Seattle/Portland Study Tour: Lessons Learned from Companies

Eller PDC PDC Events

Each spring, the Professional Development Center presents a unique opportunity for students in the Eller College of Management to visit a variety of companies and meet professionals living and working in a major city. This past spring break, participants of this Study Tour visited both Seattle and Portland. The following are some key takeaways that students received from some of the exciting companies that they visited.


Amazon (Seattle) by Caelum Gay, Nicholas Palomares, and Alan Rogers

Perhaps the most fascinating thing we learned about was the “white sheets” concept. The white sheets concept says that if an employee has a good idea, they are to write a detailed paper on it and share it with their superiors. If the higher up likes the idea, they implement it and give credit to the idea’s originator. Furthermore they let the originator of the idea follow the plan as far as it goes. Essentially, the employee doesn’t come up with a good idea just to hear their advisor say “that’s a great idea kid, let the grown-ups handle it from here.”


Costco (Seattle) by Meaghan Sweet, Hannah Polm, and Catherine Lahlouh

We learned that it is hard to anticipate how a new store is going to do in a foreign market. You can make predictions and forecasts but it won’t always go as planned. For example, many people thought Costco wouldn’t do well in South America or Europe because people don’t have the space to store bulk goods. However, they didn’t take into account the social nature of shopping in those countries. It turned out that people shared bulk goods and space wasn’t an issue. What we took away from the story was that there are so many variables that need to be considered when a new store is opened in a new market.


Starbucks (Seattle) by Aidee Campuzano, Alexa Mehl, and Shweta Omkaram

What makes their company unique is in addition to these departments they also have a coffee tasting department, a global marketing department as well as research department for coffee beans. The functions of these particular departments are vital as they constantly innovate new coffees and tastes and advertise them in a manner that hooks consumers to their products on a national and global scale. The coffee testing department test new products and what other flavors would compliment that particular coffee. The research department travels the globe in order to find the right type of coffee beans in order to keep the quality and diversity Starbucks is known for in conjunction with constant flavor innovations. Lastly, as Starbucks is a global company, their global marketing department strategizes how to appeal to consumers of different cultures.


Fisher Investments (Portland) by Burton Bennett, Matthew Burnett, and Samuel Rasch

What stood out for Fisher Investments was how thrilled the employees were while working. From our tour guides, to the alumni, and the account executives working on the sales floor, everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy their job. We even witnessed two coworkers fist bump as one apparently received some good news from a client on the phone. The Wildcat Alumni were able to answer our questions in great detail and provide advice for what we, as students, can be doing now in order to be highly qualified candidates for future employment.


Lytics (Portland) by Jessica Lazzeroni and Jennifer Schultz

Lytics was the only start-up company on the tour, which gave us an invaluable experience in contrast to the corporate structures we were visiting. Portland, Oregon has become an attractive location for tech companies, earning it the names of “TechTown” and “Silicon Forest.” Some reasons for this might be the lower cost yet higher standard of living as compared to similar cities (e.g., New York City or San Francisco). Lytics’ core asset is people, which is typical of most start-ups. There is a lot of flexibility in roles there, and freedom to work on projects.


Nike (Portland) by Tanner Hoskin and Denell Coon

Brent, who mentioned he worked with signing basketball players to endorsement deals, gave a lot of valuable insight to the company as a whole. He was honest and passionate, which spoke volumes to what he has invested in the company. Talking about the apparel deals with the NFL and the potential deal with the NBA, he was very detailed in the way Nike goes about making deals such as that. A key part in the NFL deal was having the Swoosh visible on the jersey, whereas in the NBA the jerseys do not have a visible company logo. Also, though not in specific, we thought it was interesting how they viewed a players worth and the positive exposures that athlete would bring the company.

Be sure to read about students’ personal experiences on the Seattle/Portland Study Tour, which can also be found under PDC Events!