A group of McDonough School of Business (MSB) students visited New York City on Nov. 11 to learn from executives in the Estée Lauder Companies (ELC), an American cosmetics manufacturer.
The trip was organized by the Gen Z Network Initiative, a partnership between the MSB, ELC and the Global Business Initiative (GBI), an MSB program that aims to introduce Georgetown University students to corporate executives. The Gen Z Network Initiative provides training and opportunities for young entrepreneurs by connecting them with ELC executives to consult on a specific brand from ELC’s portfolio, including MAC Cosmetics and Clinique. Through this partnership, 10 Georgetown students had the opportunity to speak with company executives.
This year, the Gen Z Network Initiative collaborated with Origins, a skincare brand under ELC which focuses on using plant-based ingredients. Students met every Friday to communicate with executives, understand consumer preferences and explore ways that brands can change according to their feedback, according to a press release on the MSB website.
Students had the opportunity to engage with the problems that Origins executives face and how they approach solving them, while the company received valuable consumer feedback from a savvy student population, according to GBI Director Ricardo Ernst.
Ernst said the event succeeded at providing students with experience that cannot be found in the classroom.
“It gives the students the opportunity of working firsthand with real problems and real companies, and that is the beauty of the whole thing,” Ernst told The Hoya.
Nikita Thummala (MSB ’24), a student who participated in the event, said she gained invaluable corporate lessons from working with the Gen Z Network Initiative and seeing business principles applied to a real-world product.
“We were able to understand and experience the thought process that goes behind every part of the brand, from the Origins website all the way to its product packaging,” Thummala wrote to The Hoya. “The initiative showed me that business, especially within the cosmetic industry, is very collaborative and truly analyzes the current culture in order to best serve future consumers.
The program offered benefits to both students and ELC executives, according to a university spokesperson.
“Through this initiative, students provide the ELC with consumer-centered feedback,” the spokesperson said. “The ELC, in exchange, provides the group with development, education and mentorship opportunities, as well as the chance to gain industry insights and work with and learn from executives in different areas of the company.”
Thummala said she got to speak one-on-one with CEO of the Global Reverse Mentor Program at ELC, Lea Nesdale, about possible career paths.
“She was very hands on and was kind enough to have a one-on-one discussion about her journey through ELC and some future roles I could possibly get into,” Thummala wrote. “All of these individuals were incredibly respectful and truly listened to everything we had to say. They also helped our experience by asking us questions that pushed our thinking process and really narrowed our suggestions into concrete ideas.”
Although ELC is the first company that GBI has partnered with, Ernst said he is hopeful that more companies, including the jeweler Cartier, will want to participate in the initiative after seeing the benefits of learning from youthful perspectives.
“Now we are looking to expand into other companies,” Ernst said. “It was so successful, and Estée Lauder was so happy with it, that now we would like to leverage that in bringing other companies to do the same thing. The more the better in the sense of engaging students by offering first hand experience in how they can start working with companies while they are still at Georgetown.”
Thummala said she is excited to bond further with other students involved in the program at future Gen Z Network Initiative events.
“I truly loved working with the Gen Z Initiative and not only meeting executives from ELC but also collaborating with a group of incredibly talented Georgetown students,” Thummala wrote. “Everyone highlighted different strengths, and it was wonderful to learn from not only people at the company but from my own peers as well.”