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What's the view from Maya Voelk's cube? Starbucks!

What’s the view from Maya Voelk’s cube? Starbucks!

You know those moments in life when you have to physically stop what you’re doing, look around, and sit back to appreciate what’s going on around you? That happened to me on a daily basis while I was interning in the global digital marketing department at Starbucks. The experience advanced my professional skills (and caffeine dependency) beyond anything I could have anticipated.

The company internship program follows a loose formula. It assigns each intern a manager and a mentor. My mentor helped me get accustomed to Starbucks culture and set up immersion meetings with people outside of the global digital marketing department. With her help, I was able to learn about my other areas of interest at Starbucks, including the Public Affairs and Partner Resources departments. My manager, a composed leader with an astute understanding of the business of digital marketing, determined my summer projects depending on the department’s needs. Together they also taught me invaluable skills about working in a corporate environment, even one as unique as Starbucks. I don’t know what I would have done without either of their guidance.

People frequently ask whether I worked on real projects or if I was just shuttling coffee back and forth to caffeine-hungry bosses. While caffeine addiction runs rampant at Starbucks, I never once did a coffee run. Within the first few hours of my arrival, I sat down with my manager and went over my assignments. The work required me to gain a deep understanding of the digital marketing process at Starbucks, from the creative strategy to the gathering and analyzing of digital insights. In addition to my projects, the Starbucks career development team planned tons of intern events, from Lunch & Learns with company leaders to a Seattle Sounders game, and even a dinner cruise on the Puget Sound. Still, sometimes the best days at work were just ordinary days, when I learned a new skill or connected with a new campaign or brand moment.

While I know I will carry the practical digital marketing skills with me for many years, I have been most impacted by the relationships I built with my co-workers. The employees were passionate not only about their field of work, but about the greater mission of the company as well. Additionally, my relationships outside of digital marketing, specifically with the other interns, taught me more than I could have ever imagined. I never would have guessed that I would leave the internship with a greater understanding of food chemistry, supply chain management or retail innovation.

Over my summer at Starbucks, I had several transformative experiences. The internship revitalized my existing passion for marketing, specifically digital marketing. I also witnessed the lead up to several major campaigns, such as “Meet Me At Starbucks” and the seasonal launch of the pumpkin spice latte. Perhaps most remarkably, I had the chance to engage with a company so devoted to its ethics and mission statement that I thought it might as well be a life coaching service. Mostly, I learned a lot, and I certainly couldn’t cover every lesson in a single blog post. However, the majority of what I learned at Starbucks can be summed up by a sign that sat on my co-worker’s desk. It read, “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” A few cups of (free!) coffee in the morning doesn’t hurt either.

Maya Voelk is a junior in Medill, majoring in journalism with a focus on magazine studies. She is also pursuing a minor in Asian American studies and a certificate in integrated marketing communications.