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A global co-op at Toyota taught him the value of ‘kaizen’

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

On paper, at least, it sounded like a pretty cool co-op; six months in Singapore handling a well-known eyewear company’s Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts.

Jaime Bensadon loved the work. The third-year business student was thrilled to post photos, write captions, and email colleagues in other time zones. After an NUin stint in China in his first year, he was ready for another whirl in Asia.

But the six-month Singapore assignment at EssilorLuxottica—the France-based eyeglasses giant behind brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley—shrank to three months when the pandemic hit early last year. And he found that the fashion industry, interesting though it was, just wasn’t his thing. His advice for students who don’t have lengthy resumes is to aim for an industry with personal appeal.

Portrait of Jaime Bensadon

“Co-op allows you to submerge in the culture much more than any other experience,” says Jaime Bensadon, a third-year student the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. He is in Belgium helping Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, on a data management project.

Which is what Bensadon, a native of Madrid, Spain, did when he pulled a 180 for his next on-the-job learning experience. Instead of fashion, he chose the auto industry. Rather than work on a team, he became an individual contributor. And spending his days doing marketing on social media channels and sales data analysis gave way to modernizing data management for the world’s largest automaker, Japan’s Toyota.

He couldn’t divulge too much about his responsibilities, citing confidentiality, but in essence Toyota and other companies are looking to save money and time by better managing their data.

Poor data quality destroys business value, according to a 2020 report by Gartner, the Stamford, Connecticut-based research and consulting firm. The average cost of poor data quality on a company’s bottom line is estimated to be about $13 million per year. That figure is likely to rise as businesses become more digitized and complex.

Bensadon embraces the individual-contributor style of work.

“I’m learning a lot and the experience of being alone has been a good one,” he says. Though at times he pines for collaborating with others. If it’s one skill he learned working for one of the biggest practitioners of kaizen, the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement, is the importance of planning ahead.

“One thing that I am not used to is planning,” Bensadon admits.

“If I move too fast in the beginning, I’ll waste a lot of time later fixing the errors. Being here has shown me that planning is very important and it really saves a lot of money,” he says.

Methodically thinking things through goes against Bensadon’s natural predilection for jumping head-first into a project.

“It is a great experience. I absolutely love it,” he says of his current role. And despite the pandemic’s social limitations, he has been able to immerse in the local culture and go out and meet people in Singapore and Belgium, which he found more culturally rewarding than the lone semester in China.

His time there was largely spent hanging around with fellow Huskies from Europe. He didn’t have that ready-made camaraderie during the co-ops, which had the benefit of forcing him to interact with others and adapt socially.

“Co-op allows you to submerge in the culture much more than any other experience,” he says. “It incentivizes you to go out and look for people.” 

Bensadon plans to return to Madrid when his stint is up in June. He will take online courses over the summer before returning to Boston in the fall to finish up a business administration degree with a concentration in supply chain management and innovation.

In the meantime he’d like to spend more time doing indoor rock climbing, but everything is closed in Belgium because of rising coronavirus cases, so he skateboards outdoors in the afternoons. Surfing would be nice too, but he’s far from the coast. “Maybe I’ll plan a trip to California,” he laughs.

Regardless of where he is in the world, all roads somehow lead back to Boston. It was where his father, sister, and several cousins studied. It also was where he learned to weather his first snowstorm—”it was the coldest that I have ever felt.” And it was here, at Northeastern’s Global Co-op Office, where Bensadon first learned that, far from merely overcoming the professional discomfort of international experiences, he could actually thrive.

“It has been an amazing experience and I strongly recommend it,” he says.

For media inquiries, please contact media@northeastern.edu.

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