(We took a group picture on the last day!)
It has been one week from my fantastic externship at Strategic Partners. We were treated seriously. Each day we met 6-7 key figures from different departments in the company, learning about their work duties and personal experiences. Some meetings were more informative, and others were more interactive. I was quite impressed by their envision for this company and willingness to help us.
Other than these intensive informative interviews, we were given a real project about Strategic Partners’ coming product. We had the chance to exchange ideas with the core group when we presented our recommendations. There were also other opportunities where we presented our opinions on the company’s projects. I was impressed when some industry experts listened to us carefully.
Overall, I would recommend the Bridge Externship Program, and Strategic Partners specifically. In my opinion, it is a great choice for students who show interests in production, garment industry, and entrepreneur. Students can also learn a lot and may get inspired if they haven’t figured out their career interest.
Thank you for reading!
It has been a week, and I still appreciate being under Brad’s wing learning the ins-and-outs of a startup. I have also been lucky to extern at such a unique time, because Flasking.com is in its pre-startup stage. What has made last week memorable was that there was an entrepreneur everyday that Brad and I met during lunch and learned their secret sauce as entrepreneurs. Instead of learning straightforward and methodically like any school setting, entrepreneurship is more like a story, experiencing each chapter day-by-day. The way that Brad set up the externship was more of a journey that I had to figure out and experience for myself like any entrepreneur does for his own startup. No way was I told what to do or how to run things, and so I had to figure it out mostly on my own. Most importantly, there is no Plan B; put everything out in the line and make it happen, because I learned from Brad that any Plan B will create doubts and hinder your success. So with that in mind, stay calm and flask on!
Blog #7: Michelle Lau- Travelers Insurance
Diamond Bar office with host Kristen
In retrospect of my week at Travelers, I’ve gained so much invaluable advice on necessary skills in insurance and work life, important leadership qualities, and expectations of employees. In speaking with the vice president, I found out what what managers are looking for, how upper management identifies outstanding employees, what are effective models of leadership, what are distinctive characteristics of strong sales executives and underwriters, and how do people balance all their responsibilities. I don’t think very many people can interview 7 different managers and VPs and hear what outstanding characteristics they look for in their workers. Nor do many people get to have such intimate conversations with claims representatives and learn about the types of conflicts they have to deal with for their insured.
After this externship, I am very heavily considering working at Traveler’s because the company is large enough for me to not just work in underwriting or claims, but also sales, marketing, or technology. There’s a lot of mobility between departments, upper management is friendly, and people have autonomy over their own projects and working styles. The insurance industry is also recession proof and pays well. It’s not what I thought it was at all. I’m really excited to learn more about it and will be applying for a summer internship with them for next year.
Thank you Jennifer and Marshall for this unique opportunity!
Blog #6 (Day 5): Michelle Lau- Traveler’s Insurance
Conducted informational interviews with claims representatives in workers’ compensation and general liabilities and the director of underwriting for commercial services (bottom right).
My last and final day has been a short time coming. So much time had pass in just one week, since I was handling many aspects of how to manage a business. I had taken my pitch skills to the test by pitching Jo Abbey, a reporter and freelance journalist. This had been nerve-racking since I had to pitch the story behind Flasking.com and why it was so important and newsworthy to be on the media, which I had not have much experience yet. What I took from all this was the power of storytelling, and how it can draw any unreceptive person to your idea if done with strong conviction and performance. This had been the last assignment and training for the last day because it had all funneled down and circled back into one fundamental principle in life: selling ideas. I learned that every interaction with anyone, you’re pitching and selling your ideas, whether it is convincing your customer to buy your product or just influencing others to take action. Therefore, mastering storytelling is one of the key ingredients of success in any aspect of life.
Finally, we came down to CraveLab to meet up with co-founder of XenonSupply, Sean Li. For about at least four years he has been able to start from a simple service of selling xenon lights for cars to an established ecommerce business. What I saw from him is that he is the epitome of “start with what you have and go for it,” in which he started selling those lights with his friend right away and made it into an established online business over the years.
Today I spoke with the VP of Underwriting in Select Accounts of Southern California and he was one of the most interesting people to speak to. His primary responsibilities were in 3 parts: coaching directors, networking/conversing with clients to get more sales, and analyzing revenues and profit margins to chart the progress of each territory. He was such a genuine and friendly person that now I want to work for him too like my host Kristen! He shared about his style of leadership and how organically Travelers allows them to lead their teams.
I was really struck by the open door policy of upper management at Travelers. Something not many corporate companies have with their large corporation. Many of Kristen’s coworkers said that the upper management was one of the reasons why they chose to stay instead of going back to their competitors. I realized that this is a factor I need to consider in my future career and am heavily considering working for Travelers if my strengths fit when I come close to graduation.
This day is when it got down and dirty. All day was intensive, hands-on research and pitching that every entrepreneur and new startup need to master and work on in order to launch the business successfully. Brad’s plan of launching Flasking.com is to go into the market with a bang giving the startup a huge, momentous kick start. To do that, I have helped him compile a vast list of media sites in order to get our Flasking story out there. We then had to create pitches to attract the attention of media reporters from many outlets, such as the Huffington Post, buzzfeed.com, etc. These had been very hard assignments because I had never created my own pitch or found media outlets my own way. Brad’s find-it-your-own-way philosophy had been the best approach to personal creativity, with the hopes that I find something new to add on to his work that he has overlooked.
Later on the day, he introduced me to a good friend of his, Roman Wyden, who is a producer, director, and co-founder at Creable Films. His entrepreneurial journey and friendship with Brad have been very inspiring to me. He founded his company with a small crew producing film and grew organically to what it is known today. Although almost unrelated industries, Brad and Roman have been close friends, and have helped connect each other with their own networks of key players. One thing I took away was that it is very important to establish a personal relationship not just in your industry.
Blog #4 (Day 3): Michelle Lau- Traveler’s Insurance
Abdel, Underwriter for Bonds and Financial Services
On Wednesday, our last day in Glendale office, I conducted an informational interview with underwriter Abdel. He told us about his challenges in dealing with IPO companies and different lawsuits they have to handle in face of shareholders suing their companies. He confessed that an MBA helps, but 90% of what he does comes from learning on the job. He advised us to network while we attended MBA school as our main asset. To be successful at his job requires a LOT of patience, professional communication skills, and a strong financial background in reading financial statements.
I realized that although his job deals with quantitative analysis and financials, it’s still possible for me, a marketing person, to try his job because my education in accounting 1& 2 has already laid my foundation. He was such an honest, delightful person to talk to. Hearing their different conversations was like seeing into a porthole of their last 5-7 years in their journey of discovering their career passions and mastering their job. So interesting.
I also worked on a marketing project called “Sales Structure,” which is a creative 2-3 page pamphlet for the client. I worked on it in between my meetings and after lunch and was very excited that I could finally apply the marketing techniques I learned from my BUAD 307 class. Erin, our host, was very impressed with my final product, partly because of the visual presentation since I had some creative experience being an editor of different newsletters in high school.