UNICEF and Startup internships: My Summer Experience

Summer MBA positions offer the opportunity to experiment, to explore, and to be exposed to different types of companies and sectors. There is a lot to be achieved and learned in a few months, so I decided early in the MBA that I wanted to have two summer internships. I spent the first half of the summer in Geneva working with the United Nations at UNICEF, and the latter part of the summer for a NYC-based tech startup, Cobble.

I received the offer to work with UNICEF via IESE’s Career Development Center, and I simply could not pass it up; it felt important to contribute to the Covid-19 crisis response. At UNICEF, I developed a strategy for UNICEF Nepal to work with private and informal enterprises and with the South Asia Chamber of Commerce to support the national response to Covid-19 and beyond, a strategy that is being scaled regionally. I also led prioritization efforts to determine where to focus efforts and resources for engaging enterprises.

The offer to work with Cobble came from an IESE alumni, and I was impressed by the team, the product, and the potential. Cobble is an app that gamifies decision-making; it is currently focused on couples, and it allows users to swipe on and match on activities to do with their partner. It has been a dream of mine to lead geographic expansion for a promising startup, and Cobble provided such an opportunity by allowing me to create their strategy for new market entry.

Exposure to different types of companies/sectors

Working at UNICEF and Cobble allowed me to contrast shaping strategy in a startup vs. a multinational. At Cobble, strategic shifts happen fast because there is a small team of decision-makers with a common set of priorities. Since UNICEF is a large organization addressing challenges at the national and global level, creating a strategy requires doing extensive research, speaking to various stakeholders, and ensuring alignment across different divisions. Developing a strategy and getting buy-in at UNICEF can take time, yet it feels promising because even a small shift has the potential for big impact in a large organization.

Balancing MBA requirements across two internships

I had planned to work with UNICEF for 10 weeks and with Cobble for 4 weeks. IESE requires an internship of at least 8 weeks, which only leaves a few more weeks in the summer to do a second internship. Companies also want someone to work for an extended period – not just a couple of weeks – since bringing on a new team member requires time and resources. Ultimately, I think a second internship can be worthwhile even if it’s only 3-4 weeks as long as there is a well-defined project and a role you are excited about. In a shorter internship, it’s particularly important to be deeply involved with the project and the team, to make the experience as hands-on as possible.

Working with companies during Covid-19

We can expect that any company that the 2021 or 2022 IESE class works with will be impacted, in some way, by Covid-19.

This summer, I was struck by the fact that I worked for a company trying to launch during the Covid-19 crisis, and an organization helping with the crisis response.

From both perspectives, Covid-19 had completely changed their priorities and approach. Interestingly, both UNICEF and Cobble frequently discussed the important role of businesses in helping communities through the crisis. As MBA students, we can play a role in helping companies adapt and pivot their work as the crisis evolves.

Combining two different internships was the right choice for me, yet there are many other opportunities to work with companies during the MBA. Ultimately, two years goes by quickly and it is up to each of us to make the most of our time at IESE!

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Marilyn Heymann View more

MBA Class of 2021

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