Eleven weeks ago I packed up my car and drove to Atlanta, GA to embark on what has been an unforgettable experience. This summer I’ve had the opportunity to work at Georgia Pacific (GP). Georgia-Pacific LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, Inc., a private company based in Wichita, Kansas. GP is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of building products, tissue, packaging, paper, cellulose and related chemicals. Several notable brands under the GP umbrella include Brawny, Sparkle, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, and Dixie. I was placed on the Home Cleaning Solutions innovation team and have had the opportunity to work on developing a recommendation for bringing a new product to market. This project has a wide scope, which has enabled me to collaborate with cross-functional teams in order to manage the progress of the project. It has been a valuable experience to champion a project from the start and make a recommendation on an action strategy. While this challenge has been extremely rewarding, I think the most impactful experience this summer has been the time spent with my fellow MBA interns.
The GP internship is not set up as a competitive internship like some companies offer. Each intern is evaluated individually based on the value they are able to create for the company and how well they fit into the GP culture. Being a privately held company, GP’s culture is different from many other companies I have been exposed to. The primary cultural difference is the management philosophy of Market Based Management (MBM). MBM is a management practice that focuses on creating the most long-term value for the company. One of the ten guiding principles of MBM is respect, which is why I believe GP encourages their interns to work together so that they are creating value through collaboration, rather than potentially destroying it through internal competition. This MBM philosophy is not just another set of values the company has composed to look good. MBM principles are embedded into the company from the CEO to entry-level hires.
Our intern class really bonded over the course of the summer, which has allowed us to enjoy many great experiences together both in the work setting and after hours. The recruiter in charge of the MBA internship program arranged lunches with relevant senior level management including the CEO and the EVP of consumer products. I can’t speak for other internship programs, but the fact that the top leadership would take time to have lunch with us really showed me how much they care about their internship program and that they see us as the force that will help drive the company in the future. These lunches provided a great platform for Q&A about the company and other related topics. Our class of interns also took a trip to a GP mill to see the production process first-hand. This trip was a wonderful experience, as I could not have imagined the size and scale of some of the machines that are required to produce paper products. In addition to the trip to the mill, we were able to enjoy a night at the Atlanta Braves baseball game in the GP suite (picture below). Outside of work we arranged a BBQ and several other get-togethers that helped to forge lasting friendships.
This summer has flown by. I can’t believe it’s almost over and I will soon be returning to school for my final year. Having gone through my first year and now a great summer internship I have a whole new perspective on choosing an employer. For any first year students that may read this post, I urge you to do your research on perspective companies and their different culture. To be honest, I was lucky and landed at a company where I fit in well and I felt comfortable. After spending the summer with GP I know I would not have been a good fit with some of the other companies I was considering in my first year. I am now a big advocate of informational interviews and doing as much research about a company and the work environment. To top that off, I would recommend that candidates look into privately held companies. While they are often not as well known as their publicly traded counterparts, private companies can offer a completely different perspective and opportunity than some publicly traded companies can.