The I&E capstone is a synthesis of all the experiences and skills gained in the I&E certificate. It represents an opportunity for a lot of students with diverse academic and professional backgrounds to come together and bring their unique perspective in an interdisciplinary manner. It primarily focuses on the application of skills learned throughout the certificate to a project involving an early stage startup company.
In this course, we had the opportunity to consult for a highly interesting early stage startup that seeks to revolutionize the world of chocolate with date based sugar instead of traditional cane sugar. In particular, we had the chance to help consult for the startup’s employment and retention future. Along with this capstone project, our readings had us dive into the concept of an employer value proposition, a concept that greatly influenced and guided our decision process.
Throughout the class, we had 3 separate meetings with the founders of Spring and Mulberry, which were valuable opportunities to engage and connect with the founders and their goals. By hearing directly from them, we were able to tailor our work towards the founders’ values, needs, and wants. This ultimately allowed us to maximize our time working towards exactly what the client was looking for. They were primarily interested in ways to make their recruiting strategy more effective, and come up with a cohesive strategy to tackle the problem of how to recruit applicants that fit their desired experience level, cultural perspective, and values.
Spring and Mulberry, like many early stage startups, had limited funding and relied on unpaid interns to do much of their work. Coming from a practical engineering and finance background, to me the recruiting problem seemed simple – no one wants to work an unpaid internship, especially at an unpaid startup. People need to pay the bills. Additionally, the applicant profile they were looking for an incredibly stringent requirements, which would prove a challenge to meet even normally, never mind the historic low unemployment and incredibly competitive hiring environment, which even highly desirable companies are struggling to hire in. Especially with my background being from tech, where capital investment is often a given because of the runway needed to get off the ground, it kind of seemed obvious to me they needed to even debt or equity finance to provide funds to pay their interns and employees.
Despite this up-front assumption I had, I decided to investigate the problem with an open mind and consider all aspects of their recruitment strategy, including culture and “fit”. The class split into several groups, each of which researched a specific facet of the overall recruitment environment and specifics to Spring and Mulberry. My group focused on building the profile of the “ideal employer” from the target demographic of Spring and Mulberry’s desired interns. By building a picture of what their recruitment targets were considering in job postings, the main push/pull factors that drive them to apply, and what they value in jobs, ranging from compensation to culture to physical work environment.
Through this entire experience, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work in an innovative and interdisciplinary manner with my teammates, both with my smaller subteam as well as the overall class to collaborate and coordinate on the initiatives we were working at in pursuit of the larger overall goal. I’m glad I got to work with a real-life client advising on a very real issue that affects startups and established companies alike.