My name is Zach Zelman, and I am a student at Duncan College, class of 2025, studying Economics, French, and Philosophy from Cleveland, Ohio.
What made you want to apply for your internship at Master Lock Paris?
As someone who is still considering several distinct career paths, my approach to my internships has been to try something different each summer that could help to narrow down the field of what I want to do. Last year, that led to me trying something in finance, and this summer something where I could live and work in Paris – I’ve been taking French since middle school and it has become a passion of mine. I felt that doing a work experience there now would allow me to see if I would want to live and work there on a more permanent basis later. Not to mention the appeal of experiencing life in Paris, perfecting my French, and learning to function alone in a foreign country.
What exactly did you do throughout the internship?
My internship had three main parts. The first was doing research on Master Lock’s Bluetooth products and the market for selling them to other businesses – looking at the growth potential, competitors and so forth.
The second part was a case study – I worked with my boss, Leslie, and the director of Bluetooth products, Paul, to identify and analyze a company with high sales potential. This also included an analysis of Master Lock’s strategic position (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) for this company as well as a basic financial analysis.
What was great about the first two parts of the internship was that I didn’t have to have any prior experience in business to be able to do the work – since the bulk of the work was research centric, it was mostly just a matter of asking Leslie and my other colleagues questions where necessary and working with them to make revisions.
The final part was my favorite – a dive into understanding recent challenges in global supply chains, including the computer chip shortage, product shipment delays, port congestion and soaring freight pricing. All of this was contextualized with the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the war in Ukraine. There was also a focus on how these issues have played a significant role in the recent rising prices we’ve seen across the economy. In sum, this was a macroeconomic analysis.
Everything I did at the office (speaking with colleagues, writing my research report etc.) was in French, which led to tremendous improvement in my language skills. It was only after completing all the work that I translated my 10,000-word report into English so that the Master Lock team back in the US could see what I had been up to. I also did a final presentation to the CEO of Master Lock, David Youn.
What was it like doing an internship abroad? Was the experience different than you were expecting?
For the internship itself, the main differences from my US internships were the expectations my boss had of me as well as having to do it all in French. What I mean by the expectations is that the work I did was designed to be far more meaningful and contributive to Master Lock than the work that I had done during my previous internships. French internships usually last for a minimum of six months. I was lucky that Master Lock was willing to work with me over the two-month period (and as the French Club president at Rice I am hoping to connect future Rice students to Master Lock as well). However, I did know this difference going in as I had discussed it with my human resources director, Virginie, during my interview process.
What are some things you learned from the internship or living abroad?
During the internship itself, my French improved tremendously, especially my writing skills and my ability to get what I am trying to say across. I also would say my research skills improved and my ability to take lots of different pieces of data and put it together into one cohesive narrative. I would also now say that I have a much better understanding of our current global economic predicament and how COVID and has both exposed and exacerbated systemic economic vulnerabilities.
As for living abroad, I quickly learned how to cope with being out of my comfort zone, being in a foreign city where I didn’t know anyone. Still, this was also exciting to me, and trying to put myself out there and meet new people while also exploring Paris proved to be both fun and challenging. While it was great getting to know many of my colleagues at work over lunch and coffee breaks, most of them were older and resided in the suburbs. I thus quickly realized it would be harder than I initially believed to meet other people my age. Still, I ended up doing lots of meet ups for drinks and went to some dinners as well at a Paris Chabad house that I had been referred to by the Chabad rabbi at Rice (Rabbi Shmuli Slonim). As such, I was able to meet and get to know lots of awesome people. Lots of my most favorite discussions involved learning about how things work in France (and by extension Europe), and how things differ from the US, whether it be the educational process, access to healthy food, differences in urban planning or norms around paid vacation time.
How do you think this experience has impacted your educational goals or your career goals?
Before this summer, my aim for French at Rice was to just take classes mostly for fun and not worry about whether I completed the major or minor for it. However, now that I am doing an independent study with Dr. Couti this semester expanding on what I learned during the internship, the door has opened for me to finish the major. I am also now considering continuing my French studies beyond the undergraduate level, although it will be difficult to decide between French and my other primary interests. However, I do know that I want to maintain my proficiency and this summer helped me confirm that I also want to return to Paris and work there again after finishing my studies.
Did you do any sightseeing/cultural excursions while you were in Paris? If so, which were your favorites?
Before, during, and after the internship I had the chance to explore Paris and travel around Europe. In Paris, I hit up many of the most well-known sites, and my favorites included touring le Musée d’Orsay and doing a food and wine tasting tour with a company called Paris by Mouth in the part of the city where I resided for the summer, Le Marais. During the tour we tried incredible croissants and baguettes, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, and wine.
Outside of being in Paris, I was lucky to be able to travel to a total of nine countries. Before the internship I traveled with my dad, during it I either did alone or with a friend, and afterwards with my mom. The countries included France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The best moments from this travel included summer skiing in Zermatt Switzerland, seeing an opera in Vienna, watching the Monaco F1 Grand Prix, checking out the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, seeing the Rolling Stones in concert in Stockholm with my mom, and staying at a French Chateau and winery in Provence.
Overall, this summer was a once in a lifetime opportunity to take in Paris and Europe and improve my French. I’m grateful for the support I received from Master Lock, my family, and Rice.