Interning at American Eagle Outfitters

During the summer of 2019, Dylan Berry (MBA '19) interned at American Eagle Outfitters. Read on to learn more about his time there:

Tell me about your summer internship experience. Where did you work and what types of projects did you work on?

I spent this summer at American Eagle Outfitters, working on sustainability initiatives with the Senior Director of Responsible Sourcing. My original scope of work was to help reduce plastic waste throughout the entire organization, including supply chain, distribution centers, store operations, and corporate offices. 
I managed the project like a traditional consulting engagement. I conducted internal interviews with key stakeholders, built financial models and ran quantitative analyses, and then submitted a set of recommendations around which projects the company should invest in over the short-, mid-, and long-terms.
I facilitated implementation on a number of those projects, and by the end of the summer, we had reduced the environmental impact of AEO’s plastic waste by 40%. 
How did sustainable business practices play a role in your internship?
My role was focused on sustainability. 
One thing I like about sustainability projects is that they tend to span the entire organization and require a lot of cross-functional collaboration. This gave me visibility across product, sourcing, supply chain, store operations, marketing, and executive teams.  
I think the role of sustainability within a lot of organizations (especially fashion) is shifting right now due to changing customer demand. Sustainability is no longer something companies can do on the side just to make themselves feel good. It has to be front and center, otherwise, customers will start to look elsewhere. Additionally, with increasing transparency into business operations, these efforts have to be authentic, verifiable, and part of the company’s core operations. We see a lot of companies trying to play catch-up and a lot of demand for sustainability-savvy talent. It’s an exciting time for sustainable business. 
What were your top three learnings from your internship?
Take ownership of your internship experience. As an MBA, we have a valuable perspective to add. A lot of times companies don’t know what they don’t know. By being proactive, identifying new opportunities, and taking on additional responsibilities, interns have the ability to develop new skills and experiences that will fuel professional development down the road.  
Meet with everybody you can. Early in the internship, conduct a set of informational interviews to learn more about the corporate structure, operations, and political dynamics in the company as it relates to your internship. This will build a network of internal stakeholders, and help you navigate projects later on.

Create a consistent formal dialogue with your manager. Weekly check-ins are a great way to share insights and project updates, but also to track how well you are meeting your own goals for the internship. By the end of the summer, you should be able to quantify your impact and have some good bullet points to add to your resume. 
Did your summer internship experience change your thoughts about your career trajectory moving forward?

When consumers, employees, investors, and stakeholders all start demanding sustainability, it becomes an important piece of good business strategy. Moving forward, I want to bring the sustainability perspective into a more traditional corporate strategy role.