IMAP, Poland, and washing machines all in one

by Mona Ghola, MBA2

Do you want a summer internship that will challenge you both personally and professionally, while at the same time giving you international work experience in a transitional area of the world? Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong!

If you are at all intrigued by this, I would encourage you to apply for the William Davidson Institute (WDI) Internship Program.

Last fall, after attending the WDI presentation and talking to the Internship Fellows from the prior year, I had a "gut feeling" that the WDI internship experience was exactly what I was looking for. I had an awesome experience working with Whirlpool Corporation in Central Europe as part of the International MAP (IMAP) team and the summer WDI team, and I would like to share the highlights of my experience with you.

Subhead: IMAP

In the spring of 1995, Whirlpool sponsored an IMAP assignment for four individuals. After being chosen for the project, Bonaventura Antonio, Jeff Bernicke, Janek Pawlik and I quickly became acquainted with Professor Andy Lawlor and Professor Jim Taylor (our advisors for the assignment) and a mounting pile of Whirlpool documents! On March 7, we departed for Comerio, Italy, where we spent two weeks at Whirlpool's European Headquarters interviewing and gathering information before visiting the Central European Sales Organizations. Comerio is located one hour west of Milan in beautiful northern Italy, close to the border of Switzerland. Our team thought we were escaping the bitter cold winter in Ann Arbor by traveling to Italy, but instead we were welcomed by a snowfall in Italy on the first day of our arrival!

After our stay in Italy, we traveled to Whirlpool's national sales organizations in Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Poland and the Czech Republic (we spent approximately one week in each country). Our project involved completing a strategic marketing analysis to increase market share in Central Europe from 11% in 1994 to 30% by the year 2000. In order to understand the transitional stages of the environment in each country, we completed a "matrix framework" analysis across four dimensions: the economic/political environment, consumers, competition and distribution channels.

Whirlpool is sponsoring another IMAP assignment in 1996 which will be in Poland.

Subhead: WDI Team and Experience

During the summer, Janek Pawlik and I were part of a WDI Internship Team at Whirlpool Tatramat (in the Slovak Republic) and at Whirlpool Polska (Poland). Alicia Nelson, who had previously worked on a strategy project with Whirlpool in Romania and Bulgaria as part of IB 745, was also on the team. The three other members of our team included Ania Psyz (a student from Poland), Ludo Jambrich (a student from the Slovak Republic) and Ewa Wampuszyc (a student in the Masters Program for the Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies). Being a member of such a cross-cultural and cross-functional team made my WDI experience challenging, educational and a lot of fun.

Our team spent five weeks in Poland, three weeks in the Slovak Republic and one week in Italy. The highlights from our assignment in Poland include visiting retail/ wholesale appliance trade stores and distribution centers in order to make recommendations for improving distribution. In addition, we prepared, translated and administered a questionnaire to key trade partners at a meeting in a castle in Pultusk, Poland.

This year was the first year that Whirlpool Polska participated in the WDI Partnership Program. Under the directorship of Krzysztof Franczak, Whirlpool Polska opened its national sales office on July 21, 1993, with only three employees. Whirlpool Polska continues to grow, in fact the organization recently established a dedicated service department and has grown from four to 26 employees.

In the Slovak Republic, our team created a customer warranty card for consumers who purchase a Whirlpool appliance so that the marketing manager could develop a consumer database. We attended an appliance trade show in Bratislava, Slovakia, and we also completed a comparison analysis detailing the trade management practices (discounts, promotions, etc.) of the four Central European sales organizations.

1995 marked the second year that Whirlpool Tatramat, the number one unit manufacturer of washing machines in both the Slovak and the Czech Republics, participated in the WDI Partnership Program. The search for a partner to supply technology for top-load washing machines began in 1989, just prior to the Czechoslovakian revolution; eventually Whirlpool was selected by Tatramat as a privatization partner and the joint venture was signed in November, 1991.

Subhead: Exciting Experience

WDI offers you the chance to spend your summer working in a transitional area of the world, such as in Central/Eastern Europe or China. Before I left for Central Europe, I read many articles about how quickly the economic, political and competitive environments change in such developing countries, but I never realized so much could happen in the five months I worked there.

As with many of the post-communist countries, the Slovak Republic's political climate is continually changing. In March of 1994, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar fell but was reelected in September 1994 and will most likely remain in this position until the next elections in 1997. With the election of Meciar, the second wave of privatization has been postponed.

In March 1995, the Hungarian government increased import taxes from 15% to 24%, causing Whirlpool's national sales organization to react overnight through a price change in order to compete with a Hajdu, a local manufacturer of appliances.

For our team, it was a constant challenge to understand the issues facing the country managers in order to help them solve key business problems relating to marketing, pricing, distribution and control.

Subhead: Executive Development Program (EDP)

The WDI internship experience offers approximately eight weeks in country; at the end of those eight weeks, students return to Ann Arbor. Our teammates Ludo (from the Slovak Republic) and Ania (from Poland) also returned to the US to support the EDP participants. In Ann Arbor, Internship Fellows assist managers from the countries who travel here to participate in EDP and to prepare an Action Plan. Whirlpool sent five managers to participate in EDP. In addition, a brand manager from Whirlpool's European Headquarters in Italy also joined the team for part of the program. During this week, we worked together with Executive Development Program and Senior Management Seminar (SMS) managers to complete an Action Plan which they could then implement upon returning home. On the final day of the program, Whirlpool's Vice President of Eastern European Operations, flew to Ann Arbor and the EDP managers completed a presentation to him on their Action Plan.

The Action Plan is a great opportunity for the EDP and SMS managers to set goals relating to a particular business issue. For example, three managers from Whirlpool worked on an Action Plan which specifically addressed the critical issues associated with launching a full range of Ignis brand products in the low-end market segment.

By working through the Ignis brand launch issues with the EDP managers and the Brand Manager of Ignis from Whirlpool Europe, I was able to understand the strategic implications of launching and positioning a new brand without cannibalizing the existing Whirlpool brand strength. I was also able to contribute to the brand positioning process because of the competitive analysis I had completed in the spring and summer.

Now that I've shared some of the more professional parts of the experience, I would like to tell you about some of the "fun stuff." One of my most memorable cultural experiences was seeing the Opera La Traviata sung in Italian in Warsaw with Polish subtitles! Thank goodness this opera is coming to the Power Center in Ann Arbor so I can see it in English! Another highlight was when I tipped a band in the Slovak Republic $40, after attempting to do an exchange rate conversion after drinking numerous pivo (translation: beer!). Other highlights included mountain climbing in the Tatra Mountains (up to 2,000 meters through some snow!), traveling in a van with my five teammates for over 18 hours, and cooking dinner for the managers from Whirlpool in the Slovak Republic.

Subhead: Job Search Impact

You may be wondering how my job search has been going since I didn't have a traditional internship. I believe my experience with the William Davidson Institute has opened numerous career doors, in fact, more doors than I believe a traditional summer internship would have. Because of the team work, operational analysis and presentation experience, the internship has prepared me for a career in consulting. Because of the multi-brand issues and exposure to the sales, marketing and trade marketing functions, it has positioned me for a career in product management. Finally, the international exposure positions me for international rotations or global development programs.

I do have some words of advice for you if you decide to participate in the WDI program. Although you will have the chance to sell unique stories about your WDI experience in an interview, the trick need to actually get interviews! This means you may have to put forth some extra effort to let recruiters know why you chose the internship you did and why you are now interested in their organization.

After accepting an internship with WDI, I could no longer interview on campus for a summer internship, but I did complete several mock interviews just to brush up on my interviewing skills. In addition, I contacted several companies by phone and letter, explaining why I was taking this summer position, but I let them know I was still very interested in their firm for full-time employment next year. I also visited a few companies over Spring Break and made contacts with recruiters who are WDI alumni. I spoke with alumni who are now in organizations such as Kraft, Ernst & Young and Sprint. Seek them out and keep in touch with them if you decide to be a WDI fellow. They understand what you are going through and realize the strengths of the program. Finally, when I returned to school in the fall, I spoke with friends who did more "traditional" internships in consulting and brand management, to reorient myself and prepare for industry questions I might be asked in interviews.

There are a lot of advantages to being a WDI fellow, but there are some disadvantages. Don't ignore the disadvantages; rather, face them early and use them to your advantage!

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