Once attracted to investment banking and the idea of having his hand in big deals, mergers, and acquisitions, Johnny Walsh’s career exploration in finance has turned a bit unorthodox. This summer, the rising sophomore at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is interning at Harley-Davidson’s Milwaukee headquarters where he’s doing financial management in the office of the CIO.
No suits or ties needed, Walsh — a finance major who’s considering a co-major in business analytics — shows up to work each day in jeans and a Harley tee then delves into high-priority projects alongside other members of the Global Information Systems (GIS) team. Everything from strategy support to process automation to help save the company money falls in his wheelhouse. Walsh says he attributes his ability to have a voice in the company to Harley’s collaborative culture and Kelley’s notoriety as a top business school.
‘I MIGHT BE JUST FINISHING MY FIRST YEAR OF COLLEGE, BUT I CAN SIT IN FRONT OF THE CEO OF A WELL-KNOWN COMPANY’
The 11-week, paid internship experience kicked off in late May with two days of orientation where the summer interns and a handful of new full-time staff met and heard from the company’s top leaders — from creative services and engineering all the way to the COO and CEO.
Walsh says these first two days have been his favorite. “The COO, Michelle Kumbier, came and spoke to us the first day,” Walsh says. “That was really cool to get her take on the company and what we’ll be apart of. The second day, there were a lot more speakers. They talked to us about the dealer network and how it relates to the motor company. Creative services spoke about changing our marketing plan for the future. Then we had engineers come in. There are motorcycles placed all throughout and the opportunity to see and learn about them — especially for us who have never ridden — was really great.”
Walsh says the two-day welcome wrapped up with Harley-Davidson’s CEO Matthew Levatich. “To me it was great because I might be just finishing my first year of college, but I can sit in front of the CEO of a popular and well-known company and ask questions,” he says. “They start you off in a great way and it’s hard not to love the company.”
PUTTING BUSINESS ANALYTICS SKILLS TO GOOD USE
In the weeks since this inspirational start, Walsh says each day at Harley-Davidson has been different — an environment he enjoys. Yet there are a few key projects he’s a part of or has total ownership over. First is a robotics process automation project where he gets to flex the Excel skills he picked up in a Business Analytics class at Kelley.
“The whole goal is not to create the automations, but I created an Excel model for a return on investment for each of these automations the company is considering,” Walsh explains. “It goes into the cost of each one, how much it costs each person to do it now, and what it’d cost a bot to do it. I’m reporting what it will cost us to implement each automation and if we’ll generate more revenue in implementing them. Then, finally, will it increase productivity?”
At the same time, Walsh owns a file database project which involves a wide-ranging transition from one digital system to a new and improved one. “I’m designing our Sharepoint site,” he says. “It’s not just folder and file transferring, but using the tool of Sharepoint to its full capacity. Hopefully, in the next couple weeks I’ll have a functioning site. When I get this done, it’s going to be used for years to come and I can say, ‘Hey, I worked on that.’”
Walsh’s other key involvements at Harley include strategy work and ideation in support of the GIS team’s three-year strategy and the company’s overall 10-year strategy.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO INTERN AT HARLEY-DAVIDSON
All of this amounts to what he simply describes as a great experience. “One of the main things in looking at different internships was that I wanted to feel valued and be able to provide true value,” he says. “I really haven’t felt like I’ve been forced to do much grunt work at all. Even if it does feel like it, it’s my own project I’m doing and the work will be used by this team for the next five years at least.”
Walsh adds, “People here are really passionate about what we make and what we do. Everyone is so focused on the fact we make the best motorcycles in the world. Everyone cares about the company they work for which I don’t think a lot of companies have.”
Walsh shares that his experience has also brought to light some misconceptions about the Harley-Davidson brand. “When a lot of people think of the brand, they think of the classic core rider, middle-aged and that type of thing,” Walsh says. “But really, this is a very young and up-and-coming company. It’s coming up on its 115th anniversary in September, but it’s focused on getting a lot of young people in here because that’s their customer base and they’re trying to keep the company going. It’s really interesting because I’ve worked with people who have just graduated or graduated within the last five years. One is a Kelley alum who graduated three years ago.”
Walsh says he wouldn’t think twice about recommending this experience to other students. “Wherever your interests fall — finance or HR or engineering or info systems — there’s something for everyone at this company,” he says.
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