Internship – we had been hearing this word in its various forms, from various sources – friends, PGP2s, Professors, parents for over a year. Coming into IIM Bangalore as a Fresher, I did not quite realise how it would be a life-changing experience, till it actually began.
Beginning with a gruelling placement week, interviews, group discussions, resume submissions and a mix of black and white attire, Term 3, now in hindsight was the calm before the storm. I had been able to get into my dream company and a dream role for the summer internship with P&G, Brand management, but little did I know that the uncertain and unknown would go more profound with time. I was given Manila, Philippines as the base location, a country I had never visited but had friends in. As the date for joining came closer, I received my project.
It started with a new country, continued with a new brand and new product category – Fabric Conditioners, which does not quite exist in India, a new culture – with a French guide, Filipino Sponsor and an Indian manager, at a new and my first ever real job as a fresher. Moving to a new country for 2 months, I was determined to have an experience that would give me time to think and introspect about everything I ignore in the daily bustle of life at IIMB.
As a company, P&G made sure that we were well taken care of. The first day in the office, I do not know what took over me. Probably the corporate environment or meeting people who would decide the course of my career – the stakeholders for my project or maybe just the fact that everything and everyone were new. The whole day, I was so overwhelmed with everything that I did not know whom to reach out to for asking where do we get water from. As funny as this might sound, it is a little difficult to gel with people you do not know and barely connect with, despite the amazing support system. This is all really in your head!
As I began working on the project I realised that Brand Management is like doing multiple jobs at once. From coordinating with Sales (P&G being one of the only FMCGs who have Sales as a separate department), understanding the consumer insights from CMK, analysing the TV commercials from the Media team and learning 3-4 software programs together from the IT team, every day was jam packed with absorbing all the information that came my way. From nature of the consumer to pricing, sales channels and market, everything was new and I had to learn them from scratch.
Apart from work, I realised that relationships are what you take with you wherever you go. I had never imagined that friends whom I met in a 5-day conference in another country, would become my support system in times as crucial as the internship. They made sure they tell me about those unheard, native Filipino experiences I should not miss. From trying out the flying trapeze, to street shopping, Filipino food to snorkelling when I cannot even swim, the internship was an experience to get over the fear. The fear of a new job and corporate life, fear of heights, fear of water and fear of uncertainty. Snorkelling in the ocean was one time I realised that there is very little that we can do as humans. The place where you cant even see the base of the ocean, the current so strong that it can sweep you away and you cannot swim. That is when you realise that we try too hard to do things which are beyond our control. That day on, each moment I live in control has become so important and the fear of losing control has been fading away.
With this internship, I learnt how it was to be responsible for everything on your own. Despite having an 11-12 hour work day, if you get lazy when you get back home, you neither get dinner that day nor lunch the next day because you need to get all the groceries and cook each meal for 2 months, each day. The internship helped me explore a new country and their culture, new lifestyle, new cuisines – Japanese, Taiwanese, Filipino, Greek and Chinese and a new side to myself. My sense of achievement came in only at the end, when my guide said that I delivered strongly at the end despite all the variables of food, currency, language, culture and nature of work. These 2 Pinoy months have taught me so much more than I imagined and has given me such amazing people for life. As they rightly say, its always more fun in the Philippines.