Marketing Institute exposes student to billion-dollar companies and startups

Whether managing accounts for a tech firm or working as a stylist/social media marketer for an upscale clothier, Talib Al-Sammarraie (BA14) draws on the experience he gained through Iowa’s Marketing Institute.

Because the Marketing Institute turns full-time students into big-time business consultants, Talib graduated having worked with both billion-dollar companies and start-ups.

Talib explains how he turned his consulting experience into a career advantage.

Your student team consulted with Allscripts, a billion-dollar healthcare company, to study the effectiveness of its patient portal. How does the portal work?

“It’s like a Facebook for health. You have your records, you can schedule appointments, you can read about certain diseases.

“Allscripts wanted us to see how friendly that program was for different demographic groups—younger generations, older generations. Did they need to modify the platform or interface? Should they make it easier or make it harder? What kind of things make you tick as a patient?”

How did your research study answer those questions?

“We brought people into a lab and used eye-tracking as they performed certain tasks. We’d see what kinds of things they focused on. How long did it take them to perform a certain task? Did they find the delete button? Did they know how to create their profile? Did they log in through their Facebook, through Google or with a secret password? All these things came into play.”

What was your role?

“I talked directly to clients, I was the project manager. I was in the middle delegating between my teammates and the director of the institute and the executives of the company. That was a really big responsibility.”

You also worked on projects for a med-tech furniture company and an online tutoring marketplace. What did you learn about the world of consulting?

“Believe it or not, the companies sometimes don’t have a clue of what they want. Or they have an idea of what they want, but they don’t know how to get to it. Or they don’t even know if it’s feasible. As a consultant hired outside the company, it’s my job to say, ‘Hey, this is what we understand from you. This is what we think needs to be done. This is what we can do for you.’”

After working with companies on bottom-line issues, what did the Marketing Institute experience contribute to your own career bottom line?

“I got to work with real-life clients on real-life projects where our work had a real impact on the company. The Institute added another layer of being in business. It really shows how to become a professional person at a young age and how to utilize that experience to your advantage as you interview for jobs.

“Think of it: all that as an undergrad student! You don’t get to do that at just any college.”

You flew to Chicago to present your findings to the Allscripts executives. So how does it feel—as an undergrad—to tell billion-dollar companies how they should be doing business better?

“It feels really good, man!”