The Lowdown on a Unilever Marketing Internship

Ajay PfisterWhen we last caught up with aspiring marketing professional Ajay Pfister, he was interning at L’Oréal. He has since made a sideways switch to take up a Unilever marketing internship. In his latest interview with Dreams Abroad‘s director and founder Leesa Truesdell, Ajay talks about business role models, lessons learned, and the future.

You began your internship at Unilever in February. How are you finding it so far?”

I started as the International Marketing Intern at Knorr in February. A month on, I can confidently say that I feel at home. After all, Unilever takes good care of its interns. The beginning of my internship was incredibly interactive. I got the opportunity to be part of the Knorr ideation sessions, a workshop in which new innovations are created for the next few years.

How does it compare to your L’Oréal internship?”

L’Oréal and Unilever are in many ways comparable. For example, they are both on the frontline of the FMCG world. However, I must admit that my internship at Unilever feels very different from my time at L’Oréal.

From the first day Unilever took me on board, I have been surrounded by a warm group of cosmopolitans. That is also reflected back in the scope of the business. My office operates on an international scale which exposes me to professionals from all over the globe. Besides, since I am operating from the headquarters of Unilever, I get more freedom to lead my own international projects, which is such a rewarding feeling.

UEFA European Championships 2020 Trophy
Photo: UEFA EURO 2020 Trophy, Football Championship by Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0

What’s next for Ajay?”

COVID-19 has had a big impact on all of us, and it makes what comes in the future less certain. Nonetheless, I am led by my goals. One of those goals is to write my thesis research at an NGO such as UNICEF or the United Nations.

Another goal is to continue volunteering. That is why I plan to spend my spare time in the summer working for free. I’d like to volunteer at the UEFA EURO 2020 in Amsterdam and potentially in London. In the longer term, I am looking into pursuing a master’s in International Marketing and/or International Business.

Who do you look up to in the business community?”

I never really had one specific idol that inspired me, because I always felt driven by self-motivation. If I had to pick someone that had an influence on me, I would say my dad. He moved to the Netherlands when he was my age with nothing but a dream. Almost 30 years later, he owns a successful business. His company, Paul’s Indian Restaurant, is soon to be expanded in the Netherlands.

What is the important lesson you have learned about the world of marketing?”

When you get into the world of marketing there are many philosophies and theories that you will be exposed to. In the beginning, I tried to learn and apply all of them. At some point, I realised that in the world of marketing you are dealing with trends.

For example, in 2012, Apple’s iPad experienced a huge increase which made the marketing world move into making their products tablet-friendly. Almost nine years later tablets obviously still exist, but we are turning back to our PCs and smartphones.

How much does working for a multinational company lessen the impact of the pandemic?”

There is no way to escape the consequences of the pandemic. However, what really helps me lessen the impact is to stay in close contact with the people in my team. Since my co-workers are based all over the globe, it feels a little like I am escaping my room to travel the world for a short moment. I get to experience all sorts of cultures that bring an extra element to my day. At the same time, I get the social aspect that many of us crave.

Business meeting, which now occurs virtually during Ajay's internship at Unilever

If you could work in any country in the world after finishing your studies, where would it be and why?”

Some days the world feels too small for me, while other days I feel like I have everything in the Netherlands. Though, if I get the opportunity, I want to work at the UNICEF office on the Ivory Coast one day. I’ll hopefully pursue a career in the nonprofit industry. Although there are various offices in the West, I believe the best way to make an impact is to be where the action happens.”

How important are languages in the business universe?”

“I myself speak English and Dutch fluently and have some understanding of German. At my previous internships at Ticketmaster and L’Oréal, speaking English was beneficial, but not necessary since I was based in the Dutch office. Dutch people are quite adaptive when it comes to business communications.

Though, I must say that at the Unilever HQ it is quite the contrary. We communicate with each other in English, even though some of the employees are able to speak Dutch.

Ajay's internship at Unilever uses this new blue logo

So, the relevance of languages in the business world depends on the circumstances you are in. From my experience, I would say that being able to speak English fluently is almost vital to succeed within an international company, and if you are able to speak a second or even a third language it surely increases the likeliness you excel in the business world. It does not only help you understand your local market better but more importantly, you probably have to deal with employees from the host country. Being able to speak the same language as your peers will make it easier to work together, and the chance is higher that you bond with fellow teammates.”

What about communication? How are you doing this most effectively at Unilever?”

“Since my internship at Unilever is remote, I communicate with my team through Microsoft Teams. Of course, Unilever is looking into other ways to communicate, but for now, there is no other alternative.

To stay engaged, I schedule a coffee with someone outside my team every single day of the week. Besides this, I catch up with my supervisor every other day to add a social aspect to my internship, and to streamline the goals for the coming period.”

