Changing Lives, One House At a Time

Ian Pisano

Choosing what to do on your summer internship is tricky. Should you look for something that helps you build skills that might be useful for your next job? Something that would look good in your CV? Perhaps you can take those eight weeks off and do some social impact work? It turns out that those are not mutually exclusive options. This summer I had the great opportunity to spend two months working at a social impact start-up.

PeoplePods, a corporate solution for factory workers housing in the Philippines, was founded by Daniel Layug (INSEAD ‘17D). When I learned that I could work there, I was immediately interested. However, there was one concern: given that the start-up was in its early stages, the internship would have to be unpaid, which would be an issue for me. Luckily, INSEAD granted me with the Social Impact Award that took care of my expenses. INSEAD also had a key role in PeoplePods itself, since the initial business plan was crafted in the context of the 35th INSEAD Venture Competition, in which the company was awarded a total of EUR 40,000.

My role at the company was of Chief Strategy Officer (CSO), meaning that I would help Daniel outline growth and go-to-market strategies, as well as working with him to implement those plans. That was a great opportunity to apply what I had learned during the MBA as well as to leverage my previous work experience. It was great to see that Dan himself also based a lot of his decisions on his MBA learnings. Although my role was of CSO, in the typical fashion of a start-up with a lean team, I ended up doing a bit of everything.

From site visits to sales meetings, my activities allowed me to have a holistic view of the company’s activities, something that I did not get to experience in my consulting background.

It was great to be pushed out of my comfort zone to find some new strengths and weaknesses, as well as to discover some new interests!

Overall, it was a remarkable experience. I got to experiment with working on a start-up, helping Filipino workers get access to dignified housing options, live in a culture completely different than what I was used to and, most importantly, learn a great deal to enhance my MBA experience!