“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” — Wayne Dyer
First, a little bit about myself – I’m a 2013 MBA candidate and a former telecommunications engineer from one of the telecom hotbeds of the world, Dallas, TX. Outside of the four years I spent at my alma mater, Texas A&M, I had lived in the Dallas area my entire life prior to attending Notre Dame. Thinking that I had learned enough the wireless industry, I went to get my MBA with the full intention of getting out of telecom, but unfortunately I am just too attracted to technology. The telecommunications industry moves rapidly, so not only does it take a tremendous amount of operational talent to keep the technology working, it takes a tremendous amount of innovative talent to envision and pursue new opportunities. The former is what I was doing for six years prior to the MBA; the latter is what brought me to Sprint.
Sprint is an interesting company – it hasn’t been profitable in quite a while, and its recent history is littered with mistakes and bad bets. Indirectly, that’s actually how I got here. Dan Hesse, who took over after a failed tenure from the previous CEO, is a Notre Dame graduate. A few years ago a program was formed to attract MBA students from the schools that he went to in addition to a few select others (Cornell, Northwestern, Chicago, and Michigan are the other schools besides Notre Dame). The program gives myself and the other two Notre Dame interns here a tremendous amount of visibility and opportunity. While every intern experience is different, I was able to essentially choose the area in which I wanted to work and select the project myself. I’ve found myself in the Product Marketing team, specifically on the consumer side. I have a hard time defining what the team does, but it’s a group that will swing from traditional marketing operations to product development in the span of a couple of meetings. My boss explains what product marketing is a little bit better here.
This past week marked the end of my first month at Sprint. I can’t talk too much about my project due to my non-disclosure agreement, but I can say that because I told everyone I wanted to be a consultant, it is very strategic in nature. The idea for the project was formed a few months prior to my start date, but my arrival gave it the gravity and resources needed to get the ball rolling. Perfect timing.
Rusty: You’d need at least a dozen guys doing a combination of cons.
Danny: Like what, do you think?
Rusty: Off the top of my head, I’d say you’re looking at a Boeski, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever.
— Ocean’s 11
The first week consisted of getting acclimated to the company but also forming the framework and timeline by which we were going to create our strategy. Week two was spent recruiting members of various teams in the company to join in our collaborative effort. Honestly, that part felt like I was starring in the telecom version of “Ocean’s 11” – my partner and I met with managers individually to describe and discuss the project idea and framework, hoping we could sell them on the importance of the effort and the need for one of their team members to take part. A couple of the managers were pretty skeptical, but the need for our work was very relevant for their teams. Fortunately, we did a good enough job to get 100% participation from every team we wanted.
The last two weeks have been spent forming our problem statement and creating an issue tree, much like I learned in the Problem Solving course taught by Professor Bartkus. Unlike the generalists found in many consulting teams, my project team consists of industry and functional experts with many years of experience. With this type of team, discussions are extremely detailed and passionate, leading to very large issue trees (and thus, research to be completed!). It can be tough to direct all of these minds into a singular effort but not rope everyone in so much as to stunt their creativity. Over the two weeks in this part of the project however, the group chemistry evolved into a well-oiled machine. We ended up blowing a huge whole in our original problem statement and had to form a new one.
It is important to note here about the importance that quick wins make on project momentum. The project team was excited about the findings of the two weeks of effort, but none of that means much unless the folks with higher pay grades buy in to what we’re doing. My partner and I recently went discussing our project to various teams again, this time to levels above our previous meetings. We’re getting buy-in very early from executive management, and bringing this news back to the team has added new vigor to the discussions. People can see the fruits of their labor.
We still have more work to do in the weeks ahead, but I’m excited to see where this all leads!