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Two Undergraduate Students Recount "Life-Changing" Summer Internships

August 28, 2008
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Andrew Aidman (left) with Juan Quintero and his son,
Samuel, in Panama City

Although their summer internships took place 2,000 miles apart and in very different environments - one at a real estate developer in Panama and the other at Goldman Sachs in New York City - two School of Business undergraduates report "life-changing" experiences. Andrew Aidman (left in photo) and Christopher Gleason were this year's Heffner Entrepreneurship Intern Fellows, and their summer adventures were thanks to the generosity of alumnus William Heffner (BBA '77), CEO of Agg Rok Materials Company in Columbus, Ohio. Heffner, who is a perennial judge in the School's annual entrepreneurship competition, endowed the fellowship - which reimburses up to $2,500 of a student's travel and living expenses - three years ago. Applicants must have a proven interest in entrepreneurship and must find their own internship opportunity. 

“I just returned from one of the most incredible summer experiences of my life,” reports Aidman. “Most of the time was spent in Panama City and a smaller city to the west called Boquete. I worked with a real estate development entrepreneur named Juan Quintero. His ventures include two internet cafés in Panama City, a small bed and breakfast in Boquete and several real estate development projects across Panama.”

Aidman says his experience with Quintero was nothing less than a “crash course” in real estate investment — “one of the most life-changing and educational experiences of my life. He showed what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and how to overcome some of the obstacles along the way.”

That may be why the most exciting part of Aidman’s internship was discussing his own entrepreneurial idea with Quintero. Aidman proposed growing mangosteens — a fruit that grows only in tropical climates — in Panama and importing them to the U.S., where they are currently unavailable. Quintero was enthusiastic about the idea and set up a meeting between Aidman and the Panamanian representative to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Although he learned that it can take up to two years to have a fruit approved by the FDA, Aidman’s enthusiasm for the project is unwavering. “The experience gave me the realization that the ability to get the ball rolling and actually start my own business is not something out of my reach,” he says.

Christopher Gleason (back row, left) with other
Goldman Sachs summer analysts.
Meanwhile, 2,000 miles to the north, Christopher Gleason’s summer internship in New York City was bearing fruit in many different ways. “I had the good fortune to be accepted into the Goldman Sachs Summer Analyst program,” he says. “I spent 10 weeks in the Interest Rate Derivatives division. They were the most fast-paced and challenging weeks I have ever spent. What really stood out to me was the openness of the work environment — there are no cubicles or office walls to isolate you from the rest of your colleagues.”

That openness included access to management, and Gleason was encouraged to set up one-on-one meetings with management to learn the business. “This was a bit intimidating at first,” he says, “but one I saw how approachable the managers were, it turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences of my internship.” He needed the access, because he was assigned nearly a dozen projects to be completed during the course of his internship. Gleason also was required to make numerous presentations, including one at the end of the summer (with fellow UM student Nick Rio) that was an hour in length.

In an unexpected turn of events, the student also became the teacher. “At the end of my internship, newly hired first-year analysts came aboard, and I spent time helping them learn the software systems and the daily roles for which I had been responsible. It was a great transformation from coming into the internship 10 weeks prior having barely any knowledge of Interest Rate Derivatives. I was very proud to be able to confidently present to and teach the newly hired analysts.”
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