By Ashley Cahill T'17
This winter, I joined four classmates to work on a First-Year Project for PayPal France. The First-Year Project (FYP) at Tuck gives students the valuable opportunity to apply key learnings from the core curriculum to a real business setting. This year, Tuck’s FYP clients ran the gamut—from local Upper Valley businesses to student-founded entrepreneurial ventures, to Fortune 500 multinationals. My team’s FYP was one of more than a dozen globally-focused projects that would satisfy the TuckGO requirement, implemented to mold Tuck MBA students into stronger, more globally-aware business leaders through cultural immersion.
During the winter term, my team and I got to know our client contact, Francis Barel T’05, who heads up market growth for PayPal France. Through introductory Skype sessions my team refined the scope of the project and began brainstorming how to address the client’s need—gaining a better understanding of international tourist purchasing behavior in France. During spring break this past March, my team flew to France to spend a week at the PayPal Paris office and conduct impactful, on the ground, primary research.
From the onset, it was clear that PayPal’s Paris office was unique in its own right. Although there are fewer than 100 employees, more than 25 nationalities are represented. Throughout the week, my classmates and I chatted with employees from France, Belgium, Poland, Italy, the U.S. and the Netherlands. It was evident early on that PayPal values international experience, cross-cultural management skills, and diversity.
While planning our trip, my team decided that the most effective usage of our in-country time would be to meet with key company managers. During our first day in the office, we sat down with the Cross-Border Team (CBT), which focuses on creating value for the company across Europe through cross-border trade and a focus on the EMEA market. We walked away from our discussions with insights into how our research might be utilized. CBT’s enthusiasm about the project and examples of applications of similar past research helped us to better wrap our heads around the path forward. Through dynamic office interviews, we were able to garner valuable insights into the company’s value proposition in the tourism sector and its strategic challenges.
One of the most important takeaways from this week was the critical importance of in-person meetings to propel a project forward, especially when separated by oceans. When my team first arrived in Paris, we had lingering questions about the scope of the project and the applications for the client. By spending valuable, in-person time with our client contact and having the opportunity to speak to different teams and managers throughout the office we garnered valuable knowledge that allowed us to refine the project scope, better structure our thinking and envision how the final takeaways would help PayPal’s strategy in this sector. Similarly, the five days of close interaction and work allowed my FYP team to learn about each other’s strengths, weaknesses and working styles, as well as provide the opportunity for us to strengthen our personal and working relationships through shared experiences.
On our last day in Paris, we were invited to join PayPal’s “Best Place to Lunch” party, a monthly themed event, focused on fun and engagement. This month’s theme was the circus, complete with employees dressed as clowns, a pretty impressive magician and a cotton candy machine. All in all, the FYP experience in Paris provided a valuable learning experience about the importance of team bonding and cross-cultural learning.
Ashley Cahill grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut with a major in management. Prior to Tuck, Ashley spent five years working in Shanghai, China in public relations roles for the American Chamber of Commerce, Weber Shandwick, and a sustainable agriculture startup. She is currently exploring summer internship opportunities in corporate communications.
(Top photo, from left to right: Kenneth Martin T’17, Yiqing Yang T’17, David Donahue T’17, Ashley Cahill T’17, and Benjamin Stevens T’17.)
The FYP Team with Francis Barel T’05 (left), head of market growth at PayPal France.
The FYP team enjoying PayPal’s monthly “Great Place to Lunch” party.