As a former consultant at EY-Parthenon, part of Chicago native and Northwestern University graduate Tayler Danziger’s (MBA 2020) job included travelling all over the U.S. and Europe, advising clients on growth strategy. Little did she know then, this experience would be the perfect prerequisite for not only graduate school at HBS—but also a summer 2019 retail strategy internship with Ford- and Amazon-backed electric car startup, Rivian Automotive.

Founded in 2009, Rivian is an independent American automaker that develops electric adventure vehicles. A Tesla competitor, these long-range, high-performance SUVs and pickup trucks are as powerful as they are eco-friendly, and are designed to inspire people to get out and explore.

“I appreciate what Tesla has done in terms of showing the world how enjoyable electric vehicles can be,” says Danziger. “But a lot of lifestyles are looking for a different kind of electric vehicle.”

While interning with Rivian this summer, Danziger will be responsible for defining the company’s commercialization strategy and outlining specifications for both brick-and-mortar and digital retail, splitting time between Rivian’s San Jose headquarters, its Plymouth, Michigan, location, and the HBS innovation lab.

“It meant a lot to me that I knew I would be coming in and filling a role that they genuinely needed filled,” says Danziger. “Commercialization is a major focus for the team, and retail is a huge part of that. Part of my job will be helping to decide where we should open stores, what the stores should look like, how we should structure test drives, and how we should communicate with customers.”

Applying her HBS education at Rivian

After only a year at HBS, Danziger has found the finance, marketing, and leadership knowledge she’s acquired thus far to be exceptionally applicable at her Rivian internship.

“I have been surprised how quickly it has transferred,” she says. “I have been able to apply classroom experiences directly in the workplace."

Danziger says that she has already had the opportunity to apply learnings from her Leadership and Corporate Accountability course, which focuses on the economic, legal, and ethical dimensions tied to corporate responsibility.

“We were talking about how we might set compensation for our retail associates, and paying people a living wage,” says Danziger. “I’d already gone through and done my own thinking on the subject of living wages during LCA, so I could focus on effectively communicating my points of view. I could much more strongly advocate for my positions and ask intelligent questions, which I couldn’t have done as articulately if I’d had that conversation a year ago.”

Adventuring outside her comfort zone

While Danziger will likely return to EY-Parthenon after graduation to fulfill her sponsorship agreement, she says that securing her Rivian internship seemed like a low-risk opportunity to throw herself outside of her typical work environment in hopes of developing more flexibility in her working style.

“For me, the opposite of my comfort zone is working in a highly unstructured environment with very light leverage—the kind of situation where the project is vaguely defined and the resources are hard to nail down,” she says.

“This led me to consider mostly early-stage companies who were looking for some extra hands on deck for the summer, rather than more formal internship programs that recruit on campus. Some temporary discomfort seemed like something that, if done thoughtfully and with the right company, might help me to be a better team member and leader in the long run.”