Like many of his classmates, Andrew Ling (MBA 2015) decided to use the summer between his first and second year to try out something new. Formerly a consultant at McKinsey, he spent his summer working in a marketing and general management role at General Mills – specifically on the Totino’s brand of frozen pizza and snacks.

How did your Required Curriculum (RC) year shape what you wanted to do last summer?

I felt that the array of courses in the RC helped me understand the range of business skills that exist. I was intrigued by my exposure to the field of marketing in my entrepreneurship, strategy, marketing, and FIELD courses and wanted to build my understanding of the discipline.

How did your summer internship change what you wanted to do in the long term?

My summer internship opened my eyes up to the rising importance of the marketing function across all industries. Working this summer at a consumer packaged goods company that makes some of the country’s most well-known brands, I learned how to approach a problem from a marketing perspective. I feel that the additional granularity this gave me is a great complement to the strategic and financial lenses I have worked with previously.

How did you go about securing your summer internship?

I first learned about the General Mills internship at a company presentation during a career day in October. I signed up for additional coffee chats offered by the company to learn more, and emailed some alumni I found in the directory to hear about their experiences. I was invited to interview during the January interview period and received my offer at the end of the week.

What surprised you the most about your internship?

I was truly surprised by the nature of the general manager role. At General Mills, and at many consumer packaged goods organizations, the marketer is the general manager and is supported by a team of functional specialists, such as advertising, consumer research, R&D, finance, operations. I was surprised how much of my job involved coordinating, interpreting, and synthesizing the work of my colleagues as opposed to creating my own analyses from scratch.

How did you use what you learned in your RC year in your summer internship?

In a general manager role, I spent most of my time interpreting and synthesizing contributions from functional specialists. The function-driven focus of each RC course helped me understand the specific perspective of each specialist I worked with this summer, and why they were saying what they did.  This helped me put together their contributions into coherent decisions.  Without my RC year, I don’t think I would have had the ability to empathize as well with each individual’s functional background. I think I would have seen more incompatibility among their viewpoints than actually existed.

What advice would you give someone who is approaching the job search as an MBA student?

At the end of two years, what I’ve found most valuable about my time at school has been the ability to explore what I’d be excited about doing in my career, not just right after school but also in the long term. HBS has provided countless opportunities to enable me to do so – chatting with classmates about their experiences, expanding my knowledge of challenges others have tackled through cases, learning from industry leaders at conferences and case protagonists in class, and working abroad in FIELD 2. Having some distance from day-to-day work has also granted some much-appreciated time for reflection.

This post was orginally published on the HBS MBA Voices blog.