A Step Ahead of the Game
Vanessa Rosado '07 and Lisa Schilling '08 were part of a six-person team charged with studying the business of Sears Canada, cousin to the venerable American franchise. Split into two groups, the students focused on Sears Canada’s urban and rural markets, spending more than three months analyzing data on customer preferences in order to discover ways to increase company sales. The projects were overseen by the Yale Center for Customer Insights. Rosado, who accepted a job with alcohol giant Diageo, worked on the urban team. Schilling, a Silver Scholar who will be a summer intern for Sears Holdings, worked on the rural team. The two discussed their experience working on the project.
Rosado: Sears Canada presented us with a huge amount of data to analyze. They were very supportive in providing anything we asked for. I'm going into packaged goods marketing, and to be able to work on a project that services marketing was really exciting for me. I feel like we learned a lot about the retailing industry and department stores, and how that's changing, and how consumers' shopping patterns are changing. We walked away with a wealth of knowledge and a familiarity with this industry, which is really valuable.
Schilling: One of the most educational aspects was the trip we took early on to Toronto, where Sears Canada is based. The leadership team toured us through the different Sears format stores, both in the suburban fringe and suburban city-border and then their urban flagship store. It was really impressive hearing their perspectives on merchandising and hearing their vision for Sears Canada. There’s so much energy there.
Rosado: And later we presented early findings to Dene Rogers ’97, the CEO, who’s also an SOM alumnus. He came to New Haven to hear our first deliverable, which was on customer insights. He gave us his take on Sears Canada's position and where they should be going, and where we should be going with our projects.
Schilling: It was wonderful to be able to speak with him because it really gave us a sense of how committed he is to understanding those customers. He's extremely tapped in to the grassroots level of his organization. We had a really collaborative conversation about the insights that we had taken away, as outsiders, and his own experience from inside that helped define the course of the research. That was also a neat insight into the role of a good chief executive officer, being aware of every level at the same time.
Overall, I took a tremendous amount of learning from my teammates. As a Silver Scholar, I’m here straight out of undergrad. I came in with a lot less experience, and I was fortunate to be working in our rural project with two individuals who had rich experience in the advertising world. They had a lot of experience constructing deliverables and utilizing frameworks to tell a story in a compelling way. I felt that we did engage the leaders that we presented to and they seemed genuinely intrigued with some of our ideas, which was rewarding. I feel like I learned a lot that I couldn’t have gotten in the classroom.
Rosado: I think that for a first-year student being on a project like this is a tremendous preparation for the summer internship. I kept saying to the first-years on my team "You will be so well prepared, having done this." These are the kinds of projects you get over the summer, and it's very much the same environment. You often are going into an industry you're unfamiliar with. You're getting thrown a practical problem that they want somewhat of a theoretical and somewhat of a practical solution to. They want it over ten weeks. And they're not going to hand you an assignment with a syllabus. They’re going to say, "Here. Solve this. Figure it out. Call me if you need help."
Schilling: I definitely feel like I’m a step ahead of the game.