August 17, 2017

Summer Internship: Brand Management at Starbucks

I spent this summer as a brand management intern at Starbucks in their Food Strategy & Innovation group based in Seattle, Washington. A group of less than 20, the team had recently splintered away from the core food team and focuses exclusively on future state development of the food business. A key part of the company’s strategic plan, growing food was an exciting place to be, especially with recent food program launches across select markets: Mercato menu & the FoodShare program.

Starbucks Office Tour

Sean on Starbucks Office Tour

I was given two projects: Identify opportunities for strategic partnerships with 3rd party food brands in 20+ key markets; and provide a recommendation on retailing best practices that could be incorporated into store design to allow a food marketplace experience to come to life with multiple brands and clear brand stories on common shelves. In their initial form, these projects had little overlap, but changes in business interest and scope over the course of the summer quickly aligned their scopes while highlighting their business relevance. Over the course of the summer, we had amazing opportunities as interns to connect across the company, experience the best of Seattle, and gain one-on-one access to literally every member of the senior leadership team – amazing!

Intern meetings with members of the Starbucks leadership team

Intern meetings with members of the Starbucks leadership team

So how did I get there? As a child, I was constantly moving overseas with my family and building new relationships. While certainly a different lifestyle for many, it helped define a passion for connecting with people. Eventually, I attended school for my Mechanical Engineering degree and pursued a career in food manufacturing at General Mills. There, I gained unique experience as a leader of people and project manager in manufacturing environments. It continued to solidify my passion for people, especially in the context of leading and developing. After 6yrs and various roles both in the field and in Minneapolis, I recognized that I was craving an exposure to business groups that I wasn’t getting access to. It was the right time in my career and life to go to business school.

As I started my career search with the GBCC, I’m sure they were concerned with my lack of understanding for the specific roles I wanted to pursue. During the search though, we anchored on what I knew about myself: I am passionate about people and deeply curious. As I worked with my career advisor, her process for homing in on a short list of career types that match was fantastic. Soon, we landed on perhaps the last place that I ever expected to focus – MARKETING! I knew all along that I wanted to work for a company that delivered products I was excited about. For me, the company at the top of that list was Starbucks. I immediately began targeting my networking efforts towards developing relationships within that organization. By November, I contacted a Carlson alum that had recently started there as a brand manager. Matt was fantastic, he took my calls and connected me with HR, with whom I could share my story and eventually land a phone interview. That developed into a job offer, which I accepted immediately!

Starbucks Interns go to a Mariners game

Starbucks Interns go to a Mariners game

My career journey so far has had many twists and turns, and I have every confidence that it will continue to have those turns as I move forward. With that said, it has been great to know that for the last year, and the years moving forward, I will have the support of the GBCC and Carlson alumni network behind me. I am excited to find out what comes next, and I hope you are too! With that in mind, I would be excited to connect – especially over coffee. 

Events exploring all of what Seattle & Starbucks have to offer

Events exploring all of what Seattle has to offer