I looked out of the window and smiled as the plane took off for Casablanca. This was it! After submitting my application, reference and budget costs, delivering a presentation in front of an interview panel of four people followed by a question and answer session, and then finally a telephone interview with the GSK Morocco office which was conducted in French towards the end, I had made it. The Global Challenge Morocco Casablanca GSK Marketing internship had begun!
The “challenge” element presented itself early. The taxi. As soon as we stepped out of the airport we were bombarded by people shouting prices and grabbing our luggage. After we had agreed a price the next step was giving the hotel address. Surely everyone had this written down to get to the hotel? No. One man, one hope….me. We quickly agreed a price and set off for the hotel. Although it was dark and late I could see that the roads, the cars, the buildings and the people were unlike anything in the UK. I was excited. This was what I wanted, a working environment I had never been in.
We arrived at the hotel. “Oh Harris can you tell them in French…”. It was a sign of things to come, the translator. But I was more than happy to speak French. It had always been something I enjoyed so I relished the opportunity to speak in Morocco. We were shortly handed our room keys and made our way to the lift. “Well we’re still alive” I joked. Everyone laughed, it had been a long journey but we had made it without any trouble.
Sunday morning. I had my backpack, sunglasses and a sense of adventure as a left the hotel. I walked towards whatever would catch my attention. I saw the Casablanca metro, the Tribunal de Grande Instance, the White Cathedral (an unusual site in an Islamic country), briefly the old souk bazaars and there then there it was – the Hassan 2nd Mosque – without doubt Casablanca’s finest piece of architecture. But after walking all day my priority changed to food. I was walking in the direction of the hotel when I stumbled across Boulevard de Bordeaux. This was the real Casablanca. Kids playing football in the street, packed out outdoor cafes and smoke rising from the food market. The smell of all the herbs and spices only made me hungrier. I played it safe by buying a panini and returned to the hotel after a long day’s walk.
Monday, my first day at GSK. Redouane, the main contact to GSK for our pre-departure arrangements, met us at the hotel. We introduced ourselves and walked to the office talking on the way about our stay so far. As I stepped into the building my eye caught the orange GSK logo. It dawned on me then that I was at a world leading pharmaceutical firm. Redouane led us to a conference room where he delivered a comprehensive presentation on GSK. The topics included were: the nature of the pharmaceutical industry, the markets GSK operates in and researches in, GSK’s response to the financial crisis in 2008, the impact of the recent merger with Norvartis, and finally the Morocco office.
Afterwards we had lunch with the general manager of North Africa. Clearly there was no “glass ceiling” here, as the general manager was a woman. She really made us feel welcomed and comfortable during lunch and introduced us to various people.
After lunch I met my mentor Aziz Rias, the Director of Commercial Excellence. Once again I felt welcomed. He firstly asked me what my first reaction was when I had got the internship. Then he moved on to what I understood about GSK and in particular the marketing/ commercial excellence department. He explained what the commercial excellence department does and we discussed what I wanted to gain from the experience. Following these discussions I was set a task to decide what type of work I would be interested in, and to explain my rationale for my choice. I was also invited to play football on Tuesday with the guys at work. I said yes immediately. Without doubt it would be the best way to get to know everyone at work.
On Tuesday I spent the morning researching Morocco’s healthcare sector. In the afternoon I met with Aziz and he introduced me to the commercial excellence team. We then had a one to one meeting to discuss the option I had chosen. I had chosen “Think of creative differentiating concepts in promoting brands”. Based on my chosen option Aziz gave me the “Think Digital” project. The objective of the project was to implement the GSK global digital marketing plan to Morocco. I was really excited to be given this project and couldn’t wait to begin!
But first it was time to play football. As expected it was a great way to meet everyone. The pitch was in a great location as well being just by the sea and the football was also competitive! By playing in the heat of Casablanca it quickly became evident (from my breathing or lack of it) that running up and down the pitch would not be sustainable. Instead, I had to conserve my energy and think more off the ball. All in all it was the best way to end the day.