Fortune Favours The Brave And Prepared – A Summer Internship Experience

Crack the entrance exam – Check.

Convert the GDPI process – Check.

Feel on top of the world – Check.

Join dream B-school – Check.

Feel on top of the world – Temporary check.

Get into a b-school and there will be no looking back they said. While the platform provided by a b-school is second to none, little did I realize I would be sharing this platform with some of the brightest and the most competitive minds in the country. For most students, MBA is the last leg of their academic stint and while it is laced with its fair share of fun and friendships; one of the largest takeaways from it is probably the “you know what”. No prizes for guessing that it’s the placements. Like any other top B-school, a lot of importance is given to placements here as well.

If I felt I was good before, it didn’t take too long for my bubble to burst. In the first session of the mock GDs that happened around two months before the summer placement process, I ended up speaking absolutely nothing. I was overwhelmed by my peers. And, needless to say, the reviews I received from the panellists were disheartening to say the least. Having been fairly above average all my life, this was a first for me. There were two very clear paths forward for me from there. I could either continue being the under-confident me or choose to pull myself together and perform. We’ve often heard that fortune favours the brave, but through my past experiences, I’ve come to understand that fortune favours the brave and the prepared. So, I prepared and prepared meticulously.

I knew where my gaps lay, and I knew that I had to fill them. For GDs, there was only one mantra – data. I believed that data would give me the confidence I needed. I read all kinds of things, right from general knowledge to Organisational Behaviour to Labour Law. And, yes, it worked. In the subsequent mock GDs, I felt reasonably more confident and was able to put my point forth. I was told that I would do a good job with a little fine tuning and continued preparation. So, I continued my preparation with the same momentum to the very end. The bigger lion, however, was the PI. GDs are still okay because they happen among peers but talking in front of a prospective recruiter is another ball game altogether. The first step was being clear about the things that I mentioned in my CV, think of the kind of follow up questions that I could be asked and prepare answers for them. The second step was to strengthen my basics. Being an HRM student, I focused on Organisational Behaviour, Labour Law and other fundamentals of HR. I made sure that I covered all the important topics before the official process began. The last step was for me to calm down and take things as they came. While getting a good internship was important, I was sure that nervousness or anxiety wouldn’t help my case or get me any further than I already was.

Finally, the D-day arrived, the first set of the shortlists had come. My name was in 6 shortlists. I was happy but knew that there was a long day ahead. Subsequently, the GDs began. I performed reasonably well in most of them and didn’t do well in a couple of them. However, I didn’t let this dishearten me and waited for the results of the GD. I got through the next round for two of the companies. While I secretly expected more, I maintained my calm demeanour and waited for my interview call. I took a brief nap between the two rounds so that I’d feel fresh. After a long wait, my turn came, and I attended the interviews, one after the other. Both the interviews were pretty basic, the interviewers asked me questions related to my previous work, HRM fundamentals, my views on debatable topics and what my expectations from an HR job were. At the end of each interview, I was asked if I had any questions for them. I came out of both the interviews feeling that I could’ve talked more about a topic or answered that question more tactfully. Now that I think about it, I think it was silly because we don’t really know what the recruiter is looking for and maybe our seemingly perfect answers aren’t so right after all. My process ended after these two interviews and I got a call from one of the recruiters telling me that I had converted their organisation. I had gotten into a very reputed FMCG. And just like that, it all ended. Or should I say, began.;)

With the conclusion of the summer internship selection process, we fell into the full-fledged grind of a b-school life – the never-ending tests and assignments, sacrosanct deadlines, committee work, fests, competitions and those stolen hours of sleep. Time flew by quickly and it was almost time for the summer internship. With about a month to go for the internship, I received a call from my internship company asking me about the languages I knew and if I had any location preferences. After my conversation, it wasn’t very difficult for me to put two and two together to guess that I could be based out of a factory somewhere in South India. Just a week after this, I got another call confirming my hunch; I was to work in the East Godavari region of Andhra Pradesh for the summer on workmen engagement. While I wasn’t too shocked upon hearing this, I went through a myriad of emotions, most of which was anxiety about what to expect. In my defence, having worked in the corporate world for two years, I had no prior plant experience. Also, the only information I had about plants was restricted to what was told in classes and what we had read in books.

The time had come for me to go to the plant and I went with an open mind. The first week flew past with completion of mandatory training on safety and quality, health check-ups, understanding the manufacturing process and background work on engagement. Most of my work was to revolve around insights obtained from the workmen through qualitative interactions with them. The site being a highly unionized plant, it was strategically decided that the workmen would be apprised of my presence through the trade union after the first long-term wage settlement meeting that was to take place shortly. My first encounter with the workmen was through that meeting where I participated as an observer of the settlement proceedings. If I wasn’t intimidated before, this meeting made sure I was. It was everything like what I expected and so much more. The meeting started on a very positive note, but things heated up quickly and there was a shouting match between the union representatives and the management. In the back of my mind, I had a shrinking feeling that these were the people I would have to be interacting with from the next day and for a fleeting moment I wondered why I had even signed up for this.

But reality had other plans for me, pleasantly surprising plans. I interacted with around a hundred workmen during my stay and my experience with each of them was, for the lack of a word that better describes them, awesome. While it was challenging to get hold of the workmen in the beginning, I pushed myself harder and didn’t rest till I made sure I had met my target for the day. It took me a couple of days to get a hang of things and from then on, there was no looking back. Their knowledge and insights helped me in getting key inputs that in turn, helped me in the successful completion of my project. Other than this, I also got a chance to work on the engagement of the white-collared workforce at the plant and provide insights on what the action plan could be for the next two quarters. I believe that an open mind, genuine interest and general curiosity helped me ease into the environment of the plant.  I am very thankful to my mentor, and my guide who were always available to answer any questions that I had. I am also grateful for having gotten the opportunity to get exposure to how things work at a plant over and beyond what was required for my project. Exposure to the importance given to safety, quality and compliance; the know-how of the manufacturing process; organizing townhalls for the staff and the workmen; toolbox talks on safety; insights on the LTWS process; Labour Law in action; the stark differences between the corporate world and the plant environment; and the how the white collared workforce is different from the blue collared workforce and is yet, so similar translated to my key learnings from my internship. At the end of my internship, I presented my findings and my recommendations to the site leadership team along with the prototypes for the future interventions. My suggestions were well received, and I was appreciated for my work.

As I left to the airport on my last day at the site, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional at the flood of memories of the place and its good people. Now, as I wait for the results of the next round, I cannot help but think that PPO or not, the enriching learning experience that I’ve had and the exposure that I’ve got will stay with me forever and will help me confidently face any future stepping stones (read placements :P).