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Through internships, Ivey students help businesses adapt to COVID-19

  • Dawn Milne
  • |
  • Sep 28, 2020
 Through internships, Ivey students help businesses adapt to COVID-19

L-R: Raisa Berkowitz, Matthew Babits, Jessica Newby, and Calvin Ncube

It was a win-win partnership. Ivey students found meaningful summer employment where they could apply business concepts and theories in the real world, and area businesses and not-for-profits had help adapting their operations to the new economic realities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was all thanks to a new internship initiative called the Business Strategy Internship (BSI) program through a partnership between Ivey and Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization that fosters Canadian growth and innovation. The program paired students with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The students undertook a strategic analysis of their partner SME to help the organization restore or modify the business operations. The participating companies gained access to valuable expertise at a reduced rate and in return they helped to develop Ivey students through mentorship and work opportunities. In total, 50 students in Ivey’s HBA and MSc programs participated through summer internships.

Here’s a look at some of the students’ experiences.

Matthew Babits, HBA ’21 Candidate

Position: Strategy Intern at FutureVault, July 14-September 30, 2020

Format: Virtual

Making an impact: Working with the Chief Cybersecurity Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer, Babits managed a junior intern on a project related to the company’s marketing campaign. This included social media and blog posts. He was also involved with marketing of the company’s recent launch of its Digitization-as-a-Service offering in partnership with Iron Mountain, and a project focused on improving the company’s user experience design.

The takeaways: Babits said he learned it’s important to go beyond the tasks you’re assigned and to also identify what a business needs and to try to find solutions. His experience at Ivey prepared him for that.

“You have to problem-solve all the time on the job and Ivey is all about problem-solving, failing, and learning. That got me used to not knowing how to approach a problem and then having to figure it out,” he said.

He also learned how to cope in a virtual work environment and said he found it valuable to schedule time with people at various points in a project to go over developments since sometimes you couldn’t interact with people daily.

Overall, he said he was pleased to get some corporate experience prior to the recruiting season at Ivey because it helped him to know what he is passionate about and what career areas interest him.

Memorable moment: For Babits, the chance to mentor an intern was valuable and it was his first time having a leadership role in a professional setting.

I did not have a full appreciation of how much skill mentoring and managing in a professional setting require until this internship,” he said. “This experience has allowed me to recognize both my strengths and areas of development to continue growing this skill in my career.”

Raisa Berkowitz, HBA ’21 Candidate

Position: Marketing Intern at Anova Fertility & Reproductive Health, July 6-September 18, 2020

Format: Mostly virtual, but onsite once a week

Making an impact: Berkowitz helped with content creation and social media, including writing blog posts to promote Anova’s services and educate the community.

The analytical thinking she learned at Ivey helped her to see situations through the eyes of the customer.

“Every time I created something, whether it be a blog post or a graphic, I looked at it in terms of how it would be perceived by the customer,” she said.

The takeaways: While in high school, Berkowitz decided she wanted to pursue a career in Marketing, and her experience at Anova confirmed that she still wants to follow that path. Although she had not previously considered working in health care, she said she found it rewarding to know her work was helping Anova’s patients, and that opened her eyes to opportunities in this industry.

“It’s easier to get work done when you’re passionate about it and it feels like you’re adding value,” she said. “It’s important to do something that interests you.”

In adapting to the virtual work environment, Berkowitz said she learned to prioritize tasks, take initiative, and make the most of face-to-face contacts with people.

“With limited face-to-face contact, asking questions and having regular check-ins are really important,” she said. “My in-person meetings with my supervisor were very valuable so a key takeaway was to take advantage of any face-to-face time you have with someone.”

Memorable moment: Berkowitz said learning she had been accepted for the internship was a highlight because she hadn’t been optimistic she would get summer employment during the pandemic. She was also pleasantly surprised to meet another Ivey student, Tianlu Sun, who was a Business Strategy Analyst there.