Although Ajay's internship at Unilever has been remote, its building is still impressive.

What advice would you give to someone looking to secure an internship?”

“I remember how much I struggled to receive my first marketing internship. I was inexperienced, and because of that, no company wanted to schedule an internship interview with me.

It was only when I started calling employees of businesses that I got a chance to introduce myself. Of course, you shouldn’t just cold call every person you find, but my advice would be to think about what your strengths are, and when you know that, give that little extra.

For example, approach a manager of company X via LinkedIn. In most cases, they will appreciate that, since it shows that you have a proactive attitude and that you are dedicated to work hard for your dreams. ”

Ajay is completing a bachelor’s degree in International Business at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences while working at his internship with Unilever. He would like to enter the world of IGOs when he finishes. Could a career in the UN be on the horizon for Ajay? He aspires to apply his business training to the world of sustainable energy.

by Leesa Truesdell

What Is a L’Oreal Internship Really Like

Ajay working from home for his L'oreal Internship

Since Ajay’s first interview, he’s returned from his study abroad program in Singapore. Ajay is currently interning with La-Roche-Posay at L’Oreal in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Although limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, he explained how his summer internship has helped shape his perspective on marketing. Ajay is working on social media among marketing projects in the digital sphere.

Due to the strict COVID measures, he goes to the office every other week on a rotation basis. Ajay completes the other part of this internship at home. He talks about how he feels the work is still valid but misses some of the social aspects an internship brings, such as random interactions with colleagues. Nonetheless, Ajay’s enjoying his internship and continues to maintain a positive attitude.

How did you find out about the L’Oreal internship?

“It is quite an interesting story about how I ended up at L’Oreal. In April 2020, I was in close contact with Jacobs Douwe Egberts to discuss a potential marketing internship in the Netherlands. The marketing manager at JDE at that time used to intern at L’Oreal. She had been talking about her time at L’Oreal. Her words were so inspiring that I decided to apply for a marketing internship at L’Oreal to see if it was something for me. After three selection rounds, they offered me an internship at their Dutch office in Hoofddorp. “

What are the requirements of the L’Oreal Internship and how long will it last?

“In order to begin my internship at L’Oreal, I needed to successfully pass a psychometric test, on top of having marketing experience. Since I had an active role at Ticketmaster and UEFA’s marketing department, I met those expectations. I’ll have my marketing internship at La Roche-Posay (L’Oreal) from July 2020 until January 2021.”

What is your role at L’Oreal over this period of time?

“I am responsible for the marketing and communication content of La Roche-Posay. I spend most of my time creating posters, banners, and displays for products like Effaclar and Cicaplast. Besides that, I also work on the video content for digital displays located in pharmacies all around the Netherlands.”

 

How has COVID-19 impacted your role at La Roche-Posay?

“COVID-19 had and still has a huge impact on my work at L’Oreal. Employees are expected to work from home 50% of the time. As an intern who just started at a new company, it was odd to integrate into the new role from a distance. Especially at the beginning, when everything was still new, I noticed the little things such as quickly asking a question about an issue or having small talk with my colleagues were not as easy as I expected it to be. A few months later, I have found my way to cope with the situation.”

What is your favorite part of the internship?

“One of the most vital aspects of doing an internship is building up a network. At L’Oreal, there is a huge focus on broadening the range of people you know. They insist on having koffietjes (little coffee meetings) with people from other divisions, other teams, or even other companies. I myself try to fully take advantage of that opportunity.

Besides that, L’Oreal allows other interns and me the opportunity to develop ourselves through the customized intern program they have. Their focus lies in giving every intern the chance to reach their full potential. Personally, I liked the emphasis on having more responsibility. Simultaneously, I want to work on my creative skills. Throughout my L’Oreal internship, I will be responsible for creating a variety of communications materials such as banners, flyers, stickers, and short videos.” 

A picture of makeup brushes, which could be used by Ajay during his L'Oreal internship

What is the most challenging part?

“There are multiple aspects of working at L’Oreal that are challenging. While COVID-19 has made a huge impact on everybody, I would say that I’ve become increasingly productive after a couple of months. The biggest challenge I have faced so far is the enormous amount of information I’ve needed to learn. Because the company itself is huge, there is a massive amount of data coming towards me that I have to understand and fully utilize as soon as possible. I noticed that I have been spending so much time comprehending every little detail, that I sometimes don’t get enough time to work on the creative aspects of my role.”

Ajay working from home for his L'oreal Internship.

What do you hope to achieve while interning at L’Oreal?

