The realities of doing a client project as a student

Johnny Swierczynski, a marketing student from the University of Southampton in the UK, reflects on his Riipen project and discusses some of the realities of working with a real client as a student including challenges he faced and some of his key takeaways.
July 22, 2020
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Hey, my name is Johnny and I’m a final year marketing student at the University of Southampton in the UK. During my 2nd year, I had the pleasure of taking a class called “Service Value for Digital Managers” which goes in-depth about how marketers can create value in the long term rather than just profit in the short term. The module leader was incredibly passionate about making the assignment as realistic as possible and strongly encouraged us to partner up with a client organisation; this is where Riipen came in. In this post, I’m going to give you a quick run-through of the realities of doing a live project, the highlights, as well as the challenges. 

The project

At the time, Riipen had just entered the UK market, so the main objective of the project was to find out how Riipen could create value in the long term for educators in the UK. I reached out to Jan Natividad, Riipen's growth marketing manager, who was coordinating the project and we scheduled a video call to get to know each other and the project. I was specifically excited to do this assignment as Jan’s brief was all about implementing the “flywheel” concept at Riipen which is something that I’d spent some time reading about before (mostly on Hubspot’s blog, which is where marketing students get basically ALL their information). In the end, I had to survey almost 70 educators in the UK as well as some in the US, Canada and Australia. Using that data, I was then able to run some statistical tests to identify trends as well as comparing the data from the UK market with other countries. Once I’d done my stats and had come to some conclusions, I wrote everything up in an official report for Riipen which I then sent across to Jan. A few weeks later we had a final call to go through all of the results and reflect on the outcomes.

It was really exciting to work with a live client and to see how the data that I collected would benefit them, but in order to achieve this, I had to go through my own series of challenges and highlights which I’m going to tell you about now.

The challenges 

Let’s get started! The thing I struggled with most was finding a balance between the expectations of the client and how your professors will be marking your assignment. It’s no secret that sometimes everything that you learn at university cannot be directly applied to the real world - I’m still to find an example of when I would need to use the Harvard referencing system outside of academia?! - but after all, the project does bear credits so you have to figure out how to best present the work so that it helps the client whilst still scoring top marks for the class.

And what’s the solution?

Establish expectations from the start for both parties. Most likely, your educator has already outlined what their expectations for the project are. In my case, for each assignment we’re given a formal brief and mark scheme which outlines what aspects we will be scored on. During my first meeting with Jan, I went through what the expectations for the assignment were from the university and how I thought that we could mould Riipen’s brief into the assignment expectations. By having this conversation, both parties knew exactly what to expect from the project. Your client will know that as much as you’re trying to do this project to help them, this is also important to your academic studies so it’s important to find this balance.

Johnny and Jan discussing their Riipen project

Challenge número dos: Time zone differences! Now, being a UK student and working with people only in the UK, being the small island that we are, I’m used to only dealing with one time zone. So when I signed up to work with Riipen on this project I had to figure out how to make communicating work across the different time zones, especially when it felt like Jan was jumping between PST and ET from one week to the next and then daylight savings decided to shift the time difference even more. 

So, how did I make this work?

Jan and I decided to schedule a video call catch up once a week, so, each week I would select a time that suited both of us even if that meant me staying on late or Jan joining early. Before each meeting, I prepared myself an agenda with points to update Jan on and questions to ask to make sure that we were using the time wisely. Might sound like regular advice you’d receive with doing any project but it’s especially important when working across different time zones to make sure that if like me, and you’re having a call at 6 or 7 in the evening, that these meetings are as productive as possible.

The best bits 

Despite the challenges, completing this project with Riipen was probably my favourite assignment I’ve done in the last two years. Not only was it intellectually challenging, I also learnt so much through it that I wouldn't have, if I’d done a fictional project like many of my classmates. The experience that I gained through doing this project can be directly used for future applications whether that’s for a job or other opportunities at university now that I’ve got some client experience on my resume. It was great to find out how a real company works on the inside and to be able to help them by providing real market data to help them succeed. The feeling of putting together the final report and sending it off to your client is one of the most rewarding experiences in doing this kind of project and I hope you can all experience it for yourself.

I’d strongly encourage anyone given the opportunity to carry out one of these projects to go for it, best of luck!


Thank you Johnny for sharing his Riipen experience with us! To learn more about Riipen and how to get started with experiential learning, visit our website or click here to connect with a team member. Keep up with Riipen on Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook, and sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter!

About the author

Johnny Swierczynski is a final year undergraduate marketing student at the University of Southampton in England, as well as a Marketing Assistant for an industrial paint supplier. He is passionate about creating content that people enjoy and love. In his spare time, he devotes his time to reading good books, going on road trips in his MINI Cooper and taking language classes.

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