She said she also appreciated the chance to see firsthand how important it is for an organization to be customer-focused.

“I learned that having a customer-centric business is always important,” she said. “Making the services personable and as customer-centric as possible can help to make an uncomfortable experience more enjoyable.”

Calvin Ncube, MSc ’21 Candidate

Position Analytics and Strategy Consultant at Bosco and Roxy's, May 4-August 14, 2020

Format: Virtual, other than touring the site once 

Making an impact: Ncube built a Production Planning model driven by analytics to be used in place of an Enterprise Resource Planning system to reduce technology costs during a period when the company was transitioning between providers. To differentiate his model from existing software, he built in customized features to improve the company’s process for production planning. 

The takeaways: Ncube said he learned how to apply analytics in a pragmatic way to address business challenges and drive value. He also reflected on the importance of leaning into complexity. 

“Your thought process has to be agile. It’s imperative to adopt to the nuances of existing policies and data architecture that already exists. By doing so, you can leverage existing resources to bring structure into your problem-solving processing and understand the key drivers that impact the business,” he said. 

He said Ivey’s MSc Program helped to prepare him for this by exposing him to various problem-solving exercises. He had already worked on a case focused on an automation problem. 

Memorable moment: Walking into a 30,000-square-foot bakery and seeing an integration of automated machines alongside assembly lines producing dog biscuits seamlessly from start to finish. A highlight of his experience was his first meeting with Jaymie Crook, EMBA ’17, Co-Owner of Bosco and Roxy's, who inspired him to make a difference. 

“The first thing he told us is you’re here to have an impact. It was very inspiring because he let us lead the project from start to end,” said Ncube. “It was a great opportunity to be a product owner while collaborating with the local business community and to help contribute to the continued success of an Ivey alumnus’ business venture.”

 Ncube also saw firsthand how the company pivoted during the pandemic and expanded from solely producing dog cookies to also making bread and other baked goods. 

“In a pandemic, most businesses resort to planning, rather than pivoting immediately and taking action, but Bosco and Roxy's actively anticipates challenges and adapts at a rapid pace to new realities,” he said. “When you’re in an innovative culture, you lean into your intellectual curiosity and develop novel solutions to challenges. When you’re at the forefront of developing models to support core business operations, you wear many hats and it really broadens your perspective on how analytics can be utilized with purpose.” 

Jessica Newby, MSc ’21 Candidate

Position: Marketing Data Analyst at the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario, May 21-Sept. 30, 2020

Format: Virtual

Making an impact: Coming in with a solid foundation of business and data analytics knowledge from the MSc program, Newby was well-equipped for her role, where she worked with Elyse Sheare, EMBA ’12, Vice President of Marketing & Communications.

Her responsibilities included exporting data from YMCA’s database, cleaning and manipulating that data, and providing insights and recommendations for the marketing and communications, development, and senior leadership teams.

“Courses like marketing and strategy had already taught me what I needed to know to provide actionable recommendations for the marketing and communications team at the YMCA,” she said.  “Other courses, like big data analytics and communications, allowed me to carry out my analysis and present it clearly for my colleagues.”

The takeaways: Newby said her internship with the YMCA taught her that real-world businesses have many components and that strong analysis requires gaining insights from multiple teams and departments.

“My biggest takeaway was to not be afraid to ask questions. When I first started, I felt nervous to ask my colleagues questions about the organization and my projects. With my internship being remote, it felt even scarier to email questions to people I had only briefly met over a video call,” she said. “However, as the internship progressed, I realized, once I began asking the right people the right questions, it saved me time, made my analyses more in-depth, and allowed me to develop concrete professional relationships with the amazing staff at the YMCA.”

Memorable moment: After working virtually throughout the internship, a highlight for Newby was getting a chance to meet her colleagues in person toward the end of the summer.

“One afternoon in August, we had a physically-distanced get-together and it was so nice to actually meet the people I had been interacting with through a screen all summer,” she said.