“In order to leave L’Oreal with a satisfied feeling, I want to achieve three goals:

  1. Lead a successful project.
  2. Increase my network.
  3. Leave my mark on the business through my knowledge and/or by being an example for others.

If all three of my goals are achieved at the end of my internship, I can happily say that my internship at L’Oreal has been successful.”

Ajay working from home for his L'oreal Internship

Ajay is working on his second bachelor’s degree in International Business & Management at Amsterdam University. We will catch up with him in 2021 to find out how he is doing. Keep an eye out for this upcoming interview.

by Leesa Truesdell

Teaching and Learning Abroad in Spain

In the upcoming weeks, I am going to post a series of interviews titled Teach Abroad. Each week, I will introduce a new teacher and the area of Madrid where he or she will work. I will be asking each teacher a set of questions. I am starting the series with information about myself. Throughout the year, I will follow up with the teachers updating their information and experiences.

Here is My Story Teaching and Learning Abroad in Spain:

My name is Leesa Truesdell. I am from Coral Springs, Florida and recently graduated from Florida State University with a Masters in Education. I have always wanted to work assisting others to fulfill their dreams.

Why did you choose to come to Spain/Europe?

“My family is of Hispanic heritage. I have wanted to live abroad since my undergraduate studies. After getting my Masters, I realized that I wanted to come to Spain to learn more about the culture because my ancestors were from Mallorca. Generations ago, they traveled to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which is where my grandparents were born.”

What are your goals while you are here?

“While living in Spain, I have several goals for myself. It is my intention to continue this work throughout my life. I have a professional toolkit and in my kit, I consider my tools my skills. I am always up for learning more and adopting new ideas about teaching from others. While in Spain, I would like to immerse myself in the Spanish culture to practice my Spanish conversation skills, understand more about where my family is from and, most importantly, continue to learn. I thrive on learning from others in all aspects of my life, both social and professional. The greatest skill I can work on is the art of listening; my number one priority, while I am living in Spain, is getting better at communication.”

Washington Monument selfie

Have you ever taught before? If not, what was your career field?

“Yes, I recently taught English as Second Language (ESOL) at Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University with their Continuing Education Department. Before that, I taught English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Colombia while doing my summer internship. Before earning my Masters, I was a substitute teacher where I learned different teaching methods and classroom management. I chose to substitute over having my own classroom because I wanted to better understand how different classrooms in Florida public schools operated. I also wanted to better understand what skills each student was learning and at what age.”

What do you think teaching in Spain will be like? Where are you teaching this year?

“Since I’ve spent the past two years studying Curriculum and Instruction, it will be interesting to see how that applies in Spain, especially, when it comes to English as a foreign language. I did not know what to think when I went into public classrooms in Medellin, Colombia and after that experience, my mind is pretty much open. I learned so much from that experience; it made me better understand how to adapt to whatever situation might arise in a classroom.

I will be teaching in a suburb south of Madrid called Alcorcón. I am looking forward to teaching secondary or high school. This will be a new age for me to teach. I’ve taught adults over the age of 18 and elementary age levels. High school will be a fun challenge.”

Why did you choose to teach abroad and also, why did you choose to teach in Spain over other countries?

“I chose to teach abroad because I want to learn more about immersion for second language learners (SLLs). In Spain, I am the second language learner who is learning Spanish. When I return to the United States, I will have a better understanding of what challenges ESOL students face before and during classes. As a teacher, one of my main goals is to understand the needs of each student. I believe having experienced being an SLL myself, I can be a better teacher. I chose Spain because I wanted to learn Spanish as a second language and because Spain has importance in my family lineage. This was the best place to start my journey on how to be the best teacher I can be.”

What would you like to accomplish while you are in Spain?

“While in Spain, I would like to learn how to communicate in Spanish effectively. Speaking and listening are my priorities while I am here. I can read and write pretty well and with practice, those two communication skills can be done from anywhere. I also would like to get a better understanding of myself while living in the Spanish culture. Self-awareness and improvement are always necessary throughout life because while I am learning- I am growing. Growth requires awareness then change, which in the end requires self-improvement.”

What are your perceptions of Madrid so far?

learning abroad sun rise silhouette travel

“Madrid is a great city. Every time I go out for a walk, I am always finding something new about the city that has it’s own unique charm. My favorite part of the city is Retiro Park—it never gets old. I can walk through the park twice a day and see a plethora of sites along the way: dogs, babies, street performers, people on roller blades, kids playing in the grass during a birthday party, a couple on a first date, or my favorite thing to see—the sunset from the statue at the boat pond—best view in the city.”

What assumptions or expectations did you have before you came here? Have you found them to be accurate or inaccurate?

