In Fords in Four, we ask an alumnus four questions; he shares insights and stories. In this blog post, Michael Lewis '99 reflects on what he learned at Haverford, and how these lessons have impacted his career in market research as well as inspired him to give back.
What lessons from Haverford do you carry with you?
Mr. Duffany was my English teacher in fifth grade, and he laid the foundation for me as it relates to grammar and how to construct a paragraph. I had my binder from his class until I went to college. He approached our class with a seriousness that on one level was intimidating but on another level, it showed how serious he took his craft. He created a curriculum that I accessed every day of my academic career.
After interning at Procter & Gamble for four summers while at Wesleyan University, I accepted a full-time job in their market research department. I came to realize that success in customer insights was based on a skill I first learned at Haverford: build a thesis and support it with data. Developing a strong thesis is not about summarizing a key theme but expressing a unique point of view based on your synthesis of the data. Doing this in the quest to influence the development of marketing strategy is something that I have found to be fulfilling and challenging.
What does market research provide for a company?
Market research helps a company identify opportunities as well as mitigate risk. That can come in the form of identifying product areas where consumers are not being served, so a company can create new products to serve that need. Market research can also identify key pain points consumers are experiencing, so that a company can work to address those gaps.
One of my days could be completely dedicated to leading a group of colleagues through brainstorming sessions and focus groups. On another day, I could be analyzing data or meeting with a cross-functional team on a special project for the company's senior leadership. I get to work with people across different departments, so the projects that I manage can be very diverse. The variety keeps things interesting.
I was truly set up for success in college due to my experience at Haverford. The foundation for my professional accomplishments has been greatly impacted by my nine years at Haverford, and I am eternally grateful for the amazing friendships I formed there.
Why is it important for you to stay involved with Haverford?
I was truly set up for success in college due to my experience at Haverford. The foundation for my professional accomplishments has been greatly impacted by my nine years at Haverford, and I am eternally grateful for the amazing friendships I formed there. I joined the Board of Trustees because of this sense of service in appreciation for what Haverford provided me.
What drives you to give back?
I have always been guided by the verse, "to whom much is given, much is required." In addition to my work with Haverford, I co-chair the board of the Equality Federation, a LGBTQ civil rights organization that serves as a strategic partner to state-based LGBTQ equality groups, like Equality Pennsylvania. I also just rolled off of the Excellence Community Schools board after serving six years for the charter school management organization. I have been extremely fortunate in life and feel it is important to give back.