Facing Challenges Makes Room for Opportunities


(by Michelle)

Coming from a background in startups and small companies, my Blind Applying match at Fortune 6 corporation General Motors (GM) felt like a challenge from the start. Automotive was a new area for me too at the time I got my offer, I could barely tell you the make and model of my own car! However, just four days after wrapping up my freshman year, I found myself driving to Detroit, ready to take the challenge head-on.

My manager greeted me with the question, “What do you want to get out of this internship?” This welcoming attitude guided my GM experience as my team went out of their way to find me substantial work. I was placed on the Global Football Marketing team, which was responsible for Chevrolet’s sponsorship of Manchester United. The team was launched in 2014 with large‐scale activations internationally, from the beginning. Therefore, they must be agile and innovative — a quality that I’ve loved at startups. At the same time, they operated within a larger company, which gave us access to more resources, minds, and research than I’d been able to work with in the past.

My team was agile and innovative, a quality that I’ve loved at startups. At the same time, we had access to more resources, minds, and research than I’d ever accessed before

Chevy concept car

I got to sit in on strategy meetings for our nascent music sponsorship, grab coffee with Directors of diverse divisions from Finance to Branded Entertainment, plan and design graphics for large‐scale events in England, China, and India, and even lead projects of my own. My most rewarding project was suggested by my manager after hearing about my experience at the Stanford Design School. When representatives from Manchester United visited GM in Detroit, I got to lead a full‐day design thinking session for 30 managers for the soccer team, Chevrolet, and agency partners. It was an exciting way to apply my knowledge from the classroom to a broader setting and learn to lead a meeting with high stakes. Some of the ideas from the session are being further developed as I write!

As I got more familiar with GM, I found that my team’s encouragement had its roots in the internship program as a whole. As part of the EXCEL program, I was given the opportunity to interface with senior leadership through 1‐on-1's and autobiographical presentations. I was even fortunate enough to speak with Mary Barra, the CEO, at a small intern lunch. She was so warm, sharing her thoughts on balancing family with work, and on the frontiers of the automotive industry from fuel cells to autonomous cars. She has an eye for innovation and a drive to make General Motors a better place I can see that the flexibility my team exhibits has roots in higher parts of the organization.

I can see that the flexibility my team exhibits has roots in higher parts of the organization.

Lunch with CEO Mary Barra and fellow interns!

Outside of work, I explored Detroit with other interns. Like GM, Detroit is best known for its rich history, but it's also quickly moving forward. An agency partner introduced me to a few design and arts events, which were held almost weekly I learned a lot about urban planning in Detroit, and furthered my knowledge of other areas of design that are globally applicable. The food, especially food trucks around the office, were wonderful as well. Detroit also held plenty of options for outdoor exploring: I went skydiving, hiked and kayaked around Michigan’s metroparks, and ran 5Ks on the Riverwalk. Although this was a new city, its small size, friendly people, and constant growth made it soon feel like home.

GM surprised and delighted me in a lot of ways. What I thought would be challenges, such as new industries, created room to grow. Where I thought the structure of a large company might be stifling, I instead found people open to my ideas and looking to make a change. I am especially thankful for my team who always pushed me to be more assertive, creative, and a full member of the company. I gained valuable experience this summer and enjoyed the internship. Can’t wait to see what next year’s “challenges” bring!