“Before I came, I thought I was going to have a hard time understanding what people were saying to me. My summer in Colombia definitely helped me with my language skills and getting over the initial language barrier. My first couple of days, I felt a bit rusty. After that, I felt like I could start asking for the things I needed. If I could not remember a word, I just pushed through it. In Colombia, which was my first experience living abroad, I had a harder time pushing past the barrier.”

What has been the most difficult experience since you arrived?

“The most difficult experience for me was the heat and not having air conditioning (AC) to sleep at night. I managed to get past it, and in Colombia I got used to it as well. However, Madrid feels hotter than Florida and Colombia combined. This past August was very hot. In Florida, it’s extremely humid and hot during the summer. However, we jump from AC building to AC car to AC building and so on. I managed to survive the heat and a few sleepless summer nights. It was totally worth it!”

What has been the best experience?

“The best experience so far has been meeting my friends and now, my extended family here in Madrid. We all arrived at the same time in August so it feels like we have morphed into what is now a family. It is hard to imagine that I have been here almost two months. Time is flying by.”

How do you feel about the integration of the culture so far? Are there things that you have embraced or are hoping to embrace?

“The integration into Spanish culture has not been difficult for me. Adapting to other people’s schedules was the hardest part for me. Spanish time is exactly what it means in the States, “Spanish time.” In Spain, things are more laid back, in general. People typically arrive within a 15-30 minute window of the expected time of arrival. Also, normally I am a type A personality, especially with my calendar and planning. However, the old motto “adapt or die” has served me well. There is not much consistency. Therefore, you must go with the flow and adapt to not having control of things that are affecting your life such as appointments, etc. It will happen when it happens and just go with the flow. I have embraced this new concept of go with the flow and quite frankly, it has helped me live in the moment.

The people I meet and the experiences I encounter contribute to my writing of learning abroad. I feel very fortunate to be on this journey and look forward to sharing the experiences of my friends and colleagues in the upcoming weeks. On a personal note, I would like to take a minute to thank the interviewees who have taken the time to meet with me. Also, a special thanks to my editors and photographers. I have learned so much from speaking with each of you. Stay tuned for our second connection.”

“Go with the flow” – Leesa Truesdell

Please check out part two where I describe my experiences teaching abroad in the Community of Madrid, Spain. I discuss challenges and how I manage daily tasks in the classroom!

First Day of an Internship in Madrid

by Hisham Tammam

First Day of an Internship in Madrid was interesting, to say the least. Obviously, I wanted to make a great impression at my internship at a law firm. I arrived early (luckily, because there was no number on the gate so I had to determine it was the right building by deduction.)

After ringing the bell of a stylish wooden door with golden handles, I was greeted warmly by the person whom I was told to ask for and given the grand tour of the two-floor Madrid law firm that would be my place of employment. I was to sit on the upper floor with an associate who arrived as I was researching past cases handled by the firm. After that, one of my supervisors, a partner at the firm, gave me a rundown of an international arbitration case concerning the Arabic aspects of a law that I was to assist on. I was later handed the case file by another associate with whom I was going to be working. Familiarizing myself with the details was actually quite riveting.

first day internship madrid law office

Lunch at an Internship at a Law Firm

For lunch, my supervisor took me and two co-workers to an authentic Galician seafood restaurant. They spoke about Brexit, a popular topic among lawyers in Europe, and how crowded Madrid is with tourists and foreigners. So, although I felt a little awkward, it was still lovely, fancy, and almost surreal.

I had been nervous about starting a four-month internship at a law firm. It was daunting because I’ve never worked at a firm for that long before. However, I decided to take it one day at a time (if not one hour at a time.)

I was planning to delve into literature, philosophy and poetry writing (my passions), but I barely have any time because I work from 9am to 7pm every day. On the other hand, because of this, I tend to enjoy them more when I do get a chance. It sure beats living at home where, even when I had all the time in the world, I wouldn’t touch a book (due to a vicious cycle of what I call “apathetic stagnation.”) At least now, thanks to The Intern Group, I feel useful and productive, going to work and transcending fears.

Working settles the existential need to have a purpose – doing things of value, feeling more fulfilled. Even though I am a chronic insomniac, I have manage to overcome this and other obstacles with determination and willpower. Plus, I have the privilege of learning a new language – perhaps never to the extent that I will be able to read Don Quixote in Español (whose hometown we visited) – but I can gladly say I now know more than just ‘manzana’, (which means apple and is one of the few words I learned before I got here).

madrid church down town

My Take Away From My First Day of an Internship in Madrid

I truly had an excellent first day of work in Madrid. It was full of promise, and so is life right now after applying for a paralegal job in London. It will be challenging to leave Madrid since it feels like home. I can honestly say it has been a wonderful adventure. I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life. Here’s to my first day of an Internship in Madrid.