MBA is beyond just grades. It's a lot more about getting experiences that will shape you as a professional and make you career-ready. An internship and an International immersion program is an important part of your b-school journey. InsideIIM presents to you an interview with a b-school student who in this article speaks about his international immersion program and how he bagged one of the coveted internships at EY.
The immersion program of International Master in Business allows students of SDA Bocconi to spend a 4-month long semester at Milan, providing them an international work experience that comes in handy in later stages of their career. For Kaustubha Panda, it was a boon as he had already bagged a summer internship at EY in India and got a chance to top it with another internship stint at Milan. Presently stationed at Milan, Kaustubha is getting to learn the nitty-gritty of consulting at the EY office there.
Talking to InsideIIM, Kaustubha shared his experiences about his road to bagging the coveted EY internship from SDA Bocconi and the window of opportunities that followed for him. Following are the excerpts of the interview:
At the beginning of the summer placements season, what was your approach regarding sectors, job profiles and locations that you preferred?
I was always focused on making a career in consulting since I had prior experience in the same. Changing the sector was never a challenge, as cross-sectoral experience for a consultant is always recommended and I wanted an experience in a sector different from my previous one. Knowing the dynamic working culture of the consulting domain, any specific location was never a preference for me. I was comfortable with any location. The overall approach I had was simple, focus on your end result and leverage on your core competency.
How did you go about preparing for your summer placements? How did SDA Bocconi help you?
Preparations for summer placements started from Day 1 of joining SDA Bocconi Asia Center. In fact, I would say, Bocconi had a major role to play in the entire process. Our Career Development Services (CDS) team, was instrumental in organizing regular preparatory sessions right from grooming sessions till the mock interviews. Every week, we used to have a few dedicated case-solving sessions for every specialization apart from normal lectures. I used to attend every session and take part in the simulations, which made me well prepared for the placement interviews. Knowing, it’s a consulting interview it was expected to be abreast of all the happenings in the business world, so our club sessions were extremely helpful. In the end, I would say, with the help of my peers and the CDS team, I was able to prepare myself thoroughly for the summer placement process.
Was consulting always a dream job or did you stumble upon it?
Consulting was always my dream job. One of the reasons I wanted to have a management degree/diploma was to deepen my chemistry with consulting. As stated above, I had a prior core consulting experience, and I wanted to pursue the same as my career.
What made you apply to EY for a summer internship?
The profile for which EY was hiring in our campus, was for Advisory-Performance Improvement, which is basically strategy consulting. This was the profile I always wanted to work in and build my career. Having experience in the same company, I was well versed with the core values, expectations and working culture of the firm. So, I thought pursuing a two months summer internship with EY would be an advantage to my profile, as that would help me correlate and benchmark my new learnings at the B School.
Take us through your EY selection process. Describe the rounds and tell us your responses in detail.
EY Selection process is quite like the selection process of any other consulting firm. They clearly check if the candidate has the right attitude of a consultant and if he or she would be strategically fit for the dynamic consulting environment and work culture. At Bocconi, the first round was CV shortlisting, and as stated, they looked at the consistency of past academic scores (of 10+2 and graduation) and relevant work experience (if any). My CV was shortlisted and post that the real competition began. The next round was Group Discussion, in which it was evident that they wanted to see the group dynamics and communication skills of the candidates. The selected candidates from this round were called for the personal interview rounds. My interview started with the common question, “Tell me about yourself”. Soon after, the panelist, who was a Director with the company realized that I worked with the firm before my management course. The interview then turned to a discussion about the past engagements I had with them, the partners with whom I worked and the set of clients for whom the engagement was all about. We discussed a bit about the respective teams, service lines and sectors we worked for. Then, while discussing one of my past projects, he gave me a case situation and asked me to suggest my approach. I had a background in telecom practice and the case was a classic example from the same sector. Although it involved some calculations, he expected me to give an approach without a detailed answer, which I did, and he was convinced. Then, after discussing some of the common HR questions and my expectations, he asked me to wait for the result. I think that was the most stressful situation as my level of anxiety rose high while awaiting for the result. After completion of the first set of interviews, they started calling the candidates whom they shortlisted for a further interview round, and I was the last one to be called for the second round. I was a bit confident by that time, knowing it was going to be an interview with the HR, but eventually that turned to be a stress interview with some basic situational set of questions. Soon, after the completion of the same, the HR manager asked me to fill the information form and congratulated all the four candidates (I was one of them) who made into the final selection. They gave some EY Merchandise products as a token of appreciation and welcomed us on board.
What was the one answer you gave during the interview that you think got you the internship'?
It’s a tough question to remember! I guess, all my answers were responsible for the same. I would say my past association with them and knowing well their core values and objectives, had helped me develop my own set of work approaches and practices in lines with company’s expectations. Apart from this, I would also say it’s Almighty’s blessings and the good wishes of my colleagues and the Bocconi family which made me get this offer. I would like to thank Bocconi for crafting me into a consultant.
How did you go about preparing for your internship in the lead-up?
This is something where I would like to bring in Bocconi and its style of imparting education into the picture. Our professors, CDS team & my peers have always helped me be ready to enter this consulting internship. There were a few core subjects, like supply chain, marketing and, competitive strategy, which were well taught in class and the cases solved helped me realize the real business world. Apart from the courses, the world of consulting also demands proper grooming and presentation, and these things were also covered in the form of simulations by our CDS team.
What was Day 1 at EY?
Day 1 at EY for me was like coming back to square one where it all started two years ago, as I was allocated in the same office and same location at Gurgaon office, but I was mapped with Advisory-PI and healthcare sector, whereas earlier I was with Telecom Risk Practice. Day 1 was the HR orientation and introductory sessions with the respective allocated teams. There was a networking lunch in the afternoon with the senior partners of the firm, post which the day ended with all the formalities starting from collection of personal work laptops till the registrations for the access of in-house facilities.
What was your project about?
I won’t be able to disclose the details of the projects since that would violate the ethics in consulting. All that I can share is, as I was mapped with healthcare team of Performance management, my projects were all from the same sector. I was one of the luckiest interns to get a client facing opportunity and worked for two of the major healthcare clients in India.
What were the 3 things about EY that impressed you the most?
The three things about EY that impressed me the most were:
The cross-sectoral work exposure they give.
Their diversified work culture
The travel opportunities in consulting.
What were the 3 things about you that you think you showed during the internship and hence got the PPO?
Constant learning and hard work.
Value addition to my assigned set of works and responsibilities.
Asking the right set of questions to my seniors and peers
Tell us the moment when you got the PPO?
It was really a great moment to hear the news of the PPO. In fact, the results were disclosed within 2 days of the last working day of internship, so I didn’t have to wait for long in anxiety. I had a planned family holiday and getting the pre-placement offer added a cherry to the cake and a reason to celebrate.
Can you please share about your 4 months semester in Milan?
The 4 months semester in Milan, which we call as an immersion program of International Master in Business, is the most sought-after semester for the IMB candidates. Currently, I am pursuing the same and it’s most exciting too, giving me an opportunity to interact and work with international candidates and at the same time giving me exposure to live projects in the courses I have chosen to study. The best part of this semester for me: I got an opportunity to work with EY Italy as an intern for two and half months. adding an international consulting experience to my profile.
Why did you choose to intern with EY Milan?
Internship with EY Milan was a golden opportunity for me, as I wanted to add international work experience to my profile, which of course would open the doors for other opportunities in the future. This is also an added advantage to experience consulting in Europe and work with people across cultures. So, when I got this opportunity, I chose to accept the same with enthusiasm.
What's your project at EY Milan?
Like the response of the previous question, the details of the project can’t be disclosed since it is against the ethics of a consulting firm, but yes, I am working on Advisory-Performance Improvement with Digital Transformation and emerging technologies team. This is how, I am getting a cross-sectoral exposure and at the same time experiencing the European culture in consulting.
How are consultants different in India and Italy? And how are they similar?
Consultants are of course the same both in India and Italy, the only thing which differs is the cultural mindset and approach to a problem. I found the work culture to be completely different in Italy as compared to India which signifies that although people’s mindset and approach to the problem is different, yet the result is quite the same, which helps in maintaining the firm’s global uniform standard.
How are you getting yourself ready for joining EY in July as a full-time associate?
Getting ready for the consulting world ideally means knowing each and everything across domains. So, I am trying to learn as much as possible for my subject through experiences in live projects and internships as well as peer learning in group activities. Interning here in Milan is, of course, giving me the relevant exposure to working with international colleagues, which may later help me get global opportunities. Along with this, I am taking care of my academics and participating in social and networking events. I have been always instrumental in taking care of corporate relations of SDA Bocconi Asia Center and been a part of CDS team since a year. This is not only helping me grow and learn as an individual but also network with people from varied industries, corporates and MNCs. I would thank the management of SDA Bocconi Asia Center, to have given me such a platform to craft myself as a Manager now and leader down the line.
Any message for students aspiring to get into their dream company?
My clear and concise message for students aspiring to get into their dream company would be, just introspect what you want to do and focus on achieving the same. In case, you want to enter the field of consulting, just try to map your attitude and mindset with the expectations of this field, as the chemistry should be perfect to appreciate and add value to your career & of course yourself.
All the best & Good luck.