Coming into a software sales internship at IBM, I did not anticipate I would be doing management consulting work. My internship is separated into five, two-week rotations and this experience was during my second rotation, Subscription & Support. In this rotation, I was working with several teams on different projects through out the two weeks. While most of the team gave us projects related to communicating with customers via different methods, this team was a little unconventional.
We started out first thing in the morning in a meeting with the team. We were given a presentation on one of the products that IBM offers and told by the team the issues they were having retaining customers with it. We were presented with a vast amount of data on sales and renewal history. Essentially, we were presented with a problem, handed data, and were told to come up with a solution. The team portrayed a strong belief that the product was the problem and it simply was not competitive.
For the rest of the day, my colleagues and I worked with the data, did our own research, conducted interviews with other sales representatives, and created a presentation. I very much enjoyed working with the data. I was happy to know that the skills I learned in my econometrics and statistics classes were being utilized. My fellow team members were very happy that someone on the team had the skills to work with and analyze data. We came to a strange conclusion. We realized that the product was not the issue at all. We found that the product was highly competitive and that the issue laid in the implementation and delivery of it. We faced a challenge. Do we tell our managers what they want to hear and reaffirm their beliefs, or do we show them our findings and make a case for them?
My teammates and I decided we would go against the department’s beliefs and present them with something they may not like, but it would be something that we can back up with data. We presented our findings to the team managers as well as the business department executives. To our surprise, they absolutely loved our research. In fact, it became clear that their initial expressions at the beginning of the day were a ruse. They were testing us in a way to see if we would conform with a client’s incorrect beliefs just to make them happy, or would we dive deep into the problem and present something the client may not want to hear.
Overall, while the whole day was challenging, I enjoyed every minute of it. The open ended nature of the project was appealing to me. The fact that I was able to utilize my analytical skills working with the data, as well as my communication skills interviewing stakeholders, and then presenting a solution was incredibly rewarding to me.