By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette men's basketball player Conin Oishi (Sr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) has spent his summer in Madrid, Spain. While overseas, Oishi has been gaining experience for his major in International Studies, while also learning about another culture and improving his knowledge of Spanish.
Oishi is a market analysis intern with Click & Gift, which is based in Madrid. Click & Gift is a multi-company bundled digital gift card company. It works with companies -- primarily in Spain and Portugal -- to provide digital gift cards. The cards may be designed for purchase by customers or to honor customers who make significant purchases. Sometimes the cards are part of incentive plans for workers. Click & Gift sets up the digital gift cards, saving time for the companies involved.
"I currently search databases and different agencies to find credible information on the gift card and voucher market in the United States and the United Kingdom," Oishi said. "I also have helped in recruiting potential partner companies, including a company from Germany. In addition, I have translated some of Click & Gift's contracts and documents from Spanish to English."
Oishi's job requires significant amounts of research, but it also requires an ability to analyze the data he receives. Deciding which options are best for Click & Gift is a challenging task.
"Click & Gift is the innovator of this industry in this region," Oishi said. "It's obviously much different than in the U.S. because every company in the U.S. provides its own gift cards and digital gift cards. The gift card market in the U.S. was worth over $140 billion in 2016, while the United Kingdom is no larger than $6 billion pounds.
"To help my company, I try to find ways they could move into these markets. The best way to do that from my research is B2B sales. Business to business sales of non-cash incentives are reaching $90 billion annually, which includes customer incentives, employee incentives and channel incentives. Most companies still have not turned to digital incentives and gift giving, so companies like Click & Gift that are digital gift card platforms can (help bring) businesses to digital incentives and gift giving."
Part of Oishi's job is to find opportunities for Click & Gift to help foreign companies expand their gift cards into Spain. Click & Gift can help companies make an easy transition into the Spanish market.
"I suggested companies that provided gift cards in the U.S. and the U.K, but didn't provide them here in Spain," Oishi noted. "This means that the businesses understood the value of a gift card program, but it was too hard to set-up here in Spain. Also, I determined different innovations that gift card companies provided in other markets, to see if integrating them into Click & Gift would be beneficial."
Likewise, Oishi looks for unique ways that Click & Gift can benefit other businesses.
"Companies need a way to reward and provide incentives for employees," Oishi said. "They can purchase large volumes of Click & Gift online gift cards, which are customized to each company's wishes and give the employees control of where they spend their cards."
How did Oishi, who will be a senior at Willamette this fall, earn an internship opportunity with a digital gift card company in Spain?
"I found out about the internship through my parents (Chad and Nicole Oishi). I was looking for an internship for the summer and my parents suggested that I look for an international internship that would be more beneficial for my degree and resume," Oishi recalled.
Oishi went through an intensive process to earn the internship. He had to fill out lots of paperwork, participate in several online interviews and provide a series of video responses to questions. These went directly to Click & Gift or to the Intern Group, which sets up a variety of internships. Afterward, Oishi had to learn about the international work process.
"There was a fairly low acceptance rate into the program with over 20,000 applicants to the Intern Group," Oishi said. "The Intern Group is a company that sets up international internships around the world. If accepted into the program, you get to select the country you would like to work in, and they connect you with a company in your preferred field."
For Willamette men's basketball Head Coach Kip Ioane, Oishi is gaining the benefits from a great study abroad program offered to WU students.
"I think Conin's opportunity in Spain is exactly what our basketball program and this university are all about ... equipping students with experiential learning that prepares them to live in today's world. I believe Colin will be able to translate his experience, and the resiliency traits it has taught him, and lend that to our team next year."
Ioane also sees Oishi's internship as a key preparation for entering the work force.
"We try to simulate games in hoops practice," Ioane said. "Conin has taken it to another level off the floor by jumping into the work force overseas, in a different language, and a completely different environment, and forcing himself to grow. I couldn't be more proud or happier for him."
Click & Gift has seven employees who work with Oishi at the company's office. With a relatively small staff, Oishi has the chance to interact with everyone else.
"I have full access to the chief executive officer and the head of operations, who is my supervisor," Oishi commented. "They are great people and are helping me learn Spanish and ways to do international business."
Prior to flying to Spain for his internship, Oishi already had a basic understanding of Spanish. He studied Spanish in high school and took classes at Willamette. He decided that since he needed multiple Spanish credits to graduate, going to Spain would help him get ready for the harder courses at Willamette.
Oishi, who is from Lake Forest Park, Washington, near Seattle, is working on his internship a long way from home. He has made new friends and has explored parts of Spain, both in Madrid and elsewhere in the country. He has met other interns and they have been able to work together to learn about their new surroundings.
"I live in a very nice area with multiple other interns in the program, so it has been very nice getting to know the city and making friends in the process," Oishi said. "I have figured out the public transportation and am able to travel around the city and most of Spain with ease."
He's been impressed with the architecture. On one trip he visited Toledo -- an ancient walled city with medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments. He said it was a great experience.
Oishi has adapted to the night life in Spain, which begins late in the evening.
"The night life here is also amazing," Oishi noted. "Dinner doesn't start till after 10 p.m. and the clubs don't really start until 1 a.m. All of the interns (about 50 in Madrid) like to go out together and experience the city life as a group."
As a visitor, Oishi has gained knowledge about the importance of fashion in Spain.
"It is much more fancy and elegant than in the U.S.," Oishi said. "Everyone here wears suits, collared shirts, slacks, dresses, dress shoes and heels at all times of the day. It is incredibly hot here and they do not believe in air conditioning, so it is crazy that everyone wears these types of clothes. Although I will say that I wear a suit most days so that I can fit in."
Even so, most of his focus has been on his duties as an intern with Click & Gift. He has gained a lot of knowledge in a short time.
"I have learned to work in a much more relaxed setting than in the U.S.," Oishi said. "I have learned how to work with a team, even though there is a language barrier. I have started to learn how to analyze different information that is useful in a business setting and not just at school ... finding new things that actually provide a new avenue or path for the company.
"I could see myself doing this type of job in the future. It is very interesting to research and gather as much knowledge about a specific market. Working in a smaller company allows you to build relationships with the people around you. The employees and bosses here are like family."