We sat down with Latif Alam to discuss the project he worked on this summer as a Summer Associate, his overall experience as a HBM employee and a St. Louis resident.
LA: This summer, I was assigned a strategic marketing project for HBM’s portfolio company Delavau. It was a very interesting project for me as I conducted an analysis to determine the size of the calcium market in terms of sales that Delavau could achieve. I needed to analyze trailing twelve months of sales data, and ultimately determine the size of the market from a product perspective. As part of the analysis, I gained exposure to how companies analyze target markets to ultimately derive a strategic marketing plan.
I was very proud, and also a bit surprised, about the impact this project had on HBM and, ultimately, Delavau. After presenting my findings to John Burrows, Delavau’s CEO and Sam Michini, VP of Sales & Marketing, they made the decision to incorporate this analysis into Delavau’s strategic plan. This was not something I was expecting, especially this early on in my career.
CC: Please walk us through your primary role and responsibilities over the past ten weeks and more about the interaction you had with the senior leaders at Delavau and HBM.
LA: The majority of my ten-week assignment was creating the in-depth analysis for Delavau as I just described. In particular, the project involved a value chain analysis that was very interesting, allowing me to interview key stakeholders on Delavau’s team as well as external consultants. The project analyzed the optimal way that the company’s products should move through the entire chain, from the manufacturing process all the way to product distribution and customer delivery.
I was expecting there to be exposure to the senior leadership team throughout the internship, but certainly not to the extent that I experienced. In addition to my work with Mike DeCola and Don Roberts from HBM, I also interviewed key leaders within Delavau, including Sam Michini, the VP of Sales & Marketing, John Burrow’s, CEO, and Ana Ajose, CFO. Working with these senior leaders was such a fantastic experience as it provided me with a clear understanding of how businesses operate and plan their strategies. I quickly realized that the experience I accrued this summer was unique, as my classmates did not have the level of responsibility I had.
As part of the value chain analysis, I also designed a quote calculator that can be used by the sales team as a tool to estimate competitive pricing in the market. The sales team can input a few variables and get a custom quote on the fly. The quote calculator will be utilized by the sales team after I return to Darden.
CC: Did you have much interaction with other Associates at HBM this summer and how would you describe the corporate culture at HBM?
LA: I worked very closely with Adam Silver, one of HBM’s associates, who was assigned to be my mentor this summer given that he too attended Darden. Coincidentally, both Adam and Alex Aubel were working on projects at Delavau, which was great, as I was able to flush out ideas and gather insights from the projects they were working on.
The culture at HBM was truly a collaborative, team environment, a refreshing experience for me personally. The office layout encourages collaboration, which is something I noticed right away when I interviewed for the opportunity. The office is full of engaging team members, who were approachable and great to work with. My experience was so positive, that I will definitely miss everyone when I go back to Darden.
On a side note, this summer, the Associates formed a volleyball team and joined a Tuesday evening league. Even though we came in dead last (lack of height, not talent!), we had a fantastic time.
CC: Were there any aspects of your summer project that you found challenging?
LA: Yes. One of the goals of the project was to ensure that the final product was not swayed by biases from previous assumptions. Therefore, it was imperative to validate all of these assumptions. In order to do that, I needed to carefully request such validation from my interview subjects without sounding like I was questioning their authority. I felt that I may have ruffled some feathers early on in my manner of checking the data the Delavau team had given me that my initial information didn’t support. It helped that I was the first to admit when my data wasn’t right, which I felt smoothed over any tension that I may have inadvertently created.
It was a great learning experience as I learned how to communicate more effectively and work through a project that might challenge previous assumptions. These are foundational learnings that I can apply to other areas of my life.
CC: Did your Summer Associate role at HBM meet your expectations?
LA: Absolutely. The experience surpassed all expectations I had. I wasn’t expecting to have such an impact on Delavau. To know that my hard work was ultimately integrated into the company’s strategic plan, along with the quote calculator I designed that will be used by Delavau’s sales team, is just incredible. It appears that my fellow Darden classmates simply did not have a similar experience in terms of their impact, which leads me to believe that the opportunity I was offered at HBM was unique.
On top of the work experience, I did not expect the HBM team to be so supportive. I was expecting some competitiveness among the Associates, but instead, it was clear that every single person that I had the opportunity to work with was there to help me learn and succeed. It was such a refreshing experience. HBM employees work as a team, supporting each other in the mutual goal of succeeding overall.
CC: As a St. Louis new resident, what were your impressions of the city?
LA: I absolutely loved St. Louis! I admit that I had some preconceived expectations based on research and media coverage. One thing I learned, however, is to always challenge assumptions – in work and life as well. St. Louis is a fantastic city that is clearly family friendly and highly active, filled with incredibly friendly people.
As I was explaining to my fiancé, St. Louis has all the amenities of a large metropolitan city, but it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly big. And the traffic is definitely manageable.
A huge bonus for me was being able to join a few pick-up soccer leagues around the city. I had no idea that St. Louis was such a soccer friendly town. Soccer is a big part of my identity, so this was a great perk for me.
Latif will be getting married on August 12th to his fiancé Danielle. This fall, he will be returning to Darden to finish his second year of graduate school.