SOM'13 interning at Ecofiltro
Dana Warren – Frontier Market Scout[/caption]