Hear from a Peer: Tips for Field Project Success from Yilin Liu MSF’23

Hello! My name is Yilin Liu. I’m a 2nd year MSF student. I did my first field project in Spring 2022, and was lucky to do an internship with the same project partner this Summer. This Fall, I’ve continued to work part-time with the company too!

For the field project, I was in a team of three. We provided suggestions on business strategy for a startup. The whole project allowed me to learn and think more about the real business world. And it gave me a leg up in the Summer internship. 

Here is some of my advice to succeed in a field project:

First, ask yourself “why” all the time.
This was frequently mentioned by Professor Wells, my advisor for the project. The partner already knows something about the industry, so they really want to get new information from you.  Take the project I did as an example. I was asked to do a market analysis in the financial education industry. My project partner already knew a list of the main players. So it’s worthless if I just google ‘financial education’ and gather all the information. How can I provide valuable suggestions? I need to ask myself: what factors differentiated the companies? Why does one of the best players have so many users? How did it make the product attractive? etc. All in all, Be curious, it’s really important.

Second, communicate with your project partner actively, based on your partner’s preference.
It’s quite important to figure out what they want from you. Questions raised by your partner could change at any time. I was asked to find different scoring patterns for financial academies at first. But then, after seeking further clarification, it turned out that the partner actually wanted to know how to allocate scores for each question. The task became more specific. In a word, it’s okay if you do not fully understand the partner in an external meeting. Just try to reach out whenever you have a question. If your partner is flexible, you can ask individually, on WhatApp or Slack. Or the team can gather all the questions and send an email to the partner. 

Third, utilize what you have in your team!
Support from Brittani, your advisor, teammates, and other resources at Brandeis are all very valuable. While working with my project team, there was a sense of community compared to working alone as an intern, because I could always get great suggestions from my teammates, Professor Wells and Brittani. My teammates were working on the tasks with me, together. For my internship, however, I had to finish tasks individually and in a limited amount of time. So please cherish this opportunity together, and learn as much as you can

Last are two personal thoughts I want to share. 

  1. Leadership: To be honest, I didn’t plan to be a leader of the team at the very beginning because my teammates were upperclassmen and more experienced. But as I looked deeper at the competitors and gained more insights on the industry, I became more comfortable. When I started to express my suggestions in the internal meetings, my ideas were discussed more. It was my curiosity that made me gradually lead discussions in the team.
  2. Relationship-Building: During the project, I was not only driven by curiosity but also by a sense of responsibility. As a student participant, I deeply understood that my performance would influence the relationship between the International Business School and the project partner. The better I perform, the more stable the relationship is, and the more opportunities will be provided to students in the future. For example, because my team did well in Spring, my supervisor decided to do the field project again this Fall. I hope that the trust between the partners and the International Business School will continue for a long time. Thus we can build a strong network where more students can find internships or even job opportunities. 

Thanks for the opportunity to share my experience. I hope this is useful. And enjoy your field project! 

-Yilin Liu, MSF ’23

By Brittani Harris
Brittani Harris Assistant Director, Academic Experiential Learning