My Summer Internship

After a long and arduous internship search, I wound up receiving and accepting an offer to work at a company that was near the top of my list the entire time: United Parcel Service. UPS.

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I was invited to work in their corporate headquarters in Sandy Springs, Atlanta in the marketing department. After my trip to Nicaragua I spent a day in North Carolina packing up my clothes and personal items, and then I flew down to Atlanta.

Atlanta. The City in a Forest. The Big A. ATL. Hotlanta. I soon found that it is most appropriately nicknamed The Big Parking Lot. Or Wetlanta, since it has rained nearly every day that I’ve been here.

I subletted from a Georgia Tech graduate student somewhere near the neighborhoods of Atlantic Station, Home Park, and Westside, just north of the GA Tech campus. The easiest way to explain to people where I lived was like this:

“Do you know where the IKEA is?”

“Yes.”

“I live directly in front of the IKEA.”

Everyone in Atlanta, the greater Atlanta Metropolitan Area, Georgia, the Deep South, and the Southeast in general, knows where the IKEA in Atlanta is.

On June 2 it was time to see what brown could do for me. I was assigned to the revenue management group within marketing, which I was very happy about, given a personal interest in the field. After three and a half days of training (which included a 6 AM visit to a UPS distribution center), I was shown to my cubicle and introduced to my manager.

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I do believe that UPS is owed a bit of privacy around what they had me working on. At times, I enjoyed the project very much, although there were times that I found myself bored with the topic. I was most engaged when I was intently considering how the economy and commerce are changing and how UPS ought to respond. These were cool thought experiments, because they brought me into the fun worlds of 3D printing, the “creative economy,” IoT, blockchain, automation, and social media and communications. Imagine if one day you could ship a package to a friend or customer without ever leaving your Venmo or Instagram app! I got to imagine that as part of my project at UPS.

I certainly learned a lot about the economy, UPS, the worldwide logistics business, UPS’s competition, and the principles of prudent revenue management. When I think of UPS I see a business with a strong core competency and some ancillary services, and I enjoy thinking about how to fortify that business. I do not see UPS as a tech conglomerate like IBM, Amazon, or Google, who are increasingly spreading their wings into more and more disparate businesses. In some ways this is a challenge. There are only so many packages that the global economy will ask to have shipped in any given year. However, by being more narrowly focused on one service, UPS can concentrate on improving that service, cutting costs, and competing effectively.

On my economics blog, The Economics of …, I wrote an article with my more thorough thoughts on the industry.

My desk at UPS. I got my own package car!

My desk at UPS. I got my own package car!

Despite being a company that pretty much just moves stuff around on noisy trucks, airplanes, and conveyor belts, the headquarters are a quiet place. UPS’s headquarters are built into a forested gully with a stream running through the campus and directly under our building. The setting is beautiful, and when it rains (which it does nearly every day) it seems like we are deep in a rainforest. Our cubicles are high-walled, but there is a window not too far behind me that lets natural light in (when it’s not cloudy out). I sit by the pricing team, so they’re often on the phone arguing with some well-established company about shipping rates, but for the most part it is quiet here. As I write this in my cubicle, approaching the end of my internship, I can hear someone on the phone murmuring behind me and the keyboard clicks from the cubicle next to me.

Atlanta is a nice enough city. There’s plenty to do, both natural and man-made, in and around the city, and having the airport on the MARTA train line is great for getting out and going pretty much anywhere in the world, even for a weekend. However, traffic is atrocious. The city planners must not have anticipated the growth that Atlanta has experienced, and they also probably did not balance residential and commercial growth so that roadways did not get jammed at certain times of the day. The result is traffic jams that start at 7 AM and end at 7 PM, six days a week, at least. It saps hours from your day and days from your life and makes even the most passionate Atlantan vow to finally leave the city! I see tons of development popping up in Midtown, Sandy Springs, and all around the city, and I only assume the worst: that the traffic and mobility problem will only get worse before it gets better.

I’m writing this prior to my final internship review, in which I expect to hear from my manager whether UPS will be making me a full-time employment offer or not. However, this article will past after the review, so ask me how it went if you’re interested in hearing.  If I were to receive one, I expect to have until December to decide to accept it or not, and then I would start sometime after graduation in May 2018. I like UPS. The business interests me, the network planning fascinates me, and there is stimulating work to be done, continuously strengthening the core and ancillary businesses. However, it’s not the only company that offers that stimulation, and I may explore other options before making a final decision come the end of the year. Assuming that they make me an offer, I do not think that they would be upset to hear that.

I hope that UPS does not feel that they got the ‘winner’s curse’ out of me. The winner, being the only one dumb enough to bid on a lemon. I appreciate the opportunity that they gave me and I think that the structure around the internship is great, encompassing support, education, network, openness, and comradery. I also hope that my manager and team are satisfied with the work that I put into my project and the business will be stronger as a result.

One of the best parts of the experience has been the other interns. We are 13 MBA marketing interns, five of us from Kenan-Flagler, four from Emory, two from Virginia, and two from Georgia Tech. It has been great to work with them, get to know them, and see the similarities and differences between our programs. I sincerely hope that I get to see all of them again in the future. It will be interesting to see who winds up at UPS and where the rest wind up.

Tomorrow I will be off to Beirut, Lebanon for a full week to co-facilitate a workshop for a non-profit financer that wants to start making start-up loans. I will be headed back to North Carolina next Sunday, just in time for the start of class and the eclipse. Stay tuned here and on The Economics of … for updates on Lebanon and a bunch of other articles that I have written.

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