MBA Internship Profile: Eli Lilly

MBA internship experience at Lilly

Image: Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock, Inc.


For students who wish to use the qualification to change careers, the internship component of a full-time MBA program is an opportunity to try out a new industry and see if it matches up to individual ambitions and expectations. This was the case for Kristen Poulin, who enrolled at UNC Kenan-Flagler determined to find, “a meaningful career where my skills would be used to help improve people’s lives.”

Poulin identified healthcare as her desired post-MBA industry and was drawn to undertake an MBA internship at pharmaceutical firm, Eli Lilly. In this interview, she describes her experiences over the internship’s 10 weeks, including how signing up for company sports gave her the, “the opportunity to meet employees from different departments,” and how she was able to work on her presentation and public speaking  - skills she was particularly keen to develop during her MBA. Read on to learn more!

MBA student, Kristen PoulinWhich business school do you attend?

Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Which department did you intern in and what kind of projects did you work on?

I was in the marketing department in the Global Diabetes team. My internship project last summer was to assess the current patient experience, globally, by analyzing all available recourses, and develop a strategy to improve the patient experience.

Why did you decide to intern at Lilly?

I returned to school to earn an MBA as a ‘career switcher’ - I was determined to work in the healthcare industry, where I could make positive, impactful contributions to society, and at a company who genuinely cared about the wellbeing of others (both their employees and patients/customers). I was looking for a meaningful career where my skills would be used to help improve people’s lives.

I found that with Lilly. I quickly found that Lilly was a great fit for me personally and professionally. My personal values align strongly with Lilly’s mission and culture, and I had no doubt that I would be passionate about the work. Additionally, I was excited about coaching opportunities to facilitate my professional growth and development, specifically global/multicultural skills. Ultimately, I chose Lilly because I could see a long-term, purposeful career trajectory to make a global impact in healthcare.

What was the application process like?

I found the application process to be much more personal than that of any other company. Lilly was one of the major employers on the UNC campus during the recruiting season. Through multiple on-campus recruiting events, I had frequent exposure to and contact with HR, recent graduates, and senior management. This allowed me to get a feel for the company culture before visiting [its headquarters] in Indianapolis.  

The interview process, conducted by both HR and senior managers, was very conversational. I felt comfortable being myself and could tell that the interviewers were interested in getting to know me personally – my interests, passions and what drives me, to make sure that I would ‘fit’ Lilly’s company culture. Whether it was a networking event, phone call or interview, I left each interaction with a Lilly employee extremely excited and hopeful at the possibility of becoming part of the ‘Lilly family’.

What were your impressions of Lilly’s corporate culture?

I was incredibly thankful and appreciative of everyone’s eagerness to help me succeed as an intern. Each employee I reached out to, regardless of their title, department, or function, was accessible and interested in not only my project, but also me and my career aspirations and personal development.  While the support I received was outstanding, the passion each employee has for Lilly’s work left the biggest impression on me. I found this passion and empathy to be inspiring throughout the summer.

What did you enjoy most about your internship?

Becoming part of the ‘Lilly family’ was, by far, the most enjoyable part of my summer. I took full advantage of the strong emphasis Lilly places on the health and wellbeing of its employees. I participated in the company’s soccer (football), softball, and kickball leagues, where I had the opportunity to meet employees from different departments. I learned about the variety of career paths and opportunities available at Lilly. I continue to stay in touch with many people I met during my summer internship. I'm thankful for how inclusive and welcoming everyone was during my 10-week internship. My fondest memories from this past summer are with my co-workers. In fact, I spent part of my fall break back in Indianapolis, attending a wedding with a group of Lilly employees.

What were some of the challenges you faced during your internship?

The biggest challenge I faced this summer also ended up being my favorite aspect of the internship project. As a member of the Global Diabetes team, the success of my project depended on my communication and collaboration with Lilly’s global affiliates. Having co-workers living across the world who were imperative to my project, but whom I had never met, posed many obstacles and learning curves for me. 

I had to quickly adapt to and overcome barriers in language, culture, and working styles. Ultimately, I learned that to drive a global marketing strategy, you need to involve the affiliates in that strategy. I could work on my project, but if the affiliate markets weren’t on board and didn’t buy into it, then not only would they not support my data collection and analysis, but they wouldn’t implement the recommendations, and my role wouldn’t make sense. 

The most rewarding part of my project this summer was building relationships with these affiliates and convincing them that my project was important and added value to their team. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each affiliate and understanding their unique market and challenges.

Of all the things that you accomplished during your internship, what makes you the proudest?

Upon arriving at UNC in 2015, it was important to me that I spend a great deal of time and effort working on my public speaking. It’s a skill that I wanted to improve during my MBA. At Lilly, I was most apprehensive about delivering my final project to senior management. I had a supportive team who worked with me throughout the summer to refine my ‘storytelling’ and presentation skills. After one-on-one coaching and feedback, I was really proud to successfully deliver a professional, yet entertaining final project presentation at the end of the summer. Working with my co-workers helped me to significantly improve my comfort, confidence, and overall skill of presenting.

What advice do you have for MBAs who are interested in interning at Lilly?

My advice would be to take advantage of every opportunity presented. Get involved in the Lilly community and meet as many people as you can so that you get a comprehensive understanding of the company and the Midwest culture to make sure that Lilly and Indianapolis is the place for you. 

Take advantage of the exposure and access to senior leadership at the company to understand their perspectives on the business, careers and values. I completely immersed myself in Lilly and Indianapolis and took full advantage of the summer – I attended my first car race at the motor speedway, a horse race in Louisville, my first country concert, a state fair, played in my first softball game with the Lilly league, etc.…etc.! I can’t wait to return.


Is there anything I didn’t ask about your internship experience that you would like to mention?

I had a wonderful time at Lilly this summer both professionally and personally. The MBA internship program exceeded the expectations I had coming into this summer experience and I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else after graduating from my MBA program this May.

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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