For nearly a decade, MarketLab, a subgroup of the MIT Sloan Marketing Club, offered students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working on semester-long marketing projects for companies like Fidelity, Google and Mercedes-Benz. Until now, students did not receive credit for this valuable work. But now that has changed with the evolution of MarketLab into the integrative project-based course, Enterprise Management (EM) Lab, and the Proseminar for the newly launched Enterprise Management Track. As part of EM Lab, students now receive academic credit while obtaining invaluable action-learning experience.
Once called the “largest free consulting service in Cambridge” by Justin Cook MBA ’05, MarketLab worked with dozens of companies over the years including Apple, Amend.org, the Boston Red Sox, Body Glove, Estee Lauder, GE Energy, HBO and Microsoft. The scope of the projects ranged from assignments in mobile marketing strategy to online marketing strategy, social marketing and lead arbitrage management.
Students delivered so successfully to clients that many companies returned to the Marketing Club for help on more than one occasion. As word spread about the students’ widely respected work, more companies contacted MarketLab for assistance.
In 2008-2009, MarketLab had more than 80 students enlisted with projects, and the following year there were more than 100 students interested. With the growing popularity, marketing club leaders Indrajit “Indy” Sen and Shimrit Ben-Yair, both members of the MBA Class of 2009, sought the advice of then-Visiting Professor Sharmila C. Chatterjee.
“Students signed up for MarketLab because they wanted to work on real-life projects before they started recruiting for summer internships,” Chatterjee notes. “Students have a huge amount of work to do in the Core [the first semester of mandatory classes for MBAs], and then they were taking on these marketing projects with little guidance. They wanted to do a good job, but some had no marketing or content knowledge. That’s when Indy and Shimrit approached me to work as a partner and a faculty mentor.”
Chatterjee advised students on research methods, creating a good database for research, and gave instructions on conducting in-depth interviews with clients and customers. She also advised students to take a holistic approach and develop strong relationships with the leaders of the companies they were working with.
Chatterjee, with support from the Dean’s Office, the Marketing Group, Student Affairs (now Student Life Office) and the MBA Program Office, then created a new Sloan Innovation Period (SIP) seminar, Marketing Boot Camp, to aid students. SIP occurs halfway through each semester and provides students with a week of experiential leadership learning, panels and presentations by corporate leaders, skill development and exposure to faculty research. The workshop provided MBAs with marketing and research skills they may have not otherwise obtained. The SIP workshop became a mandatory requirement for any student interested in working for MarketLab. And students received SIP credit for their work.
“With the SIP workshop, students were able to address real business problems,” Chatterjee says. “We kept talking about ways to get students more academic credit for all the work they were doing. There were on-going discussions about the possible launch of a third track that would complement the Finance and Entrepreneurship and Innovation tracks. That’s when it all came together with the realization that MarketLab could evolve into an excellent component for the new track in Enterprise Management.”
MBA students in the new track are now assigned a real-world project in the third week of their first semester, providing them with more time to work on the project. Students work in cross-functional teams to apply their learning in the Core semester. They also now work with a faculty mentor to apply their knowledge in marketing, strategy, operations, finance and quantitative analysis to the projects.
Last fall, Enterprise Management students worked on 11 projects with several companies. Beginning with database research to in-depth interviews and surveys to the final PowerPoint and poster deliverables, students worked with Professors Chatterjee and Retsef Levi and faculty mentors Michael Braun, Jason Davis and Trond Undheim throughout the duration of the project. Chatterjee says the projects are now part of EM Lab, in which academic credit is awarded to students.
“Students can now talk about the projects they have worked on in greater detail during their summer internship and job interviews. With faculty mentoring now available, we have been able to preserve the pedagogical goal. Each faculty member works with four student teams and the scope of the projects vary,” Chatterjee notes. “We still have many companies who would like to have MIT Sloan students work for them. In the future, we would also like to expand the track’s offering to non-profits such as the Red Cross or UNICEF.”
Chatterjee says the ultimate goal is to provide students with experience that will lead them to internship and job offers. And it’s working. Ken Yau Joong Young MBA ’14 landed a summer internship with Nike after working with the company this past fall. He will work in the company’s Supply Chain Innovation Group this summer and further the work from his team’s EM project.