Earn an MEM degree and work at (Corporate) McDonald’s

Garry SandhuBy Garry Sandhu, recent MEM graduate (’13)

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to intern at the McDonald’s Corporate Headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. Before I started my internship, I didn’t have much of an impression of McDonald’s other than knowing its sheer size and volume of operations can be seriously overwhelming and intimidating with a presence in over 177 nations across the world and large variety of operations that manage a humongous and overtly complex supply chain network. As an intern for over 11 weeks I had the opportunity to manage and tackle some of the challenges in their Energy Department.

I completed my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at Punjab University in India and worked for over 6 years in engineering design consulting services, mostly in the energy sector. Before attending the MEM program at Northwestern, I was always pigeonholed as an engineer and was viewed as only being able to work with numbers. You can imagine how I felt right at home when Don McNeely said after our first IEMS 437 class, “put a couple of engineers together and they come out discussing engineering and nothing else.”

After the MEM program I have a more holistic approach toward business problems. I can tackle the challenges from a strategic perspective, and come up with a pertinent solution to most difficult problems. I brought this new knowledge with me to my internship at McDonald’s.

My internship involved three tasks or challenges: to drive energy efficiency equipment designs; support McDonald’s three-legged stool of Customers, Operators and Suppliers; and to negotiate energy contacts with utilities (commodity trading). Additionally, I worked with other interns to drive recycling ideas which can potentially generate less waste and make McDonald’s a more sustainable and socially responsible restaurant.

During my internship I was able to put much of my MEM knowledge to use. Lessons from Finance such as NPV, break-even calculation, and many of the case studies from Marketing and Strategic Management were a big help. I liked the macro perspective given by Don to help avoid focusing exclusively on the specifics while losing track of the bigger picture.

With a few other interns from business school, I created a recycling idea, which can effectively reduce waste in restaurants and eventually reduce McDonald’s carbon footprint contribution. We presented the project to the CEO and I‘m sure from the feedback we received it might just run as a pilot project in some country across world.

McDonald’s is a great company to work for. I felt I could walk into anyone’s office and discuss plans or seek help from the humble and approachable people who work there. There are also awesome donuts and food on Fridays. My internship came at just the right time while I was looking to make a transition from the engineering to the business side of engineering. Without a doubt would not have been possible without the experience and learning I received at Northwestern University